Get Windows Server 2008 now

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It is possible to obtain Windows Server 2008 through various public channels, even if you're not a devoted IT Professional or a technology craving geek like me. Some channels are more useful, offer more features or are kept more up-to-date than others. I'll discuss the various channels in this post along with their benefits, requirements and quirks.


Non-Time bombed versions

If you want a non-time bombed version of Windows Server 2008 explore one of these channels:


Remember Beta versions of a Microsoft product will stop working soon after Release to Manufacturers (RTM). Although this period will be 180 days you won't be able to enjoy a beta version of a Microsoft product for 180 days when you install it after the RTM date. Having a time bombed or non-time bombed Beta version of a Microsoft product won't make a difference.


TechNet Subscriptions

A very popular Microsoft software subscription is the TechNet subscription. This subscription allows you to evaluate Microsoft software, including beta software. Prices start at $ 349 per year. (More info)

Microsoft offers significant promotional deals for Technet subscriptions in combination with Microsoft exams, Microsoft courseware and even Microsoft meetings regularly. A clear example of one of these promotional deals was the Exam Insurance with TechNet Plus Direct deal, which got extended but nonetheless ended a couple of months ago.

The Technet Subscription option is the best option if you're a TechNet event regular or take Microsoft exams regularly. (This is the least expensive personal option unless you get admitted into one of the beta programs.) Technet gets updated often, but lags behind on the Beta program. (approximately two weeks)

MSDN subscriptions

The Microsoft Developers Network (MSDN) is the place where software developers meet. Developers can gain access to Microsoft software and resources to test their products. Your needs might be fulfilled by the 'Operating Systems Subscription' only, which costs around € 499 per year. (More info) The update frequency of an MSDN subscription is comparable to the update frequency of a TechNet subscription, regardless of the type of subscription.

Many Microsoft Partners chose to subscribe to MSDN. If you work for a Microsoft Partner you might already have access to a MSDN subscription. The person responsible for maintaining your organizations Microsoft partnership will be able to provide you with more information.

Since you'll be using your company's MSDN subscription I think it's wise to agree on intellectual property when you intend to produce publicly available information.

Beta Program (Connect)

If you are interested in beta testing specific Microsoft products and your primary interest is providing high quality feedback to Microsoft getting invited into the Microsoft Beta program seems to be a way of testing Microsoft products that suits you best.

Microsoft offers many beta programs, which are all listed on the Connect Website a 'connections'. Here you'll find more info on current beta and feedback programs. I am not sure whether Microsoft is still accepting beta testers for Windows Server 2008. A quick call to your Regional Center would be the most logical way to find out.

Beta testers are greatly appreciated by Microsoft. Participation in a beta program won't cost you anything fungible. (It will cost you time and depending on your effort your job, your leisure time, your marriage, etc) Beta testers are always the first persons outside Microsoft to get new beta builds. (MSDN and TechNet subscribers tend to have to wait two more weeks.)

After a product reaches RTM your tangible reward is usually a legal copy of the finished product and a nice plaque thanking you for your effort.

Technology Adoption Program (TAP)

The Technology Adoption Program (TAP) is for customers that want to explore new Microsoft products and are willing to deploy these products in production environments. the Microsoft TAP team and/or a Microsoft partner will be able to tell you more about the TAP opportunity. (More info)

The Technology Adoption Program (TAP) and the Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) at first glance seem to look alike, but there's one big difference: In TAP a customer deploys a Microsoft product build prior to RTM (Release to Manufacturing) to it's production environment, In RDP a customer deploys the RTM product. (after the product reaches RTM)


Time bombed versions

If you don't need a Windows Server 2008 box for more than 180 days you can explore one of the following options:

TechNet and TechEd Events

Microsoft subsidiaries organize TechNet events and in a more regional context they organize TechEd events. These events are targeted at IT Professionals. At the latest Dutch TechNet event Microsoft employees (but also Jorge and I) gave away 180 day trial DVD's with Windows Server 2008 Beta 3 Standard Edition 32-bit on them. If you wanted you could also get a Windows Server 2008 T-shirt!

TechNet and TechEd events aren't a very accurate way to get your hands on Windows Server 2008. Because it's media you may not expect the latest Community Technology Preview (CTP), besides: TechNet is two times each year and TechEd only once per year per continent. You could say the channel doesn't get updated often.

Going to an event will cost you a day's income though. You're the only person to decide whether this is worthwhile to  get your hands on a time bombed beta version of Windows Server 2008 and get informed on everything Microsoft.

The Virtual Machine library

Microsoft offers a free Virtual Machine library. It features a wide range of Microsoft products in Microsoft's Virtual Machine Image format (VHD). You can use these files in combination with Microsoft Virtual Server or Microsoft Virtual PC to test Microsoft products.

One of the files available is a fully installed public beta version of Windows Server 2008 Beta 3, which is good news if you're a lazy admin without a spare machine.

Just remember that this file represents a 180 day trial version of Windows Server 2008 and Microsoft employees already installed and configured a lot of stuff to help you out. It's perfect to get acquainted with Windows Server 2008, but I guess you'll hunger for the real deal (installation media and bare metal) soon enough. Don't expect to encounter the latest build too. For some reason it takes longer to make one redistributable Virtual Machine Image than it takes to produce a lot of Beta DVD's.

Public Beta

The 'normal' way to access Public Beta bits is simply download the product or order media with the product on it. You can find the page to do this here.

The latest available Public Beta is Beta 3. All signs indicate this will also be the latest Beta build before we reach the Release Candidate (RC) Branch. The June Community Technology Preview (CTP) isn't a public beta. Other CTP's before we reach Release Candidate 1 won't be available as public download or order too.



There are many ways of getting your hands on Windows Server 2008.

My opinion

Like it or not: I have an opinion. You can get your hands on leaked builds and illegal versions of Windows Server 2008, but I think that's a bad idea:


  • Because you won't have a way of sending feedback you won't help make Windows Server become a better product. (big chance)
  • Because you won't get any professional support you might eventually find yourself between a rock and a hard place. (moderate risk)
  • Because you might not be able to update your Windows server platform you might eventually find your (and/or your company's) infrastructure compromised. (moderate risk)
  • Because you won't be able to prove how you got the product you (and/or your company) might get fined for using illegal software. (small risk)
  • Because the Windows Server 2008 bits are hot they will only attract persons with bad intentions. These persons might not just have the intention of running software illegally, but also to infect machines with malware. Your choice of running an illegal version helps make malware better, make botnets grow.


I believe testing with Windows Server 2008 provides you with a better understanding of current and next versions of Windows Server. This knowledge might make you more valuable to your company, which might mean you can actually afford a legal (test)version.

Further reading

TechNet Plus Direct with certification exam 'insurance'
Microsoft TechNet Plus Overview
Microsoft Developer Network – How to Buy
Available Connections on Microsoft Connect
TAP and RDP Home
Run IT on a Virtual Hard Disk
Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Beta 3 pre-configured VHD
Evaluate the Windows Server 2008 Public Beta today
Windows Server 2008: Free E-learning
Want to see what's up with Windows 2008?
Windows Server 2008 Beta 3 Virtual machine for download
Testing Windows Server 2008 using Virtual PC (step-by-step)
Windows Server 2008 Beta 3 on ESX Server
Windows Server 2008 Step-by-step Guides – download now
Four podcasts on Win2k8 server
Getting started with Windows Server 2008
Getting Started with Server Core
Windows Server 2008 June CTP Available
The first Windows Server 2008 book is released
Download Windows Server 2008 Beta 3 Editions Now !
Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Beta 3 Counts 250,000 Downloads
Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Beta 3 VHD
Windows Server 2008: Need to Know

Disclaimer Beta Software

The information on this webpage applies to software from Microsoft that was in testing phase but utilizable by experienced users by the time the webpage was written. This software has not been released for sale, distribution or usage for the general public. The information on this webpage and the beta software are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied, including, but not limited to, the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose.

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