Microsoft Office 2010 Engineering

The official blog of the Microsoft Office product development group

Volume Activation

Volume Activation

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Hi, I’m Ted Way, a Program Manager on the Licensing team. Ever enter a 25-character key when you installed Office? That’s us. I’m looking forward to sharing how we’re helping administrators worry less about key management and seamlessly integrate Windows and Office activation in the enterprise.

Starting in Office 2010, all volume editions of Office client software will require activation. What’s great for administrators is that Office has adopted the Windows Software Protection Platform (SPP), which means that most of what you have learned (or will learn) about Volume Activation for Windows applies to Office as well. For example, the same Key Management Service (KMS) host can be configured to activate Office 2010 clients as well as Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. Also, there is no reduction in functionality in volume editions of Office 2010. Even if Office is not activated, your users will still be able to open, save, edit, and print Office files, though users will see notifications reminding them to activate.

This post will kick off a short series of articles on volume activation that will cover topics such as an introduction to volume activation, setting up a KMS host, and using Multiple Activation Key (MAK).

How do I activate volume editions of Office 2010 client?

There are two models available for activating volume editions of Office 2010 client. The default method is KMS, which is a local activation service. A KMS host needs to be set up, and that’s the only computer that activates with Microsoft. The other is Multiple Activation Key (MAK), which is similar to the retail activation method: a key needs to be entered, and the computer will need to connect to Microsoft to activate.

What’s KMS?

KMS is set up on a designated host system that will activate all client installations of Office 2010, eliminating the need for individual computers to connect to Microsoft for product activation. It is a lightweight service that does not require dedicated resources and can easily be co-hosted on a system that provides other services. Here at Microsoft we have one KMS host up and running internally that has activated over 8000 installations of Office 2010 Technical Preview builds. It’s also activating Windows 7 and Windows Vista machines.

Computers running volume editions of Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 operating systems can be configured as Office KMS hosts. Those running Windows Server 2003 can also be used as long as the KMS service is installed. Once you enter the KMS host key and activate, the host will register its Service record on DNS so KMS clients can find it. The KMS host can be further configured with the slmgr.vbs script that ships with Windows.

By default, a KMS client key is already pre-installed on volume editions of client software. That’s why end users don't need to enter a product key when installing Office Professional Plus, for example. A great aspect of KMS is that once you have a KMS host set up, KMS clients will automatically look for the host on DNS and activate themselves against it. Only one KMS host is needed to activate Windows and all Office client products. Just enter one KMS host key and activate, and the KMS host can activate not just Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but also Visio, Project, and InfoPath.

KMS activation is not perpetual, so computers are activated (i.e. in the licensed state) for 180 days. Within that time, the KMS client will need to contact the KMS host and re-activate. When it does, it gets another 180 days starting from the day of re-activation. KMS clients by default attempt re-activation every seven days without a notification shown to the user, so this reactivation will happen automatically behind the scenes without any distractions. No “activation count” is “used up” when KMS clients activate and re-activate.

What’s MAK?

It might be easier to understand Multiple Activation Key, or MAK, by thinking of how Office 2007 retail editions are activated. You went to a store and got a CD for Office 2007. When you installed Office 2007, you were prompted to enter a product key found on the CD’s sleeve. Activation was then done with Microsoft’s activation servers, but you couldn’t activate more than a few times using the same key.

For MAK, the same principle applies, except each key has a different activation count depending on your organization’s needs. For example, a consulting firm with 50 employees constantly on the go may get a MAK key with an activation count of more than 50 (the extra activations are a buffer). That means the same 25-character key is entered for all 50 employee computers, and each of their computers activate online with Microsoft. A smaller firm may only have five computers, and they will get a key with an activation count that’s different than the other company’s key, but it will have enough for their needs.

MAK results in perpetual activation. Once activated, computers do not need to re-activate unless significant hardware changes occur, such as changing a hard drive. 

What activation method should I use?

In practice, organizations with 25 or fewer computers will likely find it easiest to use MAK. Larger organizations will see the value in setting up a KMS host to facilitate activation for hundreds if not thousands of computers.

In addition, larger organizations will probably use a mixture of KMS and MAK. KMS would be the default for computers that are connected to the corporate network at least a few times every 180 days. MAK activation would be suitable for laptops or other computers that are not connected to the company network.

I’m already familiar with SPP and Volume Activation because I’ve deployed Windows. What should I know about the differences between activating Windows and Office?

Although the technology is the same, there are some important items to note between Windows and Office:

1. KMS hosts configured to activate Office should be installed on Windows Server 2003, volume editions of Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008 R2

2. If you want your KMS host to activate multiple products (e.g. Office 2010 and Windows 7), you will have to install the Windows KMS host key in addition to the Office KMS host key and activate both of them.

3. Office KMS clients are activated when five or more computers with Office attempt activation with the KMS host. For Windows client operating systems (Windows Vista and Windows 7), activation occurs after 25 or more computers with Windows client request activation.

What’s next?

I’ll be posting more articles that get into the nitty-gritty of these activation methods.  The goal is to show you how easy and fast it is to set up a KMS host or MAK activate and get your users up and running Office in no time!

  • Can i use for KMS host Windows 2008 (not R2) for activation office 2010?  How to add office 2010 KMS key to already installed KMS host?

  • I have the same issue. I run KMS on server 2008 (nont R2 and have updated the KMS software to support server 2008 R2 and Windows 7. Will this just be an additional license string to read in?

  • Windows Server 2008 cannot be used as an Office KMS host.

    Given that Office 2010 will ship after Win 7 and Win Server 2008 R2 ships, Win Server 2008 R2 will be the most recent versions customers will be getting.

    We are, however, very interested in your feedback on this decision not to support Windows Server 2008 as an Office KMS host.  WS 2008 R2 and WS 2008 are two different code bases, so adding the support for WS 2008 is not trivial.

  • If you have an existing KMS host for Windows running one of these operating systems:

    - Windows Server 2003

    - Windows 7 (volume)

    - Windows Server 2008 R2

    You may use this KMS host to activate Office KMS clients by running an executable file that will be provided to you.  This exe installs the Office license files that will recognize Office KMS host keys.  After you activate the Office KMS host key, then Office KMS clients will be able to activate against this Office KMS host.

  • You have to be kidding that KMS for Office 2010 will not be supported by Windows 2008 Servers, but will be supported by Windows 7, 2008 R2 and Windows 2003.  Because KMS is a lightweight service, we run it on 2008 servers with other important functions that I can’t just upgrade to Windows 2008 R2. I understand the need for KMS, but KMS has become a very inconvenient moving target.

  • Seconded - please put this support into Server 2008 so that we don't have to upgrade our Server 2008 KMS servers to R2 just because KMS isn't supported on Server 2008.

  • Can i use for KMS host Windows 7 (not R2) for activation office 2010?

  • >> Can i use for KMS host Windows 7 (not R2) for activation office 2010?

    Yes, Windows 7 may be used as a KMS host to activate Office KMS clients.  However, only volume editions may be used (the Windows 7 for the corporate environment, not the Windows 7 retail editions you buy at the software store).

  • i love the office 2010 but i cant activat it

  • oi quero saber como ativar o office 2010 pois

    estou tendo problemas para obter a chave de ativação

  • swswwdwdwd

  • @ted

    Why 2003 but not 2008 non-R2? Sure R2 and non-R2 are different code bases. Microsoft made the code bases. Microsoft made KMS. Are they just too lazy to make it work? What do they hope to accomplish here?

    Im with Tony, Pushing anti-piracy tactics on the customer and then throwing them for another loop like this is exactly how you lose customers.

  • Like the above posters said, you have got to be kidding.  Office KMS will run on WS2003 but not WS2008?  In which universe did this make sense to anyone?  And what about WS2003R2?

    And people wonder why we still run WinXP and Office 2003 on my network...

  • I can't think of one sane reason that WS2K3 is supported but WS2K8 isn't.  And how does this leave all of the SBS 2008 and EBS 2008 customers - with their junk waving in the breeze?  :)

    Come on - having WS2K3 support and no WS2K8 support is just ridiculous.  Someone in at MS has to see this for what it truly is!  :)

  • Microsoft must really hate Windows 2008. When Windows 7 was released, we could not get KMS updated to support Windows 7 on a Windows 2008 KMS host. Windows 2003 worked and Windows 2008 R2 worked, but not regular Windows 2008. We had to wait two weeks for a patch to be released so that Win 2008 KMS hosts could activate our Windows 7 systems. Why wouldn't Microsoft release this patch BEFORE Windows 7 came out?

    Now with Office 2010 volume licensing, it looks like Microsoft has completely abandoned Windows 2008. It's not the end of the world. We can build another KMS host. But I like what Tony Weil said: "KMS has become a very inconvenient moving target".

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