Enable a KMS Host for Windows 7 and Office 2010 Volume Activation

In order to simplify licensing and activation for Windows clients and servers on you network, you can set up a KMS host to automatically activate these machine with Microsoft, rather than having to install license keys individually on machines.

There are two types of license keys with Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008, which are KMS and MAK. MAK (Multiple Activation Keys) are more like your traditional license keys, which you can use to manually license a product. Once the key is installed, that product stays licensed on that machine indefinitely. If you have multiple machines that you want to license using MAK keys in one go, you can use the Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT 2.0).

The second option is to use KMS (Key Management Service). When using KMS you set up a server on the network to act as a KMS Host. This host collects licensing information information about client computers on the network, and then activates them in bulk with Microsoft’s activation servers, at regular intervals.

When you install Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows Server 2008 from Volume Licensing media, these machines will be installed as KMS clients by default. This means a fresh installation using volume licensing media will install a KMS license key on the client during the installation. Once the machine is installed and joined to your domain, if a KMS host is available on the network the new machine will report in to the KMS host, and the KMS host will in turn activate the client. There is a caveat to this. You need to have at least 25 KMS clients (for Windows 7 and Vista), or 5 KMS Clients (With Windows Server 2008) on your network in order for the KMS host to activate these machines with Microsoft. So in summary, for small deployments of less than 25 computers you will need to use MAK keys, but for larger  deployments, you can take advantage of the simplified activation process, by using a KMS host on your network.

So how do we set up a KMS host? Actually the process is pretty simple, especially if you set up a Windows Server 2008 R2 machine as your KMS host. You will need to obtain the ‘Server 2008 R2 Std and Ent Volume:CSVLK (KMS_B)’ KMS license key from the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Center. To be sure that I was using the correct key, I verified it using the product key verify function using VAMT 2.0. The good thing about using this key, and indeed setting up your KMS host on a Server 2008 R2 computer is the fact that it will license and activate Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 KMS clients! Once you have the key handy you need to run up a command prompt using elevated privileges on the host that you want to set up as the KMS host.

At the command prompt type in the following to install the KMS_B key on your KMS host, where YOUR_KMS_B_LICENSE_KEY is the license key that you obtained from the Microsoft Volume Licensing Center:

slmgr.vbs /ipk YOUR_KMS_B_LICENSE_KEY

You should get a message like the following:

Installing the KMS Host license key

Next you need to activate the new license key by typing:

slmgr.vbs /ato

After a few seconds you should get a confirmation message like the following:

Successful activation of the KMS Host key

Next there are a few other checks you can make to ensure that your KMS host is enabled successfully. Firstly run the following command and review the output:

slmgr.vbs /dlv

Displaying detailed licensing information about your KMS host

You can use the output from this command to see the number of licensing requests that have been received by the KMS host. In the example above a single request has been received, and the current count is 1. As mentioned earlier in order for the KMS host to activate Windows 7 clients, the count must reach 25 i.e. 25 computers on the network must all have sent license requests to the KMS host. The command slmgr.vbs /dlv is an easy way to keep track of the progress of the current count in the early stages of your KMS deployment. If you want to obtain this infomation from a remote client machine you can use the slmgr.vbs KMS_HOST_NAME /dlv, where the KMS_HOST_NAME is the name of your KMS host.

A second useful check after enabling your KMS host is to make sure that the relevant DNS SRV record has been created, in order for KMS clients to discover the location of your KMS host. In the DNS console on one of your DNS servers look for a record called _VLMCS._tcp.YOURDOMAINNAME

_VLMCS SRV DNS record

Finally, check that tcp port 1688 is enabled incoming on your firewall in the domain profile on the KMS host to allow clients to make licensing requests.

Verify the Key Management Service (TCP-in) rule is enabled

After that your KMS host should happily pick up licensing requests for Windows Vista, 7, and Server 2008. In the early stages of our deployment we had set up a few clients using MAK licensing keys, until such time as we had 25 computers available on the network. Once we had enough Windows 7 machines available we converted them back to KMS clients, using the default KMS client keys listed here, and the VAMT 2.0 to install these keys on the client computers.

Next up, setting up the Office 2010 KMS host. In our environment it made sense to use the same server that was already acting as our Windows KMS host. Firstly we downloaded the Microsoft Office 2010 KMS Host License Pack. On Windows server 2003 other steps are required to install this (outlined in the system requirements), but on Windows Server 2008 R2, just run the downloaded KeyManagementServiceHost.exe file.

Accept the license agreement, and the file will run. You will receive confirmation that the license pack has installed correctly. Next you will be asked to enter your Office 2010 KMS Host license key, which you can obtain from the Volume Licensing Service Center. Enter your key and click OK, and you will receive the following confirmation:

Office 2010 KMS host activation success message

You can verify that the computer is activated, as a KMS host for Office 2010 by running the following command :

slmgr.vbs /dlv bfe7a195-4f8f-4f0b-a622-cf13c7d16864

The long code shown in the command is the Office 2010 activation ID. Running this command will give you a similar summary to the slmgr.vbs /dlv command for Windows Clients. It will show you the current count for Office 2010 KMS client installations as well as the number of license requests. With Office 2010 the current count must reach 5 before the KMS host will activate your Office 2010 installations i.e. there must be at least 5 computers running Office 2010 with a KMS client product key installed before the KMS host will activate these clients. More information on Deploying Office 2010 using KMS can be found here.

As a final note, you will notice in the above example that the output of the slmgr.vbs file is directed to a popup dialog box. If you would prefer to direct the output of the slmgr.vbs script to the command window that you are working in you can use cscript to run slmgr.vbs. To do this firstly navigate to the C:\Windows\System32 folder using the command:

cd C:\Windows\System32

You can then run slmgr.vbs using cscript as shown below:

cscript slmgr.vbs /dlv

As you can see below, the output will display in the command window rather than a pop up dialog box. I mention this for completeness as I have seen slmgr.vbs run both ways. It doesn’t really matter which you choose.

Running slmgr.vbs using cscript