Blog: Vista

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


The default local security policy on Windows Vista is set to use NTLM v2 only.  After some off and on troubleshooting I finally discovered this was preventing me from accessing my Western Digital NetCenter NAS.  The following procedure changes the policy to allow older Lan Manager Protocols if needed: [more]

  • Run MMC snap-in secpol.msc
  • Expand Local Policies -> Security Options
  • Find Network security: LAN Manager authentication level
  • Double click and change to “Send LM and NTLM – use NTLMv2 session security if negotiated”


Those of us that use Vista have learned to use VPNs sparingly due to the new TCP/IP stack.  In Vista, shortly after establishing a VPN using the Windows client (not the Cisco VPN client), you will lose authentication to your local domain resources, particularly file shares (including the DFS).  The only consistent workaround I’ve been able to find for this problem is to delete my VPN credentials right after I bring up the VPN (before my local authentication goes away).  Just open a command prompt once your VPN is established and type:

cmdkey /delete /ras

This will remove your VPN authentication and preserve access to local shared resources.  If you need to browse to something over the VPN, you will be prompted for credentials on the remote system.


If you need to run something quickly as administrator in Vista, you can just hit the Windows key, type the name of the program and press
Ctrl-Shift-Enter instead of just Enter.  This will bring up the confirmation dialog and allow you to run the program as administrator.


I guess this is annoying to some and not a big deal to others.  (“this” being the fact that Windows Vista IE/WE and file browser dialogs do not have an “up directory” button).  Besides just being weird it can be a hassle when you still work a lot on WinXP/Win2003 and are use to the convention of having an up button.  Of course MS allows you to use the “directory tree buttons” to easily navigate to a higher directory – which is pretty good, but not a complete solution in some cases.  If you click in the location area and start to type a new directory, there’s not an obvious way to restore the buttons (because now it’s just a text box containing the file path).  By the way, pressing Esc twice with focus on this text box does restore the buttons.  However, the thing I was interested in sharing was the ability to press Alt-Up Arrow and just go up a directory like normal.  So, the next time you notice the up button is missing just remember that Alt-Up Arrow in Vista does the same thing.


Like past versions of Windows, Vista is available is a full version or an upgrade, with the upgrade being 30-50% less.  However unlike previous upgrades, the Vista upgrade process requires XP to be installed on the system before it can be upgraded.  Prior upgrades only required a physical disk from an older OS as evidence of the previous purchase.

Brian Livingston (author of the “Windows Secrets” series of books) has documented the procedure to perform a clean install with an upgrade license key.  This is not intended to circumvent any licensing, but as we all know, Windows usually performs better if you start over with a clean install.  The steps are documented at  This upgrade scenario is also addressed by KB930985 here.