Home > About Licensing > Frequently Asked Questions
As a Volume Licensing customer, we want to help you get answers to your top product licensing questions. We have collected the top product licensing questions which our Microsoft support teams receive.
The following questions are related to product licensing under Microsoft Volume Licensing agreements unless otherwise noted. Licensing information for retail (FPP) or Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) products can be found in the Software License Agreement terms for those products. If you need more information or your question is not covered here, please contact your Microsoft reseller or your regional Microsoft customer support center.
Windows Client OS
Downgrade rights (rights to use a prior version of a product) are granted as part of all the Volume Licensing agreements. However, you need to refer to the Microsoft Product List for particular downgrade paths for specific products because they may have migrated to other products or other editions.
For more information, see the Volume Licensing Brief for Downgrade Rights.
No. Downgrade rights grant the end user the right to use prior versions of Microsoft software, not other editions of the software released at the same time, unless explicitly stated in the Product Use Rights or Product List (that is, Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter and Standard, SQL Server 2012 R2 Enterprise/Business Intelligence/Standard).
Note that Microsoft makes a distinction between the terms "version" and "edition" when referring to product licenses. The term "edition" means different functional offerings within a product family that are usually released at the same time (for example, Office Professional Plus 2013 and Office Standard 2013). The term "version" refers to different generations of a product family. Downgrade rights between the current generation (N), the prior generation (N-1), and the generation prior to that (N-2) are limited to the same functional editions within each version (for example, Windows 8 Pro downgrades to Windows 7 Professional).
Although you have the right to downgrade products, the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC) generally provides download access only to the current (N) and the prior version (N-1) of products. Note: In addition to VLSC download software access, all Volume Licensing customers can choose to purchase physical media (CD/DVD) copies of their licensed software through their Microsoft reseller.
If you previously received physical media (CD/DVD) of prior Microsoft products that your organization is currently licensed to use through downgrade rights, you may use these prior software versions at your discretion. Learn more about Microsoft Volume Licensing fulfillment.
Yes, you may use Volume Licensing media and a VLK to reimage the OEM PCs if you have a Volume Licensing agreement. If you are an Open customer, you must purchase at least one Windows Professional Upgrade license under the Open License authorization number to obtain the media and VLK(s).
For more information, download the Volume Licensing Brief for Reimaging Rights.
To confirm when products were made available, review the Microsoft Volume Licensing Product List.
To confirm successive versions of products and particular Software Assurance migration paths for products that have migrated to other products or other editions, review the Microsoft Volume Licensing Product List.
Yes, you can attach standalone Software Assurance coverage to an OEM/Retail product license, but you must do so within 90 days of purchasing the OEM/Retail (FPP; full packaged product) product license. This option is available only for particular products through particular Volume Licensing programs. For details, see the Microsoft Volume Licensing Product List.
If you acquire Software Assurance for an OEM/Retail (FPP; full packaged product) product license within 90 days of purchase, you gain the option of installing and using the Volume Licensing software version of the product at any time. If you do this, your use of the software becomes subject to the Microsoft Product Use Rights for that product and the terms and conditions of your organization's Volume Licensing agreement.
Yes, as long as those licenses are used for the benefit of your company, the licensee, you can assign your licenses to third-party devices.
You are limited in how often you can assign your licenses. Volume Licensing product licenses can be reassigned to other devices every 90 days, not more frequently. If the software will be used for the benefit of the contractors and not your organization then the contractors need to purchase their own licenses or explore other types of short-term software subscription licenses.
Microsoft Volume Licensing programs do not offer Windows desktop operating system licenses; Volume Licensing provides only Windows Pro upgrade licenses. Before you are eligible to acquire an upgrade license for the Windows desktop PC operating system through Microsoft Volume Licensing programs, you must first have licensed and installed a qualified full desktop operating system on your device.
You can reassign active Software Assurance coverage to a replacement device internally, as long as (1) the replacement computer is licensed to run the latest version of that operating system and (2) you remove any desktop operating system upgrades from the original computer, as permitted under your Volume Licensing agreement. Otherwise, you may not move Windows 8.1 Enterprise from a licensed device to another device.
If you are eligible for perpetual licenses under your Volume Licensing agreement, you can continue using Windows 8.1 Enterprise on a PC even after your Software Assurance coverage for that device has expired. However, the Virtualization Rights benefits granted through Software Assurance for the Windows desktop operating system (Software Assurance for Windows) expire when Software Assurance coverage expires. Learn more about Windows 8.1 Enterprise licensing.
No. The Windows desktop operating system cannot be used as a "server." Device connection is allowed only for certain purposes (such as File Services, Print Services, Internet Information Services, Internet Connection Sharing, and Telephony Services). If you want to host applications and access them from multiple devices or for multiple users simultaneously, you need to license Server/CAL products. For more information, download the Volume Licensing brief for Licensing Windows Client and Server Operating Systems in Multiuser Scenarios.
You can install multiple copies of the Windows operating system on the licensed device only if the device licensed for Windows 8.1 Pro is covered with active Software Assurance for Windows. The right to install and use additional copies of the software is granted under supplemental use rights associated with active Software Assurance for Windows. Note: You can use your Windows 8.1 Pro Upgrade media to reimage devices that are already licensed to run Windows 8.1. For more information, see the Reimaging Rights Volume Licensing brief.
No. The use of the software is limited to one user at any given time. This includes the use of Roaming Rights (see below); while the primary user is accessing roaming rights, no other user is permitted to use the actual licensed device. For more information, see the Volume Licensing brief Licensing Windows Desktop Operating System for Use with Virtual Machine Technologies (PDF, 315 KB).
No. Rental Rights licenses are special, supplemental licenses for purchase by PC rental or leasing companies that buy and continue to own fleets of PCs. They are not designed for end-user customers. Learn more about Rental Rights.
Rental Rights licenses address scenarios in which organizations rent, lease, or outsource PCs to third parties. The following are examples of scenarios that are in and out of the scope of the Rental Rights licenses.
Office equipment leasing companiesBusiness service centers (for example, copy/print stores)Internet cafésHotel and airport kiosksGovernment-tendered shared access
License Microsoft products via a hosted solution (Services Provider License Agreement [SPLA])LibrariesAcademic institutionsInternal use (shared PCs)Traditional financing (for example, rent-to-own programs)Finance Leases and Long-Term Leases are permitted as described in the Lease Agreement for Microsoft Products Installed on Leased Computers (PDF, 250 KB)
Windows VDA is a device-based subscription license designed to help organizations license devices that do not qualify for Software Assurance, such as "thin client" devices or non-employee contractor PCs. They license the right to be able to access a virtual desktop. Windows VDA subscription is available through major Microsoft Volume Licensing programs. Learn more about Windows VDA subscription.
Roaming Use Rights enable Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) users to access their secure corporate desktop through an unmanaged device such as a home PC or an Internet kiosk, without the need for their company-owned PC. These rights enable a single primary user of a device that is covered with active Software Assurance for Windows or by a Windows VDA subscription license to access their Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) desktop while off the organization’s premises, using any device that is not owned or affiliated with the user's organization. A primary user is defined as the user who uses the device more than 50 percent of the time. If there is no user who uses the device more than 50 percent of the time, then there is no primary user for that particular device.
If the user does not have a company-owned device at work that is licensed for Windows VDA subscription or active Software Assurance for Windows and needs to access their VDI desktop from a home PC, then the home PC would need to be covered with a separate Windows VDA subscription license.
These Roaming Use Rights are also available for the single primary user of a device that is licensed with MDOP, Software Assurance for Office Professional Plus, or a VDI Suite license. Learn more about Windows VDA subscription.
Currently, there is no SPLA model for Windows VDA. Customers who subscribe to desktops from a third-party hoster will need to pay Microsoft for a Windows VDA license for each device accessing Windows client virtual machines in the datacenter. Additionally, hosters need to ensure that they isolate the hardware and other resources for each company (that is, no two customers can share the same set of resources, such as hardware, storage, and the like).
The Windows VDA subscription license is not required if you are the single primary user of the licensed device (work PC in the office). In that case, you may remotely access that PC from any device. Non-primary users may access that PC if the remote device is separately licensed to run Windows 8.1 Pro or the remote device has the active Windows VDA subscription license.
No. The products both offer a great productivity experience, but they are not the same product. The products are two different ways to consume Microsoft Office—you can choose the offering that best fits your needs.
Office Professional Plus for Office 365 is a per-user subscription service offering, not a desktop application software product. To use the software, you must have an active subscription. You can install and use the software on up to five different devices while the subscription is active.
Perpetual rights are typically available under a desktop application license. With this type of license, you have the right to use the software for as long as you want (as long as you comply with other licensing conditions); however, the license is assigned to a single device that may be used by different users (one at a time).
If you are licensed for Office Professional Plus for Office 365, you may deploy and use Office on up to five devices, anywhere; they may be either company-managed or third-party devices. You may deploy one of five permitted copies on a personal laptop device and use it to work from anywhere, at home or at work.
No. Office Professional Plus for Office 365 is a per-user subscription service, not a desktop application software product (like Office Professional Plus 2013). Therefore, you must deploy the user-authenticated software provided to Office 365 users.
No. The "portable device right" is not relevant for Office Professional Plus licenses purchased as "company-wide" Enterprise Products under the terms of Enterprise Agreement, Enterprise Subscription Agreement, Open Value Company-wide, Open Value Subscription, and Campus and School Agreements.
For those programs, all devices—including portable computers that are used by or for the benefit of an organization's users—need to be counted as Qualified Devices in order to purchase Enterprise Products (such as Windows Upgrade licenses, Office Professional Plus, Core CAL Suite/Enterprise CAL Suite).
For more information, see your Volume License Agreement and Microsoft Product Use Rights.
If you are the single primary user of that work PC in the office, you may remotely access that PC from any device. But if you are not the primary user of that work PC, you will need an additional Office license on the device that you are using.
Under the network use provision, you may run software on a network server that will be accessed and used by your licensed desktops by using Remote Desktop Services (or similar technology) and/or VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure). To access applications such as Office on your network, you must also license each remote accessing device even if Office software is not installed on the local device (for example the local device is a "thin client").
Because Microsoft Office is licensed through a device-based licensing model only, each desktop desktop/thin client that is used to access Microsoft Office by using Remote Desktop Services must have a separate Microsoft Office license dedicated to it. Licenses for Microsoft Office cannot be shared across desktops to support concurrent use. Furthermore, with the 2007 release, generally only licenses obtained through Volume Licensing can be deployed to a network server for remote access. The same rules apply to VDI scenarios. Each desktop/thin client that is used to access Microsoft Office running on virtual desktops on the server must have a separate Microsoft Office license dedicated to it. For more information, see the Volume Licensing Brief for Licensing of Microsoft Desktop Application Software for Use with Windows Server Remote Desktop Services.
Yes, you may install any number of copies and any prior version on the licensed device. Software Assurance is not required for this use right for Office.
No. CAL requirements differ among server products. The general rule is that you must acquire and assign a CAL to each device or user that accesses your server software. Beyond that, however, there may be product-specific exceptions to that rule that affect a given product’s CAL requirement.
With Exchange Server 2013, for example, CALs are not required unless the server access is directly or indirectly authenticated by using Active Directory. For Windows Server, a CAL is required for all users or devices that are accessing the server. The CAL must be of the same edition or later; however, for Windows Server 2012 R2, you can use a Windows Server 2012 CAL to access the server.
For complete information about the different Microsoft CAL requirements, see the Microsoft Product Use Rights.
Generally, additive CALs can access any edition of server software. For example, Exchange Server 2010 and Exchange Server 2013 are available in both a Standard Edition and Enterprise Edition. The Exchange Standard CAL and Exchange Enterprise CAL may be used with either edition of the server software.
For more information, download the Volume Licensing Brief for Base and Additive Client Access Licenses.
The CAL version must correspond to the server software version that it accesses. Older versions of CALs cannot be used with the newer version of the server software, but newer version RDS CALs can be used with an older version of the server software as defined in the RDS and TS CAL Interoperability Matrix.
The only exception to this rule is the R2 server releases; the older CALs sometimes work with the newer R2 release of server software. For example, there are no new Windows Server 2012 R2 RDS CALs required, so the current requirement is that you need at least a Windows Server 2012 RDS CAL to access RDS on Windows Server 2012 R2 servers.
Yes. Your company's CALs permit access to servers licensed by your company or its affiliates. They do not permit access to any other entity's licensed servers.
Yes. An RDS CAL is required for any technology that is used to directly or indirectly interact with a graphical user interface of the server software. This includes (but is not limited to) using Microsoft Remote Desktop Services or other third-party software that enables multiuser scenarios on Windows Server.
Yes. An RDS CAL is required for the use of any functionality included in the Remote Desktop Services role in Windows Server. For example, if you are using RDS Gateway and/or Remote Desktop Web Access to provide access to a Windows client operating system on an individual PC/virtual desktop, both an RDS CAL and a Windows Server CAL are required.
For more information, download the Volume Licensing Brief for Licensing Windows Server 2012 Remote Desktop Services.
Yes, if the user or device is authenticated or otherwise individually identified by a server running Windows Server through any other means, the user or device must have a Windows Server CAL. The specific Windows Server CAL requirement is defined in the Microsoft Product Use Rights.
Yes. If those processes by which the data is made accessible to users are all automated, SQL Server CALs (or per processor licenses) are required because this use is considered a multiplexing scenario. Multiplexing does not reduce the number of Microsoft licenses that are required. End users are required to have appropriate licenses, regardless of their direct or indirect connection to the product. Any user or device that accesses the server, files, data, or content provided by the server that is made available through an automated process requires a CAL.
However, if someone manually uploads or sends an HTML file that was made by SQL Server to a website, then SQL CALs are not required. For more information, download the Volume Licensing Brief for Multiplexing.
An External Connector (EC) license is an alternative to CALs for each server that external users will access. An EC license assigned to a server permits access by any number of external users, as long as that access is for the benefit of the licensee and not the external user. If the usage does not meet these conditions, you need to choose SPLA because such access is considered Hosting.
Yes. If your end customer has active Software Assurance on a qualifying server application licensed product, your end customer may use their qualifying license to run the application in an SPLA virtualized environment. The virtualized environment used by the end customer must be dedicated to the customer’s sole use and may not be shared with any other separately licensed end customers. In addition, the SPLA providing the hosted service to the end customer must be an Authorized Mobility Partner.
For details, visit the License Mobility Through Software Assurance webpage.
No. Windows Server does not require that a user or a device have a Windows Server CAL to access Internet Web Solutions or High Performance Computing workloads (see the Product Use Rights for the definition of these workloads). For all other access to the server software, a CAL is required for each user or device.
Was this information useful?
E-mail this page
Thanks for responding. Your feedback helps us improve the site.
Locate use rights, points by program, and special notes for individual products and supporting documents related to Volume Licensing.
Review this scenario-based guide to help you understand how Microsoft licensing models apply to common IT solutions.
Look up activation instructions including which products require a key.
(PDF, 419 KB)
(PDF, 323 KB)
(PDF, 1.62 MB)
(PDF, 386 KB)