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Nubis Novem

IT consulting company with real cloud experience

Server Name Change Surgery

Say, you have a stand-alone Windows 2008 R2 server that is not part of a domain. You decide that it would make more sense to adjust the server name in the system properties (Computer name – Change) from WinServ1 to a more meaningful WinDevelServ1. After mandatory server reboot you discover that (surprise!) Remote Desktop licensing is not active anymore. A brief error message on dashboard icon makes it clear that you have 120 days to activate the license or else users will lose their ability to connect via Remote Desktop.

What went wrong is one of the gotchas of Windows networking. Server name needs adjustments in various places of the system during name change and the Remote Desktop license server setting is apparently one that they forgot to take care of.

How to fix

(disclaimer: we assume you know what you are doing, at your own risk):

  1. Stop Remote Desktop Licensing service.
  2. Open registry editor and adjust license server name:

    HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\TermService\Parameters\LicenseServers

    Edit that value to replace old name WinServ1 with new name WinDevelServ1.

  3. Start Remote Desktop Licensing service.

There is also one useful trick that resets a “corrupted” RD license (why would it be corrupted is beyond scope of this discussion):

  1. Stop Remote Desktop Licensing service
  2. Go to folder C:\Windows\system32\LServer\
  3. Find a file there that called TLSLic.edb and rename it to any different name, for instance TLSLic.edb.old.
  4. Start Remote Desktop Licensing service.

For our case this second recipe was not a good fix, since we purchased and activated several CAL user licenses on this server for regular users able to connect and work in parallel. We did not want to go through a headache of having that license code re-entered and re-activated with Microsoft.

Note, changing a Windows computer name was always risky. We already encountered over course of few years a few cases of similarly surprising experience when file and folder permissions might become messed up after a simple host name change. Microsoft figured that one out since then. User accounts and permissions are now adjusted during the name change operation. Remote Desktop license server setting seems vulnerable, beware! At the end, leaving that WinServ1 name alone might have worked better.

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