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Taking Advantage of Volume Licensing : KMS and the Client (part 1) - Changing the Client License Type After Installation & Postponing Activation

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In this section we will go into more detail on aspects of licensing from a client perspective. You can obtain licenses for Windows Vista, Windows 7, Server 2008, and Server 2008 R2 through three channels: retail, original equipment manufacturer (OEM), or volume licensing. Each channel has its own unique methods of activation. Organizations are free to choose how they obtain their operating systems, and based on that, they can choose among various activation methods.


Windows Vista and Windows 7 products that are sold online, in a store from resellers or retailers, or from Microsoft are individually licensed. This means that each purchased copy comes with its own unique product key, which appears on the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) on the product packaging. When users start their computer for the first time, they can activate the product by entering the product key displayed on this COA, or by using the Active Windows option in the Control panel. This should be done within 30 days after the installation, the so-called grace period.

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs)

Most OEMs provide systems with an operating system installed. By associating the operating system with information in the BIOS of the computer, activation can take place. This is done before the computer is sent to the customer so that no additional activation actions are required by the user. This method of activation is known as OEM activation. OEM activation stays valid as long as the customer uses the OEM-provided image on that specific system.

OEM activation is a onetime activation that associates Windows with the firmware (BIOS) of a computer; this is called System Locked Preinstallation (SLP). The information is stored as a Windows marker in the ACPI_SLIC table of the BIOS, which will associate the computer with a specific installation type of the manufacturer. Reinstallation can only occur using the recovery media provided by the OEM.

Volume Activation

The Enterprise and Business versions of the Windows client and all the Windows server editions can be activated using Volume Activation. Volume Activation uses either KMS or MAK as an activation method, which we described earlier in this chapter.

1. Using a KMS Client Key and MAK During OS Installation

Clients using KMS employ a KMS client key. KMS client keys are publicly available and known. You can find those keys in the pid.txt file in the sources folder on your installation media and on TechNet. When you are automatically deploying clients in your environment and you want to use KMS for activation, you should use KMS client keys as the product key. Table 1 presents the operating systems and corresponding product keys.

Table 1. KMS client keys
Operating system editionProduct key
Windows 7 ProfessionalFJ82H-XT6CR-J8D7P-XQJJ2-GPDD4
Windows 7 Professional NMRPKT-YTG23-K7D7T-X2JMM-QY7MG
Windows 7 Professional EW82YF-2Q76Y-63HXB-FGJG9-GF7QX
Windows 7 Enterprise33PXH-7Y6KF-2VJC9-XBBR8-HVTHH
Windows 7 Enterprise NYDRBP-3D83W-TY26F-D46B2-XCKRJ
Windows 7 Enterprise EC29WB-22CC8-VJ326-GHFJW-H9DH4
Windows Server 2008 R2 Web6TPJF-RBVHG-WBW2R-86QPH-6RTM4
Windows Server 2008 R2 HPC editionFKJQ8-TMCVP-FRMR7-4WR42-3JCD7
Windows Server 2008 R2 StandardYC6KT-GKW9T-YTKYR-T4X34-R7VHC
Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise489J6-VHDMP-X63PK-3K798-CPX3Y
Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter74YFP-3QFB3-KQT8W-PMXWJ-7M648
Windows Server 2008 R2 for Itanium-based SystemsGT63C-RJFQ3-4GMB6-BRFB9-CB83V
Windows Vista BusinessYFKBB-PQJJV-G996G-VWGXY-2V3X8
Windows Vista Business NHMBQG-8H2RH-C77VX-27R82-VMQBT
Windows Vista EnterpriseVKK3X-68KWM-X2YGT-QR4M6-4BWMV
Windows Vista Enterprise NVTC42-BM838-43QHV-84HX6-XJXKV
Windows Web Server 2008WYR28-R7TFJ-3X2YQ-YCY4H-M249D
Windows Server 2008 StandardTM24T-X9RMF-VWXK6-X8JC9-BFGM2
Windows Server 2008 Standard without Hyper-VW7VD6-7JFBR-RX26B-YKQ3Y-6FFFJ
Windows Server 2008 EnterpriseYQGMW-MPWTJ-34KDK-48M3W-X4Q6V
Windows Server 2008 Enterprise without Hyper-V39BXF-X8Q23-P2WWT-38T2F-G3FPG
Windows Server 2008 HPCRCTX3-KWVHP-BR6TB-RB6DM-6X7HP
Windows Server 2008 Datacenter7M67G-PC374-GR742-YH8V4-TCBY3
Windows Server 2008 Datacenter without Hyper-V22XQ2-VRXRG-P8D42-K34TD-G3QQC

kms Keys vs. kms Client Keys

Keep in mind that there is a difference between KMS keys and KMS client keys. The KMS key is the key you use to active your KMS and is unique for your Volume License agreement, whereas the KMS client key is publicly known and tells your client to use KMS for activation.

When you are using MAK during OS installation, the MAK key is added to the specialize pass in the unattended.xml file. The MAK key is stored in clear text, which is a requirement of the setup process. At the end of the installation, the MAK key is removed from the unattended.xml in order to avoid misuse.

2. Changing the Client License Type After Installation

You will have different usage rights depending on the channel you used to purchase your product. In general, converting an OEM-licensed product to volume licensing is prohibited, although exceptions exist.

2.1. Converting Retail and OEM Editions to Volume Licensing

You are allowed to change an OEM installation to a Volume License installation if Software Assurance (SA) is purchased within 90 days after purchasing the OEM product. This exception applies only to Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2, though.

Another exception is if the OEM product is the same product for which a Volume License agreement already is available. Volume License customers have reimaging rights and may be eligible to upgrade an OEM installation using Volume License media.

Retail and OEM editions of Windows 7 Professional and Server 2008 R2 can be changed to KMS or MAK clients. To change Windows 7 Professional and all editions of Windows Server 2008 R2 from retail to a KMS client, skip the Product Key page and when installation is complete, open an elevated command prompt window and type:

Slmgr.vbs /ipk <SetupKey>

where <SetupKey> is the KMS client key or MAK that corresponds to the edition of Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2.

2.2. Converting MAK Clients to KMS and KMS Clients to MAK

By default, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 operating systems use KMS for activation. To change existing KMS clients to MAK clients, you must install a MAK key. Similarly, to change MAK clients to KMS clients, run:

slmgr.vbs /ipk <KMS Client Key>

where <KMS Client Key> is one of the setup keys shown in Table 1. After installing the KMS setup key, you must activate the KMS client by running:

slmgr.vbs /ato

3. Postponing Activation

There are several scenarios in which you want to postpone activation, such as when you are testing functionality of the operating system or applications running on top of the operating system for a certain amount of time. Also, when building your corporate image you can run into a situation where you want to postpone activation.

3.1. Postponing Activation Using Rearm

If you are not able to activate your Windows installation within 30 days on clients or 60 days on servers, you have the option to reset the initial grace period (a process known as rearming). For both client and server, you have the ability to do this three times, which means that you have 120 days on clients or 240 days on servers before you need to activate your systems. This extra time gives you some breathing space when you are setting up your environment.

When building reference images used for mass deployment, take these rearm restrictions into account as well, because running the sysprep /generalize option (discussed earlier chapters in this book) counts as one rearm. So when building your Windows image, keep in mind that you can use sysprep /generalize only three times in the life cycle of your Windows image. When you activate with KMS, though, your rearm count is increased by one each time you activate using KMS; this gives you some additional options to create your reference image.

Rearming Office 2010

If you deploy Office 2010 within your image, the grace period for Office 2010 will probably begin right away. Therefore, it's possible to rearm the Office 2010 installation for 30 days so that you have some time to do activation. To rearm Office 2010, you should use the Ospprearm.exe file, which can be found in the \<Program Files>\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\ OfficeSoftwareProtectionPlatform folder. You can rearm Office 2010 five times.

3.2. Working with Reduced Functionality Mode

If you fail to activate immediately after the operating system is installed, the OS still provides the full functionality of the operating system for a limited amount of time, or grace period. The length of the grace period is 30 days for a client OS and 60 days for a server OS and can be extended three times (except for Windows Vista Enterprise SP1, which can be rearmed up to five times). After the grace period expires, the OS reminds the user to activate by displaying notifications to activate the computer. This is called Notification mode.

During the initial grace period, periodic notifications that the computer requires activation are displayed. During the logon process, a notification appears to remind the user to activate the operating system and continues until there are three days left in the grace period. For the first two of the final three days, the notification appears every four hours. During the final day of the grace period, the notification appears every hour, on the hour.

After the initial grace period expires or activation fails, Windows continues to notify users that the operating system requires activation. Until the operating system is activated or rearmed, reminders that the computer must be activated appear in several places throughout the product.

After a user logs on, the user is presented with notification dialog boxes asking the user to activate. Notifications appear at the bottom of the screen above the notification area. A persistent desktop notification remains with a black desktop background (Figure 1). A reminder might appear when users open certain Windows applications.

Figure 1. Nongenuine desktop notification

When significant hardware changes take place, a machine may fall Out-Of-Tolerance (OOT), which requires that it be reactivated. At that point, the machine reenters a grace period of 30 days.

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