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Windows 7: Volume Activation

24 Aug 2009   #1

Windows 10 Workstation x64
Volume Activation

Hi, Iím Ted Way, a Program Manager on the Licensing team. Ever enter a 25-character key when you installed Office? Thatís us. Iím looking forward to sharing how weíre helping administrators worry less about key management and seamlessly integrate Windows and Office activation in the enterprise.

Starting in Office 2010, all volume editions of Office client software will require activation. Whatís great for administrators is that Office has adopted the Windows Software Protection Platform (SPP), which means that most of what you have learned (or will learn) about Volume Activation for Windows applies to Office as well. For example, the same Key Management Service (KMS) host can be configured to activate Office 2010 clients as well as Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. Also, there is no reduction in functionality in volume editions of Office 2010. Even if Office is not activated, your users will still be able to open, save, edit, and print Office files, though users will see notifications reminding them to activate.

This post will kick off a short series of articles on volume activation that will cover topics such as an introduction to volume activation, setting up a KMS host, and using Multiple Activation Key (MAK).

How do I activate volume editions of Office 2010 client?

There are two models available for activating volume editions of Office 2010 client. The default method is KMS, which is a local activation service. A KMS host needs to be set up, and thatís the only computer that activates with Microsoft. The other is Multiple Activation Key (MAK), which is similar to the retail activation method: a key needs to be entered, and the computer will need to connect to Microsoft to activate.

Whatís KMS?

KMS is set up on a designated host system that will activate all client installations of Office 2010, eliminating the need for individual computers to connect to Microsoft for product activation. It is a lightweight service that does not require dedicated resources and can easily be co-hosted on a system that provides other services. Here at Microsoft we have one KMS host up and running internally that has activated over 8000 installations of Office 2010 Technical Preview builds. Itís also activating Windows 7 and Windows Vista machines.

Computers running volume editions of Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 operating systems can be configured as Office KMS hosts. Those running Windows Server 2003 can also be used as long as the KMS service is installed. Once you enter the KMS host key and activate, the host will register its Service record on DNS so KMS clients can find it. The KMS host can be further configured with the slmgr.vbs script that ships with Windows.

By default, a KMS client key is already pre-installed on volume editions of client software. Thatís why end users don't need to enter a product key when installing Office Professional Plus, for example. A great aspect of KMS is that once you have a KMS host set up, KMS clients will automatically look for the host on DNS and activate themselves against it. Only one KMS host is needed to activate Windows and all Office client products. Just enter one KMS host key and activate, and the KMS host can activate not just Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but also Visio, Project, and InfoPath.

KMS activation is not perpetual, so computers are activated (i.e. in the licensed state) for 180 days. Within that time, the KMS client will need to contact the KMS host and re-activate. When it does, it gets another 180 days starting from the day of re-activation. KMS clients by default attempt re-activation every seven days without a notification shown to the user, so this reactivation will happen automatically behind the scenes without any distractions. No ďactivation countĒ is ďused upĒ when KMS clients activate and re-activate.

Whatís MAK?

It might be easier to understand Multiple Activation Key, or MAK, by thinking of how Office 2007 retail editions are activated. You went to a store and got a CD for Office 2007. When you installed Office 2007, you were prompted to enter a product key found on the CDís sleeve. Activation was then done with Microsoftís activation servers, but you couldnít activate more than a few times using the same key.

For MAK, the same principle applies, except each key has a different activation count depending on your organizationís needs. For example, a consulting firm with 50 employees constantly on the go may get a MAK key with an activation count of more than 50 (the extra activations are a buffer). That means the same 25-character key is entered for all 50 employee computers, and each of their computers activate online with Microsoft. A smaller firm may only have five computers, and they will get a key with an activation count thatís different than the other companyís key, but it will have enough for their needs.

MAK results in perpetual activation. Once activated, computers do not need to re-activate unless significant hardware changes occur, such as changing a hard drive.

What activation method should I use?

In practice, organizations with 25 or fewer computers will likely find it easiest to use MAK. Larger organizations will see the value in setting up a KMS host to facilitate activation for hundreds if not thousands of computers.

In addition, larger organizations will probably use a mixture of KMS and MAK. KMS would be the default for computers that are connected to the corporate network at least a few times every 180 days. MAK activation would be suitable for laptops or other computers that are not connected to the company network.

Iím already familiar with SPP and Volume Activation because Iíve deployed Windows. What should I know about the differences between activating Windows and Office?

Although the technology is the same, there are some important items to note between Windows and Office:

1. KMS hosts configured to activate Office should be installed on Windows Server 2003, volume editions of Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008 R2

2. If you want your KMS host to activate multiple products (e.g. Office 2010 and Windows 7), you will have to install the Windows KMS host key in addition to the Office KMS host key and activate both of them.

3. Office KMS clients are activated when five or more computers with Office attempt activation with the KMS host. For Windows client operating systems (Windows Vista and Windows 7), activation occurs after 25 or more computers with Windows client request activation.

Whatís next?

Iíll be posting more articles that get into the nitty-gritty of these activation methods. The goal is to show you how easy and fast it is to set up a KMS host or MAK activate and get your users up and running Office in no time!


My System SpecsSystem Spec
25 Aug 2009   #2

Win 7 Pro x64, VM Win XP, Win7 Pro Sandbox, Kubuntu 11

As always you have brought us some great articles, and this one is no exception. Again thanks. :)
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Volume Activation

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