Volume Activation of Windows Server 2008

There have been some updates to the Software Protection Platform with Windows Server 2008 that you may not be aware of.  Below I will summarize the changes.


Volume License Product Keys

While there is no change to how customers obtain their volume license product keys (visit the Volume License Service Center), product keys for KMS and MAK apply to product key groups rather than to individual operating system editions. There are three product key groups for Windows Server 2008, and one product key group for Windows Vista.

MAK and KMS keys function with product key groups in different ways. A MAK can only activate the Windows editions within its specific product group (i.e., MAKs have a lateral association with product key groups). A KMS key can activate the Windows editions within its specific product group as well as editions in “lower” product key groups (i.e., KMS keys have a hierarchical association with product key groups).  For example, a KMS host that is activated with a Server Group B KMS key can activate Windows Server 2008 Standard, Enterprise and Web editions, and Windows Vista editions as KMS clients.


There is a full chart of the keys and what versions they will activate at in the Volume Product Key Group.docx located at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=9893F83E-C8A5-4475-B025-66C6B38B46E3&displaylang=en


Key Management Service (KMS) Activation

KMS hosted on a Windows Vista machine can activate only Windows Vista KMS clients; it cannot activate any editions of Windows Server 2008 as KMS clients.  If a customer would like to install Windows Server 2008 KMS clients the KMS must run on either a Windows Server 2003 that has been updated using KMS for Windows Server 2003 v1.1 (release March 5, 2008 in English) or on Windows Server 2008 (released RTM version), and then activate the new KMS host with a new KMS key. This will reset the KMS activation count to zero.  The Windows Server 2008 editions that can be activated by the KMS host depends on the KMS key used to activate the KMS host as outlined above.


*note - KMS for Windows Server 2003 v1.0 will activate only Windows Vista RTM and Windows Vista SP1 KMS clients. If they are hosting KMS on Windows Server 2003 to activate Windows Vista clients in their environment, and they would like to also activate Windows Server 2008 KMS clients using the same KMS host, they will need to install KMS for Windows Server 2003 v1.1 on the KMS host, and then activate the KMS host with a new KMS key.


Multiple Activation Key (MAK) Activation

If they are using the Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT) to MAK-activate systems in their environment and now want to MAK-activate Windows Server 2008 systems, VAMT v1.1 is required (VAMT v1.1 to be released in April 2008). They will need to use new MAKs to activate Windows Server 2008 systems, whether you are using MAK Proxy Activation or MAK Independent Activation.


Notifications vs. RFM

Microsoft introduced a new notifications-based experience with Windows Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008 to differentiate between a genuine and activated copy of Windows and one that is not, and do so in a way that maintains system functionality such as logon, access to the familiar desktop, etc. Reduced Functionality Mode (RFM) has been removed from Windows Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008 and replaced with a notifications-based experience. If Windows Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008 systems are not activated within the Initial or an Out of Tolerance Grace period, persistent notifications will alert users of the need to activate.  While in the notification condition, the system will function normally, with these exceptions:

  •  The desktop background is black

  • A KMS host cannot activate or renew KMS clients

  • Windows Update installs only critical updates; optional downloads marked as Genuine Only are not available



There is a new VA 2.0 demo that covers some of the changes described above at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=104707.

Frequently Asked Questions About Volume License Keys for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 - http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/resources/vol/ActivationFAQ/default.mspx

Technical documentation for planning, deployment, and operations of Volume Activation 2.0 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 - http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=9893F83E-C8A5-4475-B025-66C6B38B46E3&displaylang=en

Microsoft Product Activation website - http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/resources/vol/default.mspx

Comments (1)

  1. szczepanl says:


    I have a question, how the “Remaining Activations” are caclculating? What happens if I add to VAMT proviously activated system using e.g. phone?


    -Activaction counts are set based on your licensing agreement.  Activations do not directly map to the number of licenses.  HTH, Matt.

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