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Windows Activation in Development Environments


Standish, England

Our product management team members have some new guidance to share with those of you with questions about activation in your development or test environments:

First, we have a newly revised whitepaper, Windows Activation in Development and Test Environments. You can download the whitepaper or read it on TechNet. This paper is intended as a guide for infrastructure architects and decision makers. In it, we provide insights and recommendations to help minimize the impact that Windows activation has on development or test environments. The whitepaper begins by providing a high level view of Windows Activation Technologies policies and tools, including the relationship between Windows activation and Windows licensing. We introduce five key principles that should guide your Windows activation planning. Finally we conclude with recommendations for activating Windows operating systems under several common development environment scenarios.

Secondly, we wanted to address some of the questions we get on product activation when transitioning from test to production. Many customer deployment scenarios begin with testing on an operating system acquired through an MSDN subscription. (We will not cover subscriptions acquired through the MSDN Academic Alliance, as there are different license rights covering use cases beyond test/development.)  Once the test is successfully executed, the decision may be made to simply move these systems from the development/test environment into production.  Some of you may be wondering whether or not that is possible from a licensing standpoint, or what that means for product activation.  MSDN licenses are not intended for use outside of development and testing.  It is okay to move systems to production, provided you have a license to cover the production use.  But what about activation?  Below we list some of the more common transition scenarios and how to handle them.

Because there are many different options for product editions, product key types and activation methods, we focus here on Windows client and server licenses sold through volume licensing (that use volume activation). This includes the following operating systems: Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2008 R2. Occasionally you may have OEM or retail systems in your development/test environment, and do not want to switch them to volume activation in your production environment. These scenarios also are included.

The volume activation options for a production environment are KMS or MAK. When transitioning systems, important variables to consider are whether you have proper licenses and whether the bits (i.e. the build type) used in dev/test are capable of being activated using volume activation.

The table below describes the various source environment characteristics, the corresponding activation options in a production environment, and any action required to activate the systems.  Following the table is a diagram that displays the various options.


*  By default, volume builds of Windows are designed for KMS activation, and come with a KMS client setup key installed.

**  Manually install the KMS client setup key, or use the free Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT), the recommended choice.  The keys are part of the tool and it is easy to discover the target systems and change the key automatically.  If you are manually installing the key, they can be found in the Volume Activation Technical Reference Guide for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, and in the Volume Activation Deployment Guide for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

***  See Converting Retail Editions to Volume Licensing Activation



More Information

For more information about volume activation and implementing KMS and MAK, visit the Windows Volume Activation TechCenter. For guidance on activation in a development environment, refer to the whitepaper mentioned in the first part of this blog, Windows Activation in Development and Test Environments.


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