Windows Activation

Windows Activation

Activation through Microsoft Active Directory or Key Management Service (KMS)

Microsoft requires that you activate newly installed Windows systems before you can use them. Product activation confirms that the installed copy of Windows has been properly licensed. Product activation is typically performed automatically over the Internet, although you can call Microsoft to manually activate a system if necessary. If you activate Windows over the Internet, the system contacts Microsoft online to verify its product key. If the Windows product key is valid, then the system is validated. However, if the product key isn't valid, the Windows installation is branded as non-genuine and various notifications are displayed to remind the user to activate Windows.

The following steps compose the activation process:

  1. During the Windows installation, two unique identifiers are created for the system:

    • A unique product ID (PID) is created using the product key that you entered during the installation process.

    • Based on the system hardware, a unique hardware ID (HWID) is created. Every hardware component in the system has a unique serial number assigned to it. During installation, Windows runs a mathematical formula against each device's serial number to create a one-way hash for each component. Then four to ten bits are extracted from each device's hash to generate an eight-bit HWID that uniquely identifies the system.

  2. Windows contacts Microsoft through the Internet and sends a handshake request containing:

    • Your system's PID.

    • Your system's HWID.

    • The version number of the activation software running on the system.

    • A unique request ID number that is associated with the specific system.

  3. Microsoft verifies that the license associated with the PID allows system activation.

  4. If activation is allowed, Microsoft associates the PID with the system's HWID. This prevents the same product key from being reused to activate Windows on a different system.

  5. A confirmation is sent back to the system in the form of a digital certificate signed by Microsoft, indicating that the system has been successfully activated.

Several Windows activation mechanisms are available. The mechanism you choose depends upon the distribution channel used to purchase Windows:



Full-packaged (Retail)

Retail copies of Windows must be activated over the Internet or by calling Microsoft after the installation is complete.

Preinstalled (OEM)

Because they are preinstalled, OEM copies of Windows are usually activated by the system manufacturer.

Volume Licensed

Windows systems installed under a volume license agreement can take advantage of volume activation. Windows systems in a large network are commonly installed using a generic volume license key (GVLK). This allows you to use the same key to license multiple systems until you reach the number allowed by your license agreement. Volume activation automates the activation process, making it easier to deploy a large number of Windows systems. You can implement volume activation in two ways: Activation through Key Management Service (KMS) allows you to activate Windows systems using an internally hosted KMS service. KMS activations are valid for 180 days. To remain activated, each system must renew its activation by connecting to the KMS host at least once every 180 days. By default, KMS client computers attempt to renew their activation every seven days. Activation through Microsoft Active Directory allows Windows systems connected to the domain to activate automatically during computer startup. Windows stay activated as long as it remains a member of the domain.

You can use the Windows Software Licensing Management utility (slmgr.vbs) to manage activation from the command line. Enterslmgr with the appropriate options at an administrator-level command prompt:

  • /ipk product_key installs a product key.

  • /ato activates Windows.

  • /dli displays summary license information.

  • /dlv displays detailed license information.

  • /xpr displays license expiration date.

Click here to visit check out the article from Microsoft if you are having problems activating Windows.

Activating Windows Server with Key Management Service (KMS)

KMS is a service that runs on a Windows Server and allows other Windows servers and clients to activate against it. The KMS host holds a pool of activation keys for the Windows Server, and when a client contacts the KMS host, it will activate the client with one of these keys.

Before you can activate Windows Server with KMS, you must first install the KMS host key on the server that will be running the KMS service. This key can be obtained from the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC) or from the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN).

Once the KMS host key is installed, you can configure the KMS service on the server. This can be done by running the "slmgr.vbs" script with the "/skms" option and specifying the DNS name or IP address of the KMS host. You can also specify the port that the KMS service will use (the default is 1688).

After the KMS service is configured, you can activate Windows Server on the client machines by running the "slmgr.vbs" script with the "/ato" option. This will contact the KMS host and activate the client with one of the keys in the host's pool.

One important thing to note is that KMS requires a minimum number of activations before it will start activating clients. This minimum is 25 for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2, and 5 for Windows Server 2012 and later. This means that you must have at least 25 or 5 Windows Server clients that will be activating against the KMS host before it will start activating them.

In conclusion, activating Windows Server with KMS is a simple and efficient way to manage the activation of Windows Server in your organization. By installing the KMS host key and configuring the KMS service on a Windows Server, you can easily activate other Windows Server and client machines. This can save your organization time and money, as well as ensure that all of your Windows Server systems are properly licensed."

Click here to check out the article from Microsoft to implement the same.

Activate using Active Directory-based activation

Like KMS, Active Directory-based activation (ADBA) is used to activate Windows and Office in your corporate network.
ADBA is a more reliable and redundant solution, and it has significant advantages compared to KMS which makes it the best option for activating clients' machines.
As you can guess by its name, ADBA relies on Active Directory Domain Services to store activation objects and transparently activate domain-joined computers.

With Active Directory-Based activation, your servers and clients activate automatically with the KMS license key from Active Directory when they join the Domain. The key automatically revokes when the servers or clients unjoin the active directory.


The Domain scheme level must be a minimum of 2012.


You have support for Active Directory-Based activation on the following operating systems:

  • Windows 8

  • Windows 8.1

  • Windows 10

  • Windows Server 2012

  • Windows Server 2012 R2

  • Windows Server 2016

  • Windows Server 2019

Click here to check out the article from Microsoft to implement the same.

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