What is an MSDN Subscription… Really?


An MSDN Subscription often is the source of confusion for both IT Professionals and IT Purchasing folks, so this post will attempt “Demystify the MSDN Subscription” into terms that all parties can understand.  Here we go…


1)      Visual Studio’s Software Assurance- MSDN is only purchased as an add-on to a Visual Studio license.  Having an active MSDN Subscription with Visual Studio means that you have access to all past & future versions of Visual Studio (i.e. 2003-2005-2008-2010-20??) *Note that Software Assurance is a requirement for all purchases on a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA), thus MSDN is a requirement for all Visual Studio licenses purchased on an EA.


2)      Dev/Test Environment licenses- MSDN gives the user the ability to access/use any Microsoft Enterprise product for Dev/Test purposes (i.e. WinServer, SQL Server, BizTalk, SharePoint, Dynamics, Visio, MSProject, Office, etc).   This allows you to build out robust dev/test environments without having to pay for any of the individual software… Rather just give each of the Developers/Testers an MSDN Subscription and you’re fully covered for any products.  Explore this in more detail here!


3)      Team Foundation Server (TFS) – As of April 2010… a full TFS license AND TFS CAL is now included within all levels of MSDN Subscriptions.  Thus if you are purchasing MSDN with Visual Studio, everyone is licensed for TFS.   For folks on the SDLC team that do not have MSDN subs (i.e. PMs, Bus Analysts, etc), you can still buy stand-alone CALs for TFS.  More here.


4)    Team Foundation Service - Launched in October 2012, TF-Service is full Team Foundation Server 2012 functionality delivered via the cloud.  Full licensing for the service is provided in Vs/MSDN Premium & Ultimate.  Learn more and start a new project here.


5)      eLearning Classes – User gets approx. 20-40 Hours of online training per calendar year.  (~$3500 value)


6)      Tech Support Calls - Each MSDN includes 2-4 tech support incidents. ($250 each value)


7)      Azure Development: Wana get on the Cloud?  MSDN includes a monthly allowance of Azure compute and storage.



So as you can see, there is a lot there!   The value of point #2 is almost impossible to quantify because there are literally thousands of software titles available, not to mention, early access to new products and tools. 


Finally, the Visual Studio & MSDN Licensing WhitePaper is a great resource for answering many of your licensing questions.   To understand the difference between MSDN and TechNet, see here.




Comments (30)
  1. B. A. Devenny says:

    Actually I have a question.  We purchased Visual Studio with MSDN Premium for a total of 5 individuals.  We have never "offically registered" these 5 people on the MSDN site.  Now one of these folks is transferring to another activity within our company but cannot take this MSDN Subscription with him because it was purchased from a different pool of $.  Can we transfer this MSDN subscription to another individual in the same dept.?

    Also would anyone have a link to a license agreement that covers Visual Studio w/MSDN Premium?

    Thanks.  I hope someone can help me with this.

  2. AliasAlias says:

    MSDN Subs can be transferred between users every 90 days, thus you can reassign it.  Since you don't register your users in the site, you have to track this in your head (or some other system).   Not sure why you don't want register the user… if you are worried about giving them access to software, you can still assign the sub to them but not turn on the download feature.   This is an option during the registration processes.

    It's not a licensing requirement that MSDN users get registered in the system, but it makes tracking/management of the benefits much easier.


  3. Sean says:

    Does MSDN Embedded subscription includes VS 2010, 2008,  2005, & 2003?

  4. GovDev says:

    @Sean.  This chart will show.  If not detailed enough, try the link at the bottom for "Download Full List of products by Subscription level": msdn.microsoft.com/…/subscriptionschart.aspx

  5. Matt Roberts says:

    One thing that often confuses me is the most cost-effective way to get hold of an MSDN sub for very small companies. Currently our dev team of 2 uses BizSpark, when that expires next year is our only option to purchase 2 x Visual Studio <Whatever Edition> with MSDN?


  6. Mark says:

    These subscriptions are still sort of confusing.  How do MSDN and TechNET subscriptions compare to each other?  Are they a sub-set, super-set, or common-set of each other?

  7. I have a Visual Studio Professional Edition 2010 with MSDN Subscription for one year.   Now this one year is complete, do I really need to subscribe for MSDN once again?   Can someone say whether the subscription renewal is only for the bundle of products that surrounds the Visual Studio.NET Pro Edition, and the product keys expired if not renewed?  

    Now I don't want the other products that came along with my Visual Studio 2010 Pro Edition, and I don't want to renew it.   Can I still continue to use my base product, that is Visual Studio 2010 Pro Edition without renewal?

  8. Brian says:

    Jason…  Your retail (i.e. 1 year) subscription can be renewed at a renewal MSDN subscriptions offered through retail channels and most Volume Licensing programs (Enterprise Agreement, Select, Select Plus, Open Value, Open, etc.) come with perpetual use rights unless otherwise specified.



  9. Brian says:


    This like describes the differences:  msdn.microsoft.com/…/dd362338.aspx

    In some ways, Technet is like a small subset of MSDN.  The use rights of Technet are along the lines of Trial and the use rights of MSDN are along the lines of Dev/Test.

  10. Thanks Brian,

    Actually I don't want to renew, I don't need the bundles like VSS, VB6 attached in this package.   Without subscribing can I still continue to use my Visual Studio.NET 2010 alone?

  11. I mean can I continue to use my Visual Studio.NET 2010 alone without renewal of the subscription?

  12. Brian says:

    Yes… that is what perpetual use rights means.  You can continue to use what you have forever but will not longer get any updates.   msdn.microsoft.com/…/cc150618.aspx

  13. K Small says:

    For Visual Studio 2012, can you use Visio and Project 2013 for Production, as well as, Development if you have the Ultimate and Premium License?

  14. AliasAlias says:

    @K Small –  This is a great question because this recently changed.  Visio & Project are no longer considered OK for production use (i.e. only non-production now).  However, if you purchased your MSDN subscription before 10/1/12 you are production=ok for Visio 2010 & Project 2010 until your next renewal.

  15. Ameya says:

    I have purchased 25 Visual Studio 2010 Professional Licenses. In this case can each user install both Visual Studio 2010 and an older version say VB 6 on his/her respective machine?

  16. AliasAlias says:

    @Ameya – If you purchased your Visual Studio licenses with MSDN subscriptions, then the users have simultaneous use rights for all products included in the subscription including backward versions of Visual Studio (05, 08, 10, 12) and products like Visual Basic 6.0.    If you did not purchase with MSDN, the only option is to exercise your “downgrade rights” to an older version.   However, if you already licensed VB 6.0 separately along the way, there is not issue with running it alongside any other separately licensed product (i.e. Visual Studio).

  17. Pete N says:

    if someone buys visual studio 2010 and subscribe to MSDN, what purpose/benefit would there be in downloading older versions of visual studio?

  18. Icreatetraining says:

    So if I purchase Visual Studio 2013 with MSDN I can get access to Visual Studio 2010 SP1?  I have a SDK requirement that set forth s the use of visual studio 2010.  Is there a sales link to msdn that confirms this access?  I need to purchase by years end.

  19. B-CRM says:

    You can see all the products in the subscription here.  Buying the sub simply turns on ability to download and get keys:  msdn.microsoft.com/…/downloads

  20. John says:

    Our firm is developing a cloud based product using Azure (and we are a Microsoft Partner).  Can we set up MSDN subscriptions to teams (not just individuals) in order to get maximum benefit out of our Azure credits?  (all of the Azure accounts are for Dev – not production)

  21. David says:

    I still don't see the value. I purchased an MSDN subscription the last time I bought Visual Studio, and I could never find anything on the subscription site that I was entitled to download. All I seemed to have bought was the right to pay Micro$oft more money the next year. It's also worth noting that those of us in the UK seem to subsidise US users, as their prices for MSDN subscriptions are much lower than ours. That can't possibly be due to any language translation costs.

  22. Chandra says:

    I bought Box pack MSDN with Visual Studio pro. It expired last month. Can I use continue same License without renew it?

  23. Chris says:

    I don't think Azure is covered any longer for VS premium for new subscribers. You need to buy VS ultimate.

  24. Brian Jordan says:

    @John – You cannot pool MSDN Azure credits.  As stated in MSDN Licensing (msdn.microsoft.com/…/cc150618.aspx):

    MSDN subscriptions are licensed on a per-user basis. One person can use the software to design, develop, test, or demonstrate his or her programs on any number of devices. An MSDN subscription also allows the licensed user to evaluate the software and to simulate customer environments in order to diagnose issues related to his or her programs.

    This includes the Azure benefit associated with the MSDN subscription.  You can set up a separate Azure subscription for your entire team that is charged the same rates as your Azure MSDN subscription for usage.  This is known as the MSDN Dev and Test Pay-As-You-Go subscription (azure.microsoft.com/…/ms-azr-0023p).  You can have multiple administrators and multiple uses all billing against the same subscription.

    Of course, there is nothing preventing you from granting other team members access to the VMs or Web Sites that you create under an individual MSDN Azure subscription.  You are just limited by the amount of free monthly credit given in the subscription benefit.

  25. Brian Jordan says:

    @Chandra – Your Visual Studio Professional license (2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, etc.) is a perpetual license.  You cannot to continue to use it as long as you like.  MSDN is software assurance on he original product you purchased and as long as the subscription is active, you are entitled to download and use the latest version of Visual Studio Professional that is available.

  26. Brian Jordan says:

    @Chris – Individual MSDN Azure benefits are still covered for all paid subscriptions of Visual Studio from Professional through Ultimate.  Please see the following for the specific monthly Azure credits: azure.microsoft.com/…/msdn-benefits-details .

  27. Anikesh says:

    Dear Team,

    Is it possible only to buy VS 2013 Prof MSDN with out SA. What will be the price difference between VS 2013 MSDN Prof & VS 2013 Prof MSDN + SA.

  28. Brian Jordan says:

    @Anikesh – VS 2013 Pro with MSDN is VS 2013 Pro + SA.  The MSDN subscription is part of SA and there is no separating it out.  You can buy L-only (license only) but you will not get the MSDN software (OS, SDK, SQL Server) that comes with the VS 2013 Pro level.

  29. Brian says:

    I don't know what you are talking about. Can I still visit this blog?

  30. Brian Jordan says:

    @Brian, Yes you can visit, just been out for an extended period…  What's your question? 🙂

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