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impact of not activate windows server 2012

What happens if I don't activate my windows 2012 installation ?    can I still use our windows after 180 days or the server keep restarting after that ?
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Distinguished Expert 2018

Activation is a legal enforcement of the EULA. So not activating is, thus, illegal and would not be a good discussion on EE.
Distinguished Expert 2019

If you use an evaluation license, after the 180 days the behavior is unpredictable and as pointed out by Cliff would be a violation of use.
You can change the licensing once you buy a license.
Depending in your need, you could buy one license and use virtualization to gave two licensed VMs..
Distinguished Expert 2019

can you tell us why you do not want to activate your server?
I had a client some years ago (might have been Server 2012 - hard to recall now) who refused to sign off on going live with the new Servers, so we left them running on the Eval license for about a year until they were happy and paid up.

If I recall correctly, nothing much happened, maybe just a nag screen.  I don't recall it rebooting by itself.

I would note that, while things were set up, it was not live in production, so maybe other things would or did happen that we didn't notice.

Technical Consultant
Distinguished Expert 2019
I work for a large support company, and the amount of times I've logged onto a client server(s) and been nagged to activate it, is far too high. So in practicality nothing will happen. But as already pointed out you would be in breach of the EULA, and why would you want to do such a thing.

Unless these were test servers, and you didn't want to use any licences, TBH I do that a lot.

Be aware the fines for unlicensed software are pretty steep!

Activation just allows proper access to all patches.  Some Medical companies keep their systems off the internet to keep PHI inaccessible to the greater internet, just after less than 1 month it prompts for activation, but it does not disable the systems.  When it's time for patches, the users are force to log off, patches are downloaded elsewhere, and manually applied, off the internet.

I've also see people with eval license past 180 days, while connected to the internet, with the annoying activation nag screen.  That just tells me that the admin doesn't understand how to extend the eval, or are just lazy.  There's nothing wrong with running in eval mode longer.  It's allowed by Microsoft.