As of Windows Server 2012 the installation no longer has a "trial license" built into it, previous versions of Windows had evaluation license keys built into the image. Now Windows must connect to the Internet to grab a trial license.
- If the server is connected the first time it boots, it will automatically connect and grab a license before the user even realizes this is a requirement.
- If it cannot connect to the Internet then it will report and unlicensed status and start the hourly reboot annoyance.
You can get evaluation versions by the following methods:
- Windows Server 2012 Standard; Windows Server 2012 Datacenter: from the TechNet Evaluation Center (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-US/evalcenter/hh670538.aspx). These editions are also available as pre-created VHDs for use in virtualized environments.