Product Keys FAQ

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.

How to locate Product Keys in VLSC

  1. Sign into the VLSC Volume Licensing Service Center
  2. Select Licenses > Relationship Summary > Licensing ID > Product Keys.

You will find product key information for each product, the type of licensing (Volume Licensing Key, KMS, and MAK) and the number of used and available Multiple Activation Key (MAK) activations.

You can also select the Download all product keys link to download the keys displayed for an entitlement to a local drive.

You can also locate product keys in VLSC for individual products on the Downloads and Keys tab in VLSC.

I can't find a key for Volume Licensing purchase

If your agreement authorizes you access to a product that requires a key, those keys will be displayed in the "Downloads and Keys" section. However, some products do not require a product key. This will be stated in special instructions listed in the product description in the "Downloads and Keys" catalog.

To see if your product requires a key, go to Product Activation and Key Information. Under the Find Products section, choose a product, or search for your product name.

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. For more on Setup Keys, visit KMS client setup keys.

What determine which Product Keys are associated with my agreements

Volume License Product Keys are provided for each Licensing ID listed in your Microsoft Relationship Summary. You may have several Licensing IDs:

  • Enterprise Agreement (EA) and Select Plus customers receive Product Keys per product pool (Systems, Servers, and Applications).
  • Select Agreement customers receive Product Keys per product pool (Systems, Servers, and Applications) based on their purchasing forecasts.
  • Open License customers and Open Value customers receive applicable Product Keys based on their license purchases.

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.

What is Volume Activation

Volume activation is a configurable solution that helps automate and manage the product activation process on computers running Windows operating systems that have been licensed under a volume licensing program. Volume activation is also used with other software from Microsoft (most notably the Office suites) that are sold under volume licensing agreements and that support volume activation

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) allows organizations to activate systems within their own network.
  • Multiple Activation Key (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.

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 5 computers to activate servers running Windows Server.
    • Your organization must have at least 25 computers to activate client systems running Windows.
  • Activation Thresholds for Office
    • Your organization must have at least 5 computers running an edition of Office to activate installed Office products using KMS.

For more information about activation thresholds, see the Volume Activation Planning Guide.

What is a KMS Host Key

A KMS Key is used to activate the KMS host computer with a Microsoft activation server and can activate up to six KMS hosts with 10 activations per host. Each KMS host can activate an unlimited number of computers.

No KMS (Key Management Service) key displayed on VLSC for Open License customers

KMS keys are no longer pre-assigned to Open agreements as use of MAK (Multiple Activation Key) keys is the preferred method for activation.

KSM keys can be assigned, by exception, to Open customers who meet the minimum KMS activation threshold for Windows Server, OS, and Office. To request such an exception, please submit a Web Form request to VLSC Support.

To do this, you must have VLSC Administrator, Key Administrator, or Key Viewer permissions and provide the following information:

  1. Agreement / Enrollment Number or License ID and Authorization.
  2. Product Name (include version and edition).
  3. Last 5 characters of the product key.
  4. The number of host activations required.
  5. Business Justification or Reason for Deployment.

Additional KMS Hosts

if you require additional KMS activations for activating more than six (6) KMS hosts, submit a Web Form request to VLSC Support.

To do this, you must have VLSC Administrator, Key Administrator, or Key Viewer permissions and provide the following information:

  1. Agreement / Enrollment Number or License ID and Authorization.
  2. Product Name (include version and edition).
  3. Last 5 characters of the product key.
  4. The number of host activations required.
  5. Business Justification or Reason for Deployment.

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 (which 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.

The number of Multiple Activation Keys (MAK) activations provided does not match the number of licenses that we have purchased

We recommend customers use Key Management Service (KMS) to activate Multiple Activation Keys (MAK). KMS is the preferred activation method for large scale deployments. Many factors determine the number of activations associated with each MAK, including licenses purchased, the customer purchase pricing level, and their Volume Licensing program.

The number of activations available for a product may not always match the number of licenses purchased. Usually you will receive a higher number of activations in case you need to reinstall and activate some of your products. Please check the Licensing Summary section of your agreement to see your number of licenses.

Requests to increase MAK activation limits should

Increases to MAK Activation quantity can be requested via Web Form and may be granted by exception.

To do this you must have VLSC Administrator, Key Administrator, or Key Viewer permissions and provide the following information:

  1. Agreement/Enrollment Number or License ID and Authorization.
  2. Product Name (includes version and edition).
  3. Last 5 characters of the product key.
  4. The number of host activations required.
  5. Business Justification or Reason for Deployment.

How to activate using a Multiple Activation Key

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 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.

What is the Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT)

The Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT) enables network administrators and other IT professionals to automate and centrally manage the volume and retail-activation process for Windows, Microsoft Office, and select other Microsoft products. VAMT can manage volume activation using Multiple Activation Keys (MAKs) or the Windows Key Management Service (KMS). VAMT is a standard Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in that requires the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) 3.0.

Where can I find more information on the Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT)

Refer to the following resources for information on VAMT:

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. Customers are free to use a combination of activation methods as desired.

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:

Read these Microsoft documents about Windows licensing and activation prior to deploying Windows or Windows Server. Additional resources include this video on Fundamentals of Volume Activation.

Volume Activation for Windows and Windows Server

If you deploy Windows using Key Management Service (KMS) as the activation method, note that:

  • Windows Server is not supported as a KMS host to activate Windows.
  • A patch is available to allow activation of Windows client machines. (A Windows Server KMS key is required.)

If you are using Windows Server as a KMS host, your alternatives are:

  • Upgrade the KMS host machine to Windows Server.
  • Downgrade the machine to Windows Server 2003.
  • Run the KMS host on a Windows volume edition machine.
  • Run a Windows Server virtual machine.

Volume Activation for Office, Project and Visio

Yes, the following Volume Activation changes are related to Office, Project and Visio:

  • Office KMS Host activates any Office suite or application.
  • Only one Office KMS key needs to be installed and used for activation.

If you deploy Office using Key Management Service (KMS) as the activation method, note that:

  • Windows Server is not supported as a KMS host to activate Office.
  • A patch is not available to allow activation of Office clients.

If you are using Windows Server 2008 as a KMS host, your alternatives are:

  • Upgrade the KMS host machine to Windows Server.
  • Downgrade the machine to an older version of Windows Server.
  • Run the KMS host on a Windows PC.
  • Run a Windows Server virtual machine on a newer version of Windows Server.

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

License compliance and Asset Management are independent of key activation. Customers do not have to use the keys provided under a specific Licensing ID (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.

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 keys through a Microsoft Activation Center.

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 article on this page about reimaging rights.

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.

Where can I find more information about the topics covered in these FAQs

You can find more VLSC training resources on this site, including videos..

Contact Assisted Support

VLSC customers may also Contact Us by phone or by Web Form. Microsoft will respond to Web Form submissions within 24 hours.