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Appendix B: Troubleshooting Volume Activation

While several issues can arise with volume activation, some common issues can be dealt with quickly. This section lists some of them and details how to handle systems that have reverted to RFM.

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Common Problems Common Problems
Resolving RFM Resolving RFM

Common Problems

This section lists common issues that can arise with volume activation:

  • MAK depletion. MAKs can become depleted through system maintenance that requires reactivation or through system replacements. Request additional activations through the volume license portal through which the MAK was originally acquired, by telephone, or by contacting a Microsoft licensing partner.

  • MAK activation failure. Loss of Internet connectivity is the most common cause of activation failure. Open Windows Internet Explorer®, and then test Internet connectivity. If Internet connectivity cannot be established or if MAK activation still fails, use an alternate method such as telephone activation.

  • KMS count too low. If the number of computers that connect with KMS falls below 25, KMS client computers will not be activated and activated KMS clients are in danger of letting their activation expire. Check the current count for the KMS host by using the Slmgr.vbs with the -dli option. The MOM Pack also includes a rule to generate an alert if the KMS count is below a configurable threshold.

  • KMS host outage. KMS host installations should be documented to lessen the chances of inadvertently removing an active KMS host from the environment. If a KMS host cannot be contacted, check the service computer itself to ensure that it is receiving requests from client computers. (Check for KMS 12290 event log entries.) Check DNS entries and network connectivity between the client and the KMS host.

  • KMS connectivity issues. Network routers, Windows Firewall with Advanced Security, and other types of firewalls can prevent access to KMS host systems. Ensure that the KMS host’s listening port (by default, port 1688/TCP) is open on the computer’s firewall.

  • KMS host event log wraps , overwriting events. During normal operation, the KMS host generates a large number of 12290 events. Ensure that the KMS event log is configured with sufficient space to manage these events. If used, the MOM Pack automatically collects these events on a configurable, scheduled basis, so that log wrapping is not an issue.

  • Activation behind a proxy server. Microsoft Knowledge Base article 921471, “Activation fails when you try to activate Windows Vista or Windows Longhorn Server over the Internet,” at, describes a situation in which the client attempting activation is behind a proxy server configured to use Basic authentication. While this is not a default configuration for Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server, it is a valid configuration for many proxied networks.

    If team members must use Basic authentication, type the following URLs in the proxy’s exception list:

Note   More information about troubleshooting volume activation is available in the Volume Activation 2.0 Step-by-Step Guide at

Resolving RFM

If a system configured for KMS activation fails to find a KMS in the initial 30-day grace period or fails to renew its activation within 210 days after activation, it enters RFM. In RFM, the user is unable to log in and is presented four activation-related choices. The desktop is not visible, and the user is forcibly logged off after one hour. After the system is activated, it returns to full functionality.

Recovering from RFM

When a system is in RFM, take one of the following actions to restore full functionality:

  • Use KMS. Reconnect a KMS-activated computer to the network that houses the KMS host. The computer automatically contacts the KMS host to renew its activation.

  • Enter a MAK. If a KMS computer cannot be returned to its home network but is able to access the Internet, it can be restored by using a MAK. In the RFM dialog box, click Change Product Key to type the MAK. If the computer is unable to connect to the Internet, team members can also use telephone activation. Changing to the MAK does not provide an additional grace period. The computer remains in RFM until it is activated—either by the Internet or by telephone. Team members can also supply the MAK through scripting by using the Slmgr.vbs script with the -ipk option. (See “Appendix C: KMS Activation Configuration” for details.)

  • If a computer has exceeded its grace period , the Windows Activation dialog box seen in Figure 4 appears. Use the appropriate option to type a new product key or to attempt activation with the existing product key. If the system is not a KMS client computer, options are presented to activate the computer over the telephone or by modem.

    Figure 4. Windows Activation prompting for immediate activation

    Figure 4. Windows Activation prompting for immediate activation

Resetting the Activation Grace Period

  • Sysprep /generalize. Using the Sysprep command-line image preparation tool with the /generalize option resets the grace period for activation, providing an additional 30 days to activate the system. Because this is Sysprep, team members will also be resetting the system state, creating a clean slate as they would when imaging the computer.

  • Slmgr.vbs –rearm. A computer can be returned to its initial activation state for the current license by using the Slmgr.vbs script with the -rearm option. This option resets the computer’s activation timer and reinitializes some activation parameters, including a KMS client’s unique machine ID (also known as client machine ID, or CMID). The number of times this can be repeated is limited and depends on how many times sysprep /generalize has been run to create the distribution media. The maximum number of rearms possible from shipped media is three.

    Note   Using -rearm requires administrator privilege.

Allowing Standard Users to Recover from RFM

Typically, system functions such as Windows Activation require administrator privileges  and are protected by Windows Vista User Access Control (UAC). An administrator can allow users to access this feature through the use of a special Web page, as in Figure 5. The Standard User Product Activation Web Page includes Microsoft ActiveX® controls to execute required scripts to apply a new key and activate. The page can be customized by an administrator and placed in the %Systemroot%\system32\SLUI folder.

Figure 5. Using the Standard User Product Activation Web Page

Figure 5. Using the Standard User Product Activation Web Page

When a user starts a computer in RFM, the Windows Activation dialog opens and offers the user a chance to log in with reduced functionality. When logged in, the user can open the Standard User Product Activation Web Page and choose the appropriate option to activate the client.

To deploy the Standard User Product Activation Web Page for users

  1. On the reference computer, install the Web page (productactivation.htm and windowsvista.png) into a folder accessible by standard users, such as %systemroot%\system32\SLUI.

    Note   These files can also be inserted into an existing image using ImageX controls.

    1. Customize the Web page for the organization to include support information such as telephone numbers and contact information.

    2. Optionally, configure an administrator-specified product key in a file named pid.txt. The Web page is designed to look for this file in the %systemroot%\system32\SLUI folder. The format of the product key is the standard five-by-five product key format used with Windows Vista (XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX).

    Note   The Standard User Product Activation Web Page ( can be found in the job aids folder at C:\Program Files\BDD 2007\Documentation\Job Aids or can be downloaded from the Windows Vista Volume Activation 2.0 Technical Guidance Download Center at

  2. Deploy this Web page as an Internet Explorer favorite to users by using one of the following methods:

    1. Installed as part of a reference image

    2. Use the Microsoft Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK).

    3. Use Group Policy in Active Directory environments.

    4. Configure the FavoritesList option in the component Microsoft-Windows-IE-InternetExplorer in an unattended setup file.


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