Stopping the SBS 2003 licensing check

One of the most annoying things about Small Business Server 2003 is that it does a licensing check on a regular basis to make sure it is still a domain controller and hold the Operations Master roles.  After seven days (or twenty-one days if you installed the update that is part of the SBS 2008 or SBS 2011 migration tools), the server will start shutting itself down.

Unfortunately Microsoft does not document any way to avoid this.  I have found a workaround, but all the standard disclaimers apply:  This is not supported by Microsoft, you may be in violation of your licensing agreement, this may not work in your environment, we cannot be responsible for any side effects of this change, and are no way liable for any damage that may result.

To disable the SBS licensing check, you will first need to suspend the SBS Core Services (SBCore) service.  You will not be able to stop it from the Services MMC, and if you kill the sbscrexe.exe process, it will automatically restart itself.  To suspend the process, you will need to download a copy of Process Explorer from the Sysinternals website ( or a similar utility.   Run the utility, find the sbscrexe.exe process, and suspend the process.

Next, open the Registry Editor.  You are looking for the HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\SBCore key.  Right-click on SBCore and go to Permissions.  Add the Administrators group into the Access Control List and give the Administrators group Full Control permission and have the Registry Editor replace all permissions on child nodes.  Once this is complete, press F5 to Refresh and you should see a value under SBCore called Start.  Change the value of Start from 2 to 4 (4 is the code for Disabled in the service’s properties).

Once this is done you can kill the sbscrexe.exe process and it should not automatically restart.  If you ever patch your SBS 2003 server after this, it may attempt to reenable the licensing and restart the service.  You can stop this from happening by navigating to C:\Windows\System32\sbscrexe.exe in the file system and setting the Everyone group so that it is denied all permissions.  However, if you do this, certain SBS patches and services packs will fail to apply.

Good luck, and I hope this helps someone;


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