Volume Activation 2.0

Applies To: Windows Server 2008

Volume Activation (VA) 2.0, first introduced for activating Windows Vista®-based systems under volume licensing agreements, now extends to Windows Server® 2008. Volume Activation 2.0 must be incorporated into the deployment of all Windows Server 2008-based systems under volume license agreements.

What does Volume Activation 2.0 do?

All Windows Server 2008-based systems must be activated. VA 2.0 helps you automate and manage the product activation process of Windows Server 2008-based systems licensed under volume licensing agreements. At the same time, it addresses the piracy and product key management problems associated with Volume License Keys (VLKs) issued for Windows Server® 2003. VA 2.0 aids management of and increases the protection of volume license keys in both managed and unmanaged environments. It is also useful in optimizing the deployment infrastructure through the use of flexible deployment options that require no action or involvement from end users. Additionally, VA 2.0 enables better protection and management of customer-specific product keys through new and enhanced activation management tools.

Who will be interested in Volume Activation 2.0?

Infrastructure designers, implementers, and administrators who are responsible for deployment of Windows in their enterprise need to understand how to plan, implement, and manage VA 2.0 as part of Windows Server 2008 deployment. For information about planning, implementation and management of VA 2.0, plus numerous other resources and tools, see Volume Activation 2.0 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=107415).

Are there any special considerations?

As with Windows Server 2003, you need to first obtain your Volume License Keys through the Volume Licensing Service Center (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=107544). You can also call the appropriate number listed on Microsoft Activation Centers Worldwide Telephone Numbers (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=107418).

Key Management Service (KMS) activation requires TPC/IP connectivity (default port TCP/1688, which is configurable). DNS dynamic update and SRV record support are required for the default auto-publishing and auto-discovery functionality used by KMS. You may need to configure the Applications and Services Logs\Key Management Service event log on KMS hosts to ensure that it is large enough to accommodate the volume expected in your organization.

What new functionality does Volume Activation 2.0 provide?

Microsoft has made changes to the product activation technologies used to protect its intellectual property. Product activation is required for all editions of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, including those that are licensed under Microsoft volume licensing programs. These changes are part of the Microsoft Software Protection Platform (SPP), a new set of anti-piracy innovations, counterfeit detection practices, and tamper resistance. For more information, go to Microsoft’s Software Protection Platform: Protecting Software and Customers from Counterfeiters (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=107548) and click the Microsoft’s Software Protection Platform: Innovations for Windows Vista™ and Windows Server® “Longhorn” white paper in the Related Links pane.

What works differently?

VA 2.0 is the new method for activating Windows Server 2008-base systems under volume licensing agreements, replacing the VLKs issued for Windows Server 2003. VA 2.0 offers two models for activating Windows Server 2008-based computers. One provides direct activation with Microsoft by using a Multiple Activation Key (MAK). The other enables you to run a local activation service in your environment by using the Key Management Service (KMS).

A product key is no longer required for installation; instead, a built-in setup key is used during installation. All editions of Windows Server 2008 must be activated within an initial grace period. In certain circumstances (for example, in a lab environment), you may opt to use the Rearm process to extend the initial grace period up to three times before a system must be reactivated or rebuilt.

MAK and KMS keys apply to Volume Edition Product Key Groups rather than being specific to an edition of Windows Server 2008. MAK and KMS keys activate Windows Server 2008 installations according to the following three Windows Server 2008 product groups:

  • Server Group C—Datacenter, Itanium-Based Systems

  • Server Group B—Standard, Enterprise

  • Server Group A—Web

There are three general license states for tracking activation for Windows Server 2008 : Licensed, Grace, and Notifications. When a computer is in the Licensed state, it has been properly activated. The Grace state is a “grace period,” a length of time provided to allow any necessary actions to return the computer to the Licensed state. If a Windows Server 2008-based computer is not activated before a grace period expires, the computer enters the Notifications state, becoming unlicensed and presenting prominent notifications that are difficult to overlook. In this state, a user has access to the desktop, and notifications appear hourly until the operating system is activated.

How should I prepare for this change?

Although VA 2.0 uses a different process than volume license keys have used in the past and requires some planning and management, it is not difficult or complicated to implement or manage, and should require minimal additional IT effort. For information about planning, implementation, and management of VA 2.0, plus numerous other resources and tools, see Volume Activation 2.0 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=107415).

What settings are added or changed?

There are several optional configurations that require you to create or change the registry keys in the following table on client computers:

Setting name Location Value Name Type Value Data

Enable standard user activation

HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\SL




Disable Activation Notifications

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\SL\Activation




Disable Automatic Activation

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\SL\Activation




Disable Publishing of KMS SRV Records to DNS

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\SL



1 (Any non-zero value will disable DNS publishing.)

Enable Publishing of KMS SRV Records to DNS

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\SL

DisableDnsPublishing (REG_DWORD)


0 (Any non-zero value will disable DNS publishing.)

The following sections describe the uses of these registry settings.

Enable Standard User Activation

An administrator can create this registry key to allow a standard user to switch a KMS client to MAK activation, to replace an existing MAK with a new MAK, or to manually activate the computer.


If a standard user installs a MAK or KMS key, the ProductID registry values will not be updated. This primarily affects product support. The Microsoft Customer Support Services are aware of this issue and will use another method to determine the activation method.

Disable Activation Notifications

Although not recommended, an administrator can turn off software licensing notifications by creating and setting this registry value. This flag will turn off all software licensing notifications including balloons, wizards, and task dialog boxes. If activation notifications are turned off, the user will not be presented with any activation related errors.

Disable Automatic Activation

An administrator can disable activation attempts on any client computer by setting this registry key.

Disable DNS Publishing

An administrator can optionally disable automatic DNS publishing by the KMS host by running the following command:

cscript C:\windows\system32\slmgr.vbs /cdns

This can also be set in the registry.

Enable DNS Publishing

An administrator can re-enable automatic DNS publishing on a KMS host by running the following command:

cscript C:\windows\system32\slmgr.vbs /sdns

This can also be set in the registry.

How should I prepare to deploy Volume Activation 2.0?

KMS and MAK enable a variety of deployment options to implement VA 2.0 in your environment. The method(s) that you choose for activating Windows Server 2008 systems depends on several factors, including target environment infrastructure considerations, user connectivity considerations, and organization policy considerations. Based on these considerations, some deployment options may require infrastructure changes. You can find prescriptive guidance for planning and deployment, examples of typical scenarios, as well as technical and operational guidance, in the documentation at Volume Activation 2.0 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=107415).

Is Volume Activation 2.0 available in all editions of Windows Server 2008?

Volume Activation 2.0 is the required method of activation for all editions of Windows Server 2008-based systems under volume license agreements.