Introduction To Windows Activation
Ever since Microsoft decided to tighten its grip on the way in which its software is provisioned, product activation became a part of every Windows administrators agenda.
Stepping up from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2008, Microsoft has introduced two changes to the activation process (or in its official name: Windows Product Activation):
- Volume License customers are no longer exempt from performing activation; customers unwilling or unable to activate products online must use the newly introduced Key Management Service (more on KMS coming right up)
- The Activation we knew from Windows XP/2003 in which the Windows is provided with a product key during installation which is later verified online (or by phone) is still available in Windows 2008 and has been labeled as Multiple Key Activation (MAK). In addition to MAK, Microsoft introduced a new activation method in which Windows periodically checks-out a license from a centralized Key Management Service (KMS) which is good for only 180 days. After the initial activation, Windows will contact the KMS server every 7 days to restart the 180 days countdown.
It is important to understand that both methods are designed to control (read:limit) the number of Windows activations performed by the customers based on the number of licenses purchased from Microsoft by requiring that each copy of Windows be activated for the particular hardware that its loaded onto.
This means two things:
- Each new Windows installation must be activated – even if it on the same hardware configuration (click here for Microsofts definition of “hardware configuration”).
- When an existing copy of Windows is migrated between hardware configurations it must be re-activated.