Volume Activation 2.0 at UW-Madison
These are some of the important characteristics of Volume Activation 2.0 as implemented at the
In November 2006, Microsoft rolled out their new volume
license activation scheme, Volume Activation 2.0 (VA2). Windows desktop (Vista) was the
first software released using VA2, but other Microsoft
volume-licensed software will eventually follow. As of late 2010, the current versions of Windows Server, Office, Visio, and Project are also using VA2. Software for Macintosh does not yet use VA2 as of June, 2012.
VA2 shifts some of the burden of authenticating software
installations and protecting activation keys from Microsoft to
institutional users. Microsoft believes that preventing software piracy
is an issue for all parties, not just for Microsoft, and VA2 is the
next step in turning that belief into an enforceable implementation.
Activation is not licensing; it's a means of ensuring that
installations are licensed. The current Microsoft Desktop Campus
Agreement that gives users the right to install the most recent version
of Office and the Windows OS on computers owned by the UW-Madison is
based on the number of Full Time Equivalent employees at UW-Madison,
not on the number of computers at UW-Madison. Neither we nor Microsoft
negotiated the Campus Agreement with the understanding that there was a
fixed relationship between the number of employees and the number of
computers eligible for upgrade to the latest version of Office or
Windows at the UW-Madison.
The bottom line is that departmental users do not need to
concern themselves with the number of licenses or the number of allowed
installations on UW-Madison-owned computers. They only need to ensure
that the machine can be legally upgraded using departmental media,
which means that it must be owned by the UW-Madison (for all software)
and have a full Windows OS license associated with it (for the Windows
Link to Volume Activation 2.0 FAQ (from Microsoft): FAQ
What follows are the important characteristics of VA2 as
implemented at the UW-Madison.
- An installation key is not required. Software installations
will install and
run normally for 30 days without any keys.
- Activation is required. If activation does not occur during
the grace period (usually 30 days), the computer transitions into
notification mode. During notification mode, the user will see
activation reminders during logon, as well as notification in the
Action Center. In addition, the desktop background is set to black (for
- There are two methods of activating VA2 software:
- Other activation methods are used
for OEM installations
and for retail
- How it works
- Computers connect directly to servers at Microsoft and
a one-time, permanent activation.
- Computers that cannot be connected to the Internet can
- Activation Hardware Tolerance
- A MAK activation key must be renewed if significant
occur. As hardware changes occur, the software tracks each change,
using a weighted score to accumulate changes made. If a cumulative
score reaches 25, the software is considered out of tolerance and must
be activated with a MAK. Table 3 lists hardware components and their
- Table 3. Activation Hardware Tolerances
| Component class name
RAM amount range (for example, 0–512 MB,
512 MB–1 GB, 2–4 GB)
| Network adapter Media Access Control (MAC)
Small computer system interface (SCSI) adapter
Integrated device electronics (IDE) adapter
BIOS identification (0 always matches)
Physical operating system hard drive device
- How it works
- KMS activation requires a local machine running the Key
Management Service on which
client computers activate.
- There is no limit to the number of computers that can
against a KMS server.
- Finding the machine running the KMS
- A KMS can be set up to publish SRV records in DNS
that will automatically direct volume licensed software to the KMS
server. If that is done, any client on a subnet that can access the KMS
not been set up to perform some other mode of activation)
will find and activate on that KMS.
- A KMS can be set up to not
SRV records in DNS. If that is done, clients will have
to know the IP address and/or the DNS name of the machine
running the KMS in order to activate.
- Individual computers can be set up to activate on a
specific KMS server.
- The procedure to change a machine currently
activated with an MAK to KMS can be found in kb doc
- The activations are leases. Once clients find and
a KMS server, their lease is 180 days.
- If a client is unable to reconnect to any KMS
that 180 days passes, it will go into a 30-day grace period.
If that 30 days passes without activation, the client will
enter notification mode.
- Once a client connects to a KMS server, it will
reconnect to that same KMS server at one-week intervals. Every
time it succeeds in connecting, it will extend its lease out
another 180 days from the date it connects
- Activation Hardware Tolerance
- Computers that use KMS activation do not require
hardware out of tolerance conditions unless the hard disk on which the
operating system resides is replaced.
UW-Madison's VA2 Implementation
- DoIT distributed Vista with an embedded MAK key. That
worked fine for the limited number of Vista activations on campus and
we will continue to use that method for additional Vista installations.
- With the maturation of KMS tools and technology, we began
using KMS activation for any Microsoft software that supports it.
- For large distributions (Windows 7 and Office 2010, for
example), installations performed from media purchased at the Tech
Store on machines that are part of the UW network will automatically
activate on the UW-Madison's KMS server. They will not require any
additional action by the user during installation, nor will they
require the input of a key.
- For smaller distributions (Windows Server 2008R2, for
example), we will send instructions on how to activate:
- You can specify the KMS server on which any
Volume-activation enabled software will activate by following the
instructions found on KB doc
- You can activate from off-campus on the UW-Madison's
KMS server if you connect via WiscVPN. Both the OnCampus and OffCampus
VPN profiles will allow you to activate. This works with both 32- and
64-bit versions of Windows 7.
- Machines that will not connect to the UW network for
more than six months at a time (primarily off-campus UW-owned laptops)
will still require a MAK.
- To get the UW-Madison's MAK, please request it by
- See KB doc
72551 for instructions on how to change a machine from KMS to
Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Activation ― A software installation
with OEM Activation is what you would receive from Dell (or another
when you purchase a computer with software pre-installed. The new
product activation technology used in software installed by OEMs is
called “OEM Activation 2.0,” or OA 2.0.
- OEM activation uses a special BIOS marker that is
pre-loaded by the
OEMs. It will never need to activate with either Microsoft or a KMS.
- If you reinstall the software with media that came from the
OEM for your computer,
that will also result in an installation that never needs to be
- If you reload the machine with a volume license image, then
it has to
be activated using MAK or KMS.
- Activation Hardware Tolerance
OEM Activation 2.0 uses information stored in an OEM PC’s BIOS and Hard
Disk Drive (HDD) to protect the installation from casual piracy. No
communication by the end customer to Microsoft is required and no
hardware hash is created or necessary. At boot, the software compares
the PC’s BIOS to the OA 2.0 information on the HDD. If it matches,
activation is successful.
- A software installation installed from
a retail version must be activated online or over the telephone. Each
installation of the software requires a unique product key.