Windows License for Hetzner Cloud

If I wanted to setup Windows servers on Hetzner Cloud, it seems that Hetzner provides ISO images but not the licenses. If there’s no monthly license add-on, what are my options there? Before I just call Microsoft and blindly follow their possibly clueless instructions, does anyone here have any recommendations as to where to buy from, what edition… Also have lots of questions such as would it be portable between servers, datacenters, providers…

  • I need Windows for a .NET web application and a SQL Server Express instance
  • I’d love to force the transition to .NET Core and SQL Server on Linux, but given the devs’ little familiarity with the platform and tight deadlines, I don’t think I can push this on them right now
  • I think I’ll ever need just one or two Windows VMs
  • spending the least would be preferred
  • spending a little every month would be preferred over spending in the thousands right away
  • alternatives to Hetzner can be taken into consideration, but they should offer similar features such as private networking across datacenters (Amazon Lightsail?)

It looks like I could rent a dedicated server (possibly auctioned in order to keep costs down): there is a €23.10 Windows server add-on, and it can be connected to the private network. It would cost about €50 monthly and avoid me the headache of dealing with a Microsoft consultant. Is there a better way?

Get your own license, if you are student you usually get a shiton of these for free.

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Can you please point me to where I could buy a license from? I’m not a student, and this is paid work for a real company. I called a Microsoft partner today and they were clueless as to what license I need. They were only able to say that if I told them exactly what I wanted to buy they would look it up on Microsoft’s price list and tell me how much it would cost through them.

What Windows ISOs does Hetzner provide? I guess that’ll determine what licence key to buy.

Ant shared this site on LES a couple weeks back where you can pick up OEM Windows keys. For example, here’s the Server 2019 Standard key -

It’s about 20 bucks and you can take an extra 30% off with promo code: BFTYC

Site seems to be legit - We CALLED Microsoft to Check if $12 Windows 10 PRO Keys are LEGIT... - YouTube

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Hetzner offers a Windows Server 2019 ISO, so I don’t see reasons not to go with it. I had read Anthony’s post but remained skeptical. My concern is that it pass a Microsoft License Audit: other companies in the same group receive such audits regularly every 2-3 years, so it is expected that this particular company will be targeted as well.

OEM licenses are meant to be sold with hardware. While they work fine for activation and nobody cares if you use them at home, I wouldn’t recommend installing them on a company asset.

That said, I think you’d need a Retail license for the particular server edition you’re looking at (presumably that’d be Windows Server Standard). They’re in the 1000$ range per license IIRC.

To be honest with you, I’m no license expert. I’d recommend to reach out to Hetzner to see if they can help you out (they have outstanding support) and if that fails I’d personally just fall back to another service provider that includes a (leased) license with their product so that it is no longer your responsibility. Your other option, leasing a dedicated server and a Windows license from Hetzner, sounds like a viable option IMO.


Thanks for your opinion. On the other hand, this does not mention OEM anywhere in the product description. If I bought it and it turned out to be a retail license, you would not see any problem using it?

I did reach out to Hetzner and they confirmed that they cannot help with Windows licenses on their Cloud instances (solely the customer’s concern). Hetzner was chosen because of already existing familiarity and better prices than Azure/AWS/GCP, not to mention being less complicated to use.

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If it sounds too good to be true…

You can’t tell from a license key whether it’s retail or OEM as far as I know, but Microsoft puts the value of that particular license at $6,155. As a consumer, you can get away with that in most cases (to be honest, if you want a cheap Windows 10 key, just install a pirated version of Windows 7 and run the upgrade procedure, you’ll get a legitimate key for free). But as a company, it’s a lot more complicated and audit penalties are huge. If you really want to put the company you work for in that position, you’re free to do so, but I doubt you’ll get away with it. It’s quite a responsibility to take on, one I would personally not want to have.

Tbh, most of the Windows 10 keys they sell are generated by installing pirated Windows 7 copies and then upgrading, stripping the license key from the freshly installed OS.

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Maybe I should clarify that I’m just trying to do the right thing, and nobody here is desperate about saving money. I’d like to avoid the headache of dealing with official vendors who tell me I should take a paid course to learn about Microsoft licensing, after which I will be able to tell them what they need to sell me.

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Yeah I hear you. That’s why I think your best option is to lease the license (either as an addon to a dedicated server at Hetzner or as an addon to a VPS from a different provider). That way, it’s not your responsibility nor will it give you a headache thinking about making the right choice :slightly_smiling_face:


I’ve been doing some reading online, and I might have focused just what didn’t sound right with the license terms from the first time I read them. They seem to only address the scenario where Windows Server is installed on the bare hardware, and possibly hosts further Windows Server VMs. With a reasonable stretch of the imagination, they can describe the case where Windows Server is only installed as a guest OS inside a hypervisor not bought from Microsoft. However, my use case of having a VM in a public cloud does not seem to be covered, at all. I have no means of knowing the number of cores on the physical host, therefore I would say this license does not apply to a public cloud. This impression also comes from reading about BYOL terms on AWS and Oracle Cloud.

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One (more serious) Microsoft Partner told me that it is exactly as I thought: you have to lease Windows from the Cloud provider. I had them double check and this is it.

Now the question is: any recommendations for an alternative to Hetzner Cloud that also provides Windows licenses? I know that Azure, etc. do it but if possible I would prefer a simpler (and less expensive) competitor. Aruba Cloud would be an option, although prices are tenfold; I used them in the past but left because they didn’t support setting IPv6 reverse DNS.

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Cheapest option is probably WisHosting. They have a 6 dollar VPS in France with Windows as an option.

The bigger cloud providers probably work best if you want some level of SLA (Azure / Google / Amazon). I honestly wouldn’t go low budget for this particular case as the cons are likely to outweigh the pros. Cloud providers aren’t all that expensive in the end.

You can obviously get a slice, or go with Wishosting as suggest above. But again, different SLA’s and availability promises.

WisHosting doesn’t provide you with a license, or do they?

Hmm, didn’t think of that, I just expected they do. Otherwise, probably NexusBytes then, the Budget 4GB + Windows license is still less than 9 dollars per month, paid annually.

Thanks for the suggestions. I had a Wishosting VM in the past and it was quite performing (left because of no IPv6 support at the time). Apart from being a small provider, do they offer backups, snapshots, private networking…? I recall it was BYOL with Windows, but this might have changed.

I would have gotten a slice (more than one, actually) had they not been sold out in LUX!

Nexusbytes looks like a good deal, but they don’t seem to have stock in Europe and they don’t mention whether there is private networking available.

I’ve just opened an informational ticket with about all (LowEnd) providers I use for personal purposes, but I don’t expect any of them to resell Windows Licenses.

I have a quite snappy Windows Server VM with OwnWeb, but they don’t support private networking.

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Just sign up for the stock notifier :slight_smile:. They have stock around the 1st and 10th of each month if I recall correctly.

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Thanks for the tip! Great for personal use, but cannot do that for a company…

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