Volume activation overview for Office 2010


Applies to: Office 2010

Topic Last Modified: 2012-11-20

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Two volume activation methods are available to organizations that have volume license agreements with Microsoft. Activation establishes a relationship between the software product key and a particular installation of that software on a device. Microsoft includes product activation technologies in the following products sold through the Volume Licensing channel: Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008, and Microsoft Office 2010 client products.


This information applies to volume-licensed editions of Office 2010. It does not apply to Office Professional Plus for Office 365, which is licensed through subscription.
Office 2010 is supported on Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012.

In this article:

  • Volume Licensing overview

  • Office Activation Technologies

Volume Licensing overview

To become a volume licensing customer, your organization must set up a volume licensing agreement with Microsoft. Microsoft Volume Licensing offers programs that are customized to the size and purchasing preference of organizations. These programs provide simple, flexible, and affordable solutions that enable organizations to easily manage licenses. Two Office 2010 suites are available through the volume licensing channel: Office Professional Plus 2010 and Office Standard 2010. To compare the suites, see Compare suites available through Volume Licensing (https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkId=216466). To compare the server integration features between suites, see Compare server integration features between Office suites available through volume licensing (https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkId=216467).

By obtaining software licenses through Microsoft Volume Licensing programs, organizations pay only for the software license, instead of the media included in boxed software. In addition to reducing overall cost by eliminating these physical costs, purchasing in volume provides more customized purchasing options and improved software administration.

With some Volume Licensing programs, organizations can also purchase Software Assurance (https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkId=184005). This is a comprehensive maintenance offering that helps organizations get the most out of their software investment. It combines the latest software with telephone support, partner services, training, and information technology (IT) tools. Organizations can choose Software Assurance at the time of purchase and begin to use the benefits immediately for the term of the license agreement.

Depending on the Volume Licensing program chosen, organizations might receive media, and have the option to obtain media (or supplemental media), documentation, and product support separately as needed.

For more information about Volume Licensing, see Microsoft Volume Licensing (https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkId=8523). For step-by-step information about how to activate Volume License editions of Office 2010 client products, see Deploy volume activation of Office 2010. If you are already familiar with Windows Volume Activation through Key Management Service (KMS) and Multiple Activation Key (MAK), see Volume activation quick start guide for Office 2010 for instructions that are specific to Office 2010.

Changes in activation policy

Activation for the 2007 Microsoft Office system was required only for Microsoft software purchased from retail stores and OEMs. Product keys entered in Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007 bypassed activation. For Office 2010, the activation method uses Office Activation Technologies, based on the Software Protection Platform introduced in Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

Microsoft policy requires the activation of all editions of Office 2010 client software. This includes those obtained through the Volume Licensing program. This requirement applies to Office 2010 running on both physical computers and virtual computers. Activation is not required for any Office 2010 server products, such as Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and Microsoft Project Server 2010, or any version of Microsoft Exchange Server.

Why is activation necessary?

Counterfeiting is a significant problem for the software industry. According to a study by the Business Software Alliance, 41 percent of all personal computer software installed worldwide during 2008 was obtained illegally. Though the financial effects are serious to software manufacturers and vendors, with losses estimated at US $50 billion in 2008, the effect of counterfeit software goes beyond revenue loss to software manufacturers. Many consumers who have a counterfeit copy of Microsoft software are unwitting victims of a crime. Additionally, counterfeit software is increasingly becoming a vehicle for the distribution of viruses and malware that can target unsuspecting users, potentially exposing them to corruption or loss of personal or business data and identity theft.

Adding the activation requirement to Microsoft software helps prevent keys from being widely leaked. This minimizes the use of counterfeit software. For more information about the Business Software Alliance study, see Sixth Annual BSA and IDC Global Software Piracy Study (https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkId=155960).


All methods of activation used by Microsoft are designed to help protect user privacy. The data that is collected is used to confirm that you have a legally licensed copy of the software. It is then aggregated for statistical analysis. Microsoft does not use this information to identify you or contact you.

Office Activation Technologies

Office Activation Technologies provide methods for activating products that are licensed under Microsoft Volume Licensing programs. Most Office Volume Licensing customers are familiar with Volume License Keys (VLKs) that were issued under a specific license agreement. This key effectively "bypassed" activation. For Office 2010, Office Activation Technologies help automate and manage the activation process while addressing the piracy and product key management problems that arose with keys issued for Office Enterprise 2007.

You can use the following methods to activate Office 2010 by using Office Activation Technologies, which are the same methods that are used for Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, and later versions of Windows. The kind of product key entered determines the activation method:

  • Key Management Service (KMS)   A computer serves as the KMS host, which requires an Office 2010 KMS host key to be installed and activated. This establishes a local activation service in your environment. Office 2010 client computers connect to the local KMS host for activation.

  • Multiple Activation Key (MAK)   With a MAK key, Office 2010 client computers activate online by using the Microsoft hosted activation servers or by telephone.

    In addition:

  • A combination of KMS and MAK   For example, desktop computers that are running Office 2010 will have the KMS client key installed, whereas portable computers that are running Office 2010 will have the MAK key installed.

To learn about which volume activation method to use, see Plan volume activation of Office 2010

Key Management Service (KMS)

KMS enables product activations on the local network. This eliminates the need for individual computers to connect to Microsoft for product activation. It is a lightweight service that does not require a dedicated system and can easily be co-hosted on a system that provides other services. A computer is required to be configured as a KMS host. The KMS host contains a customer-specific volume license key (KMS host key) for each product to be activated and connects one time to Microsoft hosted servers for activation. Computers that are running Windows Server 2003, Volume License editions of Windows 7, or Windows Server 2008 R2 operating systems can be configured as Office 2010 KMS hosts.

Only one Office KMS host key is required to activate all Volume License editions of Office 2010 client products.


The Office 2010 KMS host key is not specific to the operating system. It is designed to be used on any of the operating systems that were mentioned earlier, including both 32-bit and 64-bit editions.

Office 2010 KMS clients

KMS clients are computers that are running Volume License editions of Office 2010, which are preinstalled with a KMS client key. KMS clients connect to an organization’s KMS host to request activation. Office 2010 KMS clients can be installed on the operating systems listed in System requirements for Office 2010.

By default, a KMS client key has already been installed in Volume License editions of Office 2010. No action is required by the end user, and you do not have to enter a product key for Office 2010 KMS clients. The only action required by the administrator is the initial activation of the KMS host.

For more information, see Plan a KMS deployment in Plan volume activation of Office 2010.

Multiple Activation Key (MAK)

A unique MAK key is given to an organization for each Volume License edition of Office 2010. Each computer must then activate one time with the Microsoft hosted activation services. Associated with each key is a count of the number of activations. For example, a MAK key for an Office 2010 product that has 100 activations allows the organization to install the key on 100 computers and activate each one.

MAK is appropriate for organizations with computers that are not connected to the corporate network for long periods of time, such as portable computers. For this to work, a MAK key must be installed instead of the default KMS client key that is used in Volume License editions of Office 2010. There are two ways to activate computers by using MAK. The first method is MAK independent activation, which requires that each computer independently connect and activate with Microsoft, either over the Internet or by telephone.

The second method is MAK Proxy activation, which is performed by using the Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT) 2.0 (https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkId=183042). VAMT 2.0 supports Office 2010 MAK proxy activation. By using this method, a computer collects activation information from multiple computers on the network and then sends a centralized activation request on their behalf. In this setup, the VAMT 2.0 console is the only computer that connects to Microsoft hosted servers. For more information, see Plan a MAK activation in Plan volume activation of Office 2010.

With MAK activation, there is no requirement to periodically renew activation. You must reactivate if significant hardware changes (such as replacing the hard disk drive) are detected or you re-install the operating system. Each reactivation will decrement the number of activations associated with the key. If you save and reapply the confirmation ID from the MAK proxy activation through VAMT 2.0, you can reactivate the same computer without decrementing the number of activations associated with the key, because no connection with Microsoft is made. In addition, you must request more activation allowances when the number of activations passes the predetermined limit. You also have to manage the installation of MAK keys and you might have to manually activate systems by using a telephone when no Internet connection is available.


Only VAMT 2.0 and later versions can support Office 2010.

Volume License product keys

If you use Volume License editions of Office 2010, planning for volume activation must be part of your Office 2010 deployment process. KMS host keys and MAKs are issued under a specific license agreement to enable organizations to use the licensed products. These keys can be used only with volume licensing products. They cannot be used with retail software or software that is preinstalled on a new computer by an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), unless the organization has an agreement with the OEM to preinstall Volume License editions of the products.

To obtain your KMS host key and MAK keys, go to the Web site where you downloaded Office 2010.