Blog: licensing

Since Veritas took over Backup Exec from Symantec, we’ve had issues getting licensing migrated and renewed for various reasons.  

For one customer we had recently renewed maintenance for one year and needed to apply the license to the Backup Exec console. In the console, I could see there were product licenses and maintenance licenses. The maintenance licenses had indeed expired. 

When I went to the Veritas licensing portal to retrieve the licenses, they showed an expiration date in one year from now. I downloaded the new licenses, but no matter what I tried to import or delete existing licenses, it never would display the new maintenance expiration dates.

I called Veritas and they changed the way maintenance licenses are managed from the Veritas portal; they are not managed on the Backup Exec console any longer.  You can ignore the dates for the maintenance contract now since they moved over to Veritas.


Several of our customers have been confused recently regarding the number of Microsoft licenses they own.  The issue is confused by Microsoft’s process itself.  When a customer purchases licensing they are issued an Open Business Authorization certificate which states the number of licenses purchased.

The client is also issued a set of keys to install the purchased licenses.  The license number and the number of times the customer can use the key are very confusing.  In fact the key can be used roughly 5 times per 1 license.  As an example, if a customer purchases 10 Windows Server licenses, the associated key may state a quantity of 50.  This actually means you can activate the key 50 times on the same 10 licenses.

If you seem to have extra licenses that magically appeared, make sure you are looking at your certificate and not the number associated with the keys.


We began receiving warnings 180 days after installation of Office 2010 that the software was not activated and would stop working in less than 30 days.  A volume license download from Microsoft licensing portal had been installed on about a dozen PCs, but I guess it had not asked for a CD key during the installation.  Queries using slmgr.vbs commands indicated that Office was using the default keys assigned at installation.

This customer had KMS license keys for Office 2010, so we needed to install the Microsoft Office 2010 KMS Host on one of our servers.  First of all, be aware that Microsoft Office 2010 KMS Host cannot be installed on a Windows 2008 server.  It can only be installed on Windows 7, Server 2003, or Server 2008 R2.  When you install the Office KMS host on Windows 2003, you’ll need to have KMS server software patched to 1.1 and then to 1.2 also in order for it to work with Microsoft Office 2010 KMS Host (see this article for details

During the installation of the Office KMS host, it asks for the KMS key to use and then activates it over the Internet.  The KMS key that I pulled from the licensing portal for the customer said that it successfully activated, so my KMS host was ready to begin processing client requests.

I tried first to go through the help menu of Microsoft Word and change the CD key, but when I entered the KMS key, it kept telling me that the CD key was not valid.  I knew that it was valid because the KMS host activated.  I then tried to use slmgr.vbs commands to change the keys that way, but it also told me that the key was invalid.  At this point, I was stumped until I ran across Microsoft’s Volume Management Activation Tool (VAMT) 2.0 (you can get it from [more]

After installing VAMT 2.0, I started poking around and saw that you could type in a manual KMS license key to use, assign the key to clients remotely, and request that the key activates with the KMS server.  I connected to all the PCs using VAMT 2.0 and then assigned the KMS key successfully to all the clients (no invalid key message).  After that, I told them to activate with the KMS server.  Now, when I queried the KMS server with slmgr.vbs commands, I was able to see that I had 15 clients listed for an activated Microsoft Office 2010 key.  The PCs immediately stopped saying that Office had not been activated.

At this time, I do not have an explanation why changing the license key on the client kept telling me that it was invalid, but it worked during KMS host installation and using VAMT 2.0.


Changing Product Key on Windows 2003 (and SBS2003):  I needed to change the product key on a SBS machine that was virtualized from an IT consulting customer’s machine. I did not want to re-activate the SBS machine using the customer’s key since the machine was still active and did not want to interfere with the proper operation of the production machine. I needed to install our MSDN key since this is the proper usage for that type situation.

In order to do this, when the product ask you to activate, chose the option to telephone a customer service representative to activate Windows.  Then when the Activate Windows by phone comes up, chose the “Change Product Key” at the bottom to enter the new product key. Then cancel out of this operation and activate the windows over the internet as usual. [more]


I recently ran across a free open source utility called Keyfinder that extracts license keys for the software you have installed on your computer.   You can find more information and download it from [more]

There is a configuration file that indicates where in the registry the key is located for various products - it can be expanded for additional products.  You can also load the hive from another drive if you have an accessible drive from another system and need the keys for software that was installed on it.


Microsoft has come out with a new way to handle license keys called Key Management Service. Through this new way of volume licensing, Server 2008 and Vista machines will check in with a server to be authenticated instead of having to check in at the Microsoft site.  To do this, you have to set up a KMS server (with software from Microsoft) as well as install a KMS Volume License Key (which is different than a traditional VLK). [more]


Microsoft Key Management Service (KMS) for Windows Server 2003 SP1 and later is part of Microsoft Windows Volume Activation 2.0. It allows enterprise users to host KMS on Windows Server 2003 to enable activation of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 using a KMS key.

Microsoft Volume Activation 2.0 is a set of technical and policy solutions provided by Microsoft’s Software Protection Platform (SPP) that gives Microsoft customers more secure and easier methods to manage their volume license keys.

KMS based activation allows enterprise customers to host a local service within their environment to enable activation of machines running Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 volume editions within their environment, instead of activation directly with Microsoft. Computers that have been activated using KMS are required to reactivate by connecting to a KMS host at least once every 6 months.

KMS keys are provided through Microsoft’s Volume Licensing System portals (MVLS, eOpen). The KMS host needs to be activated once with Microsoft either online or via telephone.

The drawback to this service is that you have to obtain the key from MS using a volume license agreement. Another issue is that you have to have 5 Server 2008 installations or 25 Vista installs for this to work (and VM machines do not count towards this number).

Download the Microsoft Key Management Service