Three creative ways to evaluate Windows Server 2008 R2

Weighing your evaluation version options

Microsoft has provided several ways for us to evaluate Server 2008 R2. There are three “free” methods in addition to the traditional ways of getting eval copies through TechNet Plus and MSDN. (Get there at The first free method is to “register for an guided experience” (there’s that vaunted MS quality control!) for IT professionals. You get either a “compilation” version containing a 180-day eval of Web, Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter, or an Itanium version. (There’s no decision to make about 64-bit versus 32-bit because Server 2008 R2 is 64-bit only.) You have to log in with a Microsoft account and then agree to receive three e-mails during the eval period, plus maybe even a phone call from someone at Microsoft. Then you’re taken over to the download page to get the ISO image (just shy of 3GB). If you’re a developer, there’s a separate button for you that takes you over to the MSDN Evaluation Center. The procedure is much the same as for the “IT Professionals” guided experience. If you’d rather start evaluating Server 2008 R2 by downloading a Virtual Hard Drive (VHD) image, that’s option number three. (I love the estimate of the download size for this option: somewhere between 37 MB and 4766 MB.) You actually can get two VHD’s, one with Server 2008 R2 “full” and one with the Server Core flavor. (Both are Enterprise edition, so if you need to evaluate one of the other editions, you’ll want to go with method 1 or 2.) Microsoft has split up the “full” version into a five-file RAR set if that’s more convenient for you. Note that these are Hyper-V images and Microsoft says you need to run them on either Server 2008 or Server 2008 R2, which is kind of odd for two reasons: 1) If you already have a Server 2008 R2 platform, why would you need the eval, and 2) Why couldn’t you run this VHD on a system running Hyper-V Server 2008? Anyway, the VHD’s are also good for 180 days. And note that whether you get the ISO or VHD version, although you don’t have to have a product key, you do have to activate the product that you install within 10 days, or extend the activation period with the software license manager (slmgr.vbs).

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