Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Center

Product Keys FAQ

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Questions

What are Product Keys?

Are Product Keys required for all Volume Licensing products?

What is a Setup Key?

How does Microsoft determine which Product Keys are associated with my agreement(s)?

What is Volume Activation?

What is the Key Management Service (KMS)?

What is a KMS Host Key?

What is a Multiple Activation Key (MAK)?

Can I use both MAK and KMS for deployment across my organization?

How do I determine which key to use for a particular product?

Are there any changes specific to Volume Activation regarding Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2?

Are there any changes specific to Volume Activation regarding Office 2010, Project 2010, and Visio 2010?

Which activation method should be used for virtual computers?

My organization's KMS host computer was activated using Windows Server 2008 KMS. Can I use the same computer as a host for deploying Windows Server 2008 R2?

I purchased new PCs with Windows 7 Professional pre-installed and I plan to downgrade to an earlier version of Windows. Which key can I use?

If a child company (owned by a parent company) has an individual agreement, can the parent company use the same key to deploy a product across both companies?

What if my organization does not activate our licenses?

My organization is planning to use Multiple Activation Keys (MAK), however the number of activations provided does not match the number of licenses that we have purchased. They do not reconcile; how do I correct this?

Can I use my Volume License Keys to exercise my re-imaging rights?

How do I download my keys to a local file?

What are the changes to Volume Activation regarding Small Business Server 2011?

What is an OSA Key?

I am an Open Customer and do not see my KMS (Key Management Service) key displayed on VLSC. How can I get it?

My question is not addressed here. Where can I direct my question?

 

Questions and Answers


What are Product Keys?
A Product Key enables use of a software product you have licensed under a specific Volume Licensing program. The Product Keys listed in the VLSC should be used with only Volume License products and are intended for use by your organization only.

An Online Service Activation (OSA) Key is a type of Product Key. It is a single-use redemption key used to activate subscriptions to Microsoft Online Services.

For more information, review the Online Service Activation for Open programs FAQ here.
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Are Product Keys required for all Volume Licensing products?
No. Some products do not require a product key.

"Downloads and Keys" within the VLSC will show you which products require a product key. If your agreement authorizes you access to a product that requires a key, those keys will be displayed in the "Downloads and Keys" section.
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What is a Setup Key?
A Setup Key is used for each product / version combination to bypass activation (that is, unlock the product). You can obtain a Setup Key in one of the following ways:
    1. Physical fulfillment - For products acquired through physical fulfillment, the Setup Key is printed on the media sleeve.
    2. Download fulfillment - For products acquired by download from the VLSC, the Setup Key is displayed on the download screen and may be accompanied by the following text: Some products available for download require setup keys. Please take note of this Setup Key as it will be needed during product installation.
    3. Contact Microsoft - You can also call the Activation Call Center to obtain the Setup Keys you need. When you call, be prepared to provide your Volume Licensing agreement information and proof of purchase.
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How does Microsoft determine which Product Keys are associated with my agreement(s)?
Volume License Product Keys are provided for each Licensing ID listed in your Microsoft Relationship Summary. You may have several Licensing IDs:
  • Select Plus Agreement customers and Enterprise Agreement (EA) customers receive Product Keys per product pool (that is, Systems, Servers, and Applications).
  • Select Agreement customers receive Product Keys per product pool (that is, Systems, Servers, and Applications) based on their purchasing forecasts.
  • Open License customers and Open Value customers receive applicable Product Keys based on their license purchase(s).

Note: All customers have the right to use Product Keys for re-imaging and downgrade purposes. Select Plus, Enterprise Agreement (EA), and Select customers are provided limited evaluation rights for training and back-up.
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What is Volume Activation?
Volume Activation is a product activation technology that was first introduced with Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. It is designed to allow Volume License customers to automate the activation process in a way that is transparent to end users.

Volume Activation applies only to systems that are covered under a Volume Licensing program and is used strictly as a tool for activation. It is not tied to license invoicing or billing.

Volume Activation provides two different models for completing volume activations. Either or both key types may be used by customers to activate systems in their organization:
  • Key Management Service (KMS)
    KMS allows organizations to activate systems within their own network.
  • Multiple Activation Key (MAK)
    MAK activates systems on a one-time basis, using Microsoft's hosted activation services.

Important: As part of your installation, it is important to plan and manage deployment of any product using Volume Activation.

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What is the Key Management Service (KMS)?
The Key Management Service (KMS) is an activation service that allows organizations to activate systems within their own network, eliminating the need for individual computers to connect to Microsoft for product activation. It does not require a dedicated system and can be easily co-hosted on a system that provides other services.

KMS requires a minimum number of either physical or virtual computers in a network environment. These minimums, called activation thresholds, are set so that they are easily met by Enterprise customers.

  • Activation Thresholds for Windows – Your organization must have at least five (5) computers to activate servers running Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2 and at least twenty-five (25) computers to activate client systems running Windows Vista or Windows 7.
  • Activation Thresholds for Office – Your organization must have at least five (5) computers running Office 2010, Project 2010, or Visio 2010 to activate installed Office products using KMS. For more information about Volume Activation of Office products (that is, Office 2010, Project 2010, and Visio 2010), see the Volume Activation Quick Start Guide for Office 2010, and Volume Activation Overview for Office 2010.

For more information about activation thresholds, see the Volume Activation Planning Guide.
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What is a KMS Host Key?
A KMS Host Key is used to activate the KMS host computer with a Microsoft activation server and can activate up to six (6) KMS hosts with 10 activations per host. Each KMS host can activate an unlimited number of computers.

    Note: Contact the Microsoft Activation Center if you require additional KMS activations for activating more than six (6) KMS hosts.
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What is a Multiple Activation Key (MAK)?
A Multiple Activation Key (MAK) activates systems on a one-time basis, using Microsoft's hosted activation services (that is, it requires connection with a Microsoft activation server). Once computers are activated, no further communication with Microsoft is required.

    Important: Each MAK has a predetermined number of allowed activations, based on your Volume Licensing agreement. Contact the Microsoft Activation Center to increase your MAK activation limit.

You can activate licenses in one of two ways using MAK:

  • MAK Independent Activation - Each computer individually connects to Microsoft via the web or telephone to complete activation.

  • MAK Proxy Activation - One centralized activation request is made on behalf of multiple computers with a single connection to Microsoft online or by telephone. This method uses the Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT), which is a part of the Windows 7 Automated Installation Kit (WAIK). VAMT enables IT Professionals to automate and centrally manage the Volume Activation process using MAK, and includes a check on the number of activations on the MAK.

For more information on Volume Activation, see the Volume Activation Planning Guide.
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Can I use both MAK and KMS for deployment across my organization?
Yes. Volume Licensing customers can use KMS, MAK, or a combination of each to activate systems in their organization.
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How do I determine which key to use for a particular product?
Refer to the following resources for assistance in determining which key to use when activating a Microsoft Volume License product:
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Are there any changes specific to Volume Activation regarding Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2?
Yes, the following Volume Activation tasks have changed in regard to Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2:
  • Activation of virtual computers
  • Ability to use KMS for earlier versions of the products
  • Improvements in performance, reporting, and Product Key management
  • Inclusion of Office 2010, Project 2010, and Visio 2010 on the same activation platform as Windows products

If you deploy Windows 7 using Key Management Service (KMS) as the activation method, please note:
  • Windows Server 2008 is not supported as a KMS host to activate Windows 7.
  • A patch is available to allow activation of Windows 7 client machines. (A Windows Server 2008 R2 KMS key is required.)

If you are using Windows Server 2008 as a KMS host, your alternatives are:
  • Upgrade the KMS host machine to Windows Server 2008 R2.
  • Downgrade the machine to Windows Server 2003.
  • Run the KMS host on a Windows 7 volume edition machine.
  • Run a Windows Server 2003 virtual machine on the Windows Server 2008 machine.

For more information about Volume Activation of Windows, see the Volume Activation Planning Guide.
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Are there any changes specific to Volume Activation regarding Office 2010, Project 2010, and Visio 2010?
Yes, the following Volume Activation changes are related to Office 2010, Project 2010, and Visio 2010:
  • Office 2010 KMS Host activates any Office 2010 Suite or application.
  • Only one Office 2010 KMS key needs to be installed and used for activation.
  • Office 2010 has a specific MAK for each product edition (for example, Office 2010 Standard MAK, Word 2010 MAK, Visio 2010 MAK, etc.).
  • Visio 2010 Standard and Visio 2010 Professional require their own KMS client keys for activation. To understand why this is necessary, see the Deploy Visio 2010 section of the article located at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee624357.aspx.

If you deploy Office 2010 using Key Management Service (KMS) as the activation method, please note:
  • Windows Server 2008 is not supported as a KMS host to activate Office 2010.
  • A patch is not available to allow activation of Office 2010 clients.

If you are using Windows Server 2008 as a KMS host, your alternatives are:
  • Upgrade the KMS host machine to Windows Server 2008 R2.
  • Downgrade the machine to Windows Server 2003.
  • Run the KMS host on a Windows 7 volume edition machine.
  • Run a Windows Server 2003 virtual machine on the Windows Server 2008 machine.

For more information about Volume Activation of Office products, see the Office 2010 Volume Activation Guide.
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Which activation method should be used for virtual computers?
Either MAK or KMS may be used to activate virtual computers. KMS is the preferred method because activations are not decremented each time a computer is activated (as is the case when using MAK). This applies to both physical and virtual computers.

Consider the following when activating Windows and Office on virtual machines:
  • Windows Vista SP2, Windows Server 2008 SP2, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Office 2010 count toward KMS activation thresholds.
  • Windows Vista SP1, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003 v1.1, and Windows 7 support hosting KMS on a virtual computer.
  • Each KMS Host Key can be used to set up six KMS hosts (physical or virtual).
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My organization's KMS host computer was activated using Windows Server 2008 KMS. Can I use the same computer as a host for deploying Windows Server 2008 R2?
Existing KMS hosts installed with Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, or Windows Vista need an update to support activation of Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Office 2010. This update is available through Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), the Microsoft download center, and the TechNet Volume Activation page. Once the update is installed, you may install the Windows Server 2008 R2 KMS key on the host and activate the product.
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I purchased new PCs with Windows 7 Professional pre-installed and I plan to downgrade to an earlier version of Windows. Which key can I use?
You may use one of the following:
  • A KMS host activated with a Windows 7 KMS key to activate Windows Vista and Windows 7 KMS clients.
  • A KMS host activated with a Windows Vista KMS key to activate Windows Vista KMS clients.
  • Windows Vista MAK.

Note: Only the Windows XP Professional key allows downgrade to Windows XP.
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If a child company (owned by a parent company) has an individual agreement, can the parent company use the same key to deploy a product across both companies?
Customers do not have to use the keys provided under a specific Licensing ID (that is, agreement, enrollment, affiliate, or license) for use only with the licenses specified under that Licensing ID. This flexibility allows customers to centrally manage their deployment image by either using keys specific to agreements / licenses, or one set of keys for all.
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What if my organization does not activate our licenses?
In order to take advantage of the Online Service and use the benefits of the product license, activation is required.
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My organization is planning to use Multiple Activation Keys (MAK), however the number of activations provided does not match the number of licenses that we have purchased. They do not reconcile; how do I correct this?
We recommend customers use Key Management Service (KMS) to activate Multiple Activation Keys (MAK). Many factors determine the number of activations associated with each MAK, including licenses purchased, the customer purchase pricing level, and their Volume Licensing program.

For Select, Enterprise Agreement, Campus Agreement, School Agreement, and SPLA, both pricing levels (A, B, C, D) and the fact that KMS is the predominant activation method are taken into consideration when deciding how many activations to provide the customer per pricing level.

Contact the Microsoft Activation Center to increase your MAK activation limit.
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Can I use my Volume License Keys to exercise my re-imaging rights?
Yes. Re-imaging rights are granted to all Microsoft Volume Licensing customers. Under these rights, customers may re-image Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) or Full Packaged Product (FPP) licensed copies using media provided under their agreement as long as copies made from the Volume Licensing media are identical to the originally licensed product. As a Volume Licensing customer, the Volume License Keys you need can be found on the Product Key page. You can also request your key(s) through the Activation Call Centers.

Note: If you are an Open License customer, you must purchase at least one unit of the product that you want to re-image to obtain access to the product media and receive a key.

For more information on Re-imaging Rights, see the article on reimaging.
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How do I download my keys to a local file?
The VLSC offers an option to download your Product Keys to a local file for later use. When downloaded from the Downloads and Keys page, the file contains all Volume License Keys associated with agreements in your VLSC profile. However, if you download keys from the Licensing ID specific view on the Relationship Summary page, the file contains only the keys associated with the Licensing ID you are viewing.

A downloadable Product Key file is in a tab-delimited format and can be opened in Excel to sort and view keys. You may also view the file using any text editor. The columns included in the file are: Licensing ID, Parent Program, Organization, Product, Product Key, Type, and MAK Activations-Used/Available. To open a downloaded file in Excel, complete the following steps:
    1. Open Microsoft Excel.
    2. Click File and then Open - select the downloaded CSV file.
    3. Select Delimited (the default) and then select Tab-separated (to prevent the display of all data in a single column).
    4. Click Finish. The .CSV file opens in Excel and the data is displayed in separate columns.
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What are the changes to Volume Activation regarding Small Business Server 2011?
With the release of Windows Small Business Server 2011, Multiple Activation Keys (MAK) for Volume Licensing customers will be available on the VLSC. MAK keys allow activation to take place with the Microsoft hosted activation service either online or by phone. Volume Licensing customers can find their keys on the VLSC Product Key page or by calling the Activation Call Center.

Small Business Server 2011 installs automatically as a Key Management Server (KMS) client. KMS, another type of Volume Licensing key, is not offered for Small Business Server 2011. To use a MAK, customers will need to convert their KMS client machine to a MAK activation client by installing a MAK. You can install a MAK during or any time after the operating system is installed.

Get detailed information on Volume Activation and MAK Keys
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What is an OSA Key?
An Online Service Activation (OSA) Key is a single-use redemption key used to activate subscriptions to Microsoft Online Services.

Microsoft Online Services for Open agreements are transitioning to a keyless handling activation model. Once you order your Open online services, you will receive an email with a link and instructions to activate your services.

To see if the Online Service has a key or keyless handling activation, click the Online Service Activation tab site within the VLSC.
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I am an Open Customer and do not see my KMS (Key Management Service) key displayed on VLSC. How can I get it?
KMS keys are no longer pre-assigned to Open agreements as use of MAK (Multiple Activation Key) keys is the preferred method for activation.
If you are an Open Customer and need a KMS key, please request one by either calling the PA Call Center or emailing KMSADD with your business need.
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My question is not addressed here. Where can I direct my question?
More training resources, including helpful videos, are available. Please Contact Us by phone or email. Microsoft will respond to emails within 24 hours.
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