I’ve written before on Active Directory-based Activation. This new activation method allows domain-joined Windows 8 clients, Windows 8.1 clients, Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2-based member servers to be activated and deactivated automatically based on their domain membership.
I’m very fond of this feature. However, for many enterprise organizations, Active Directory-based Activation is beyond their reach for numerous reasons.
Why not use Active Directory-based Activation
Organizations may not be able to use Active Directory-based Activation, because:
- They do not want to manage two activation environments
Only Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 and Office 2013 can be activated through Active Directory-based Activation. When an organization is planning to support both the latest and greatest and earlier versions, KMS will be needed for these older versions and administrators might not opt to manage two solutions.
- They use an alternative Directory Service
When an organization doesn’t use Active Directory, it doesn’t mean they can’t have centralized activation. It just means they can’t use Active Directory-based Activation.
- They want to restructure their Active Directory environment
When an organization is planning to restructure their Active Directory environment with the Active Directory Migration Tool (ADMT), the organization may be better off holding off their Active Directory-based Activation implementation until after the restructuring.
- Activation is not part of the Active Directory team’s responsibilities
When an organization has strictly separated responsibilities between teams, activation will not be part of the responsibilities of the Active Directory team. Depending on the situation, Active Directory admins will not respond favorably to these added responsibilities and the person(s) responsible for activation will need to stick with their current activation solution.
Stick with Key Management Services (KMS)
In most of these cases, Key Management Services (KMS) will remain the default Windows Activation method.
In order for these organizations, however, to activate Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2, their existing Key Management Services (KMS) infrastructure may need to be updated. They can either be upgraded to Windows 8.1 or Windows Server 2012 R2 KMS Hosts, or updated with the update from Microsoft KnowledgeBase article 2885698.
This update applies to:
- Windows Server 2008 with Service Pack 2
- Windows 7 with Service Pack 1
- Windows Server 2008 R2 with Service Pack 1
- Windows 8
- Windows Server 2012
A KMS host key that is associated with Windows client operating systems cannot be installed on Windows server operating systems, and vice-versa. This is true for all Windows operating systems except for Windows Server 2003.
Windows Server 2003-based KMS Hosts are no longer supported to activate Windows Operating Systems beyond Windows 8 and/or Windows Server 2012-based hosts.
Updating your Key Management Services (KMS)
Follow these steps to perform an upgrade:
- Install the update corresponding to Microsoft KnowledgeBase article 2885698.
- Restart the computer when you are prompted to do so.
- To install a new KMS host key for Windows 8.1 activation or for Windows Server 2012 R2 activation, run the following command: cscript %windir%\system32\slmgr.vbs /ipk KMShostkey
Where KMShostkey should be replaced by the new KMS host key for Windows 8.1 activation or for Windows Server 2012 R2 activation.Note:
Every KMS host key is associated with a group of Windows editions. Additionally, a KMS host key that is associated with Windows client operating systems cannot be installed on Windows server operating systems, and vice-versa. This is true for all Windows operating systems except for Windows Server 2003. If you install a KMS host key on a Windows operating system that is not associated with that host key, you receive the following error message:
The Software Licensing Service reported that the license is not installed.
- To activate the new KMS host key on the host computer, run the following command:cscript %windir%\system32\slmgr.vbs /ato
- On an existing Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008 KMS host, restart the service by running the following command:net stop slsvc && net start slsvc
Related KnowledgeBase article
2885698 Update adds support for Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 clients to Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2012 KMS hosts
2757817 Update adds support for Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 to Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008 R2 KMS hosts
Update adds support for Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 to Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008 R2 KMS hosts
Windows 8 Migration Checklist
Whitepaper: What’s New in Active Directory Domain Services in Windows Server 2012
New features in AD DS in Windows Server 2012, Part 16: Active Directory-based Activation