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Volume Activation Operations Guide

Microsoft Corporation

Microsoft® Volume Activation helps Volume Licensing customers automate and manage the activation process. This document provides operational guidance for Volume Licensing customers who have deployed Volume Activation in their organization’s environment.

The guide is presented in sections. You may download the entire guide. This guide also has been localized into several languages.

Management Tools for Volume Activation
Volume Activation Troubleshooting
Managing License States
User Experience


This guide contains information to help customers manage the activation of the Windows® 7 and Windows Server® 2008 R2 operating system volume editions in their environment. Topics include management tools, troubleshooting, recovering from unlicensed states, resolving non-genuine software issues, and managing each method of Microsoft® Volume Activation.

Key Management Service

With KMS, IT pros can complete activations on their local network, eliminating the need for individual computers to connect to Microsoft for product activation. KMS is a lightweight service that does not require a dedicated system and can easily be co-hosted on a system that provides other services. By default, volume editions of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 connect to a system that hosts the KMS service to request activation. No action is required of the user.

KMS requires a minimum number of computers (physical or VM) in a network environment. The organization must have at least 5 computers to activate Windows Server 2008 R2 and at least 25 computers to activate Windows 7 clients. These minimums, called activation thresholds, are set so that they are easily met by enterprise customers.

To use KMS activation with Windows 7 Volume Licensing editions, new computers must be preinstalled by an OEM with a qualifying operating system and contain a Windows marker in the BIOS.

Multiple Activation Key

MAK is used for one-time activation with Microsoft’s hosted activation services. There are two ways to activate computers using MAK. The first method is MAK Independent activation, which requires that each computer independently connect and be activated with Microsoft either over the Internet or by telephone. The second method is MAK Proxy activation. With this method, a computer acting as a MAK proxy gathers activation information from multiple computers on the network, and then sends a centralized activation request on their behalf. MAK Proxy activation is configured using the Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT).

Note KMS is the default key for Volume Activation clients. Using MAK activation requires installing a MAK key. For more information about converting KMS clients to MAK, see the Volume Activation Deployment Guide.