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MAK & KMS Volume Licensing Keys explained thoroughly here

Andy

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Microsoft has developed different types of keys so it suits a different kind of requirements of companies running Windows.
  • MAK: Multiple Activation Keys

    MAK keys are used to activate a specific number of devices. The count is pre-configured as a deal between Microsoft and the Enterprise. Every time a device is activated using the MAK key, this is what happens:

    1. The connection is established to Microsoft's own activation service;
    2. The key is then verified, i.e. validated if any more copies can be activated using that key;
    3. If passed, then 1 is subtracted from the number of activations still available.


    However, there is a huge drawback with MAK keys. If the device goes through re-installation or the hard drive is wiped clean, the count is not returned or increased. This is specifically useful for clients where re-installation is rare, and the machine stays as is for a very long time. (I'd highly recommend using MAK keys for Virtual Machines)

  • KMS: Key Management Services Keys

    If a company wants to keep a tap on their Windows device and make sure these computers get back to the corporate network from time to time and do not need to connect to the internet, KMS is the way to go. Instead of going through Microsoft Activation Server, KMS keys go through corporate KMS servers.

    Enterprise is given KMS key using which they need to configure an in-house server using Microsoft's Software Licensing Service. So this can be the only device which stays connected with the internet. In short, the KMS server grabs the license from the client devices and then verifies it with the Microsoft licensing service.

    The advantage you have with the KMS activations is in when Windows is installed on that computer again, the keys can be used to reactivate the same or another computer. This is why the devices that activated using KMS keys need to connect every 180 days, otherwise, they would expire.

    KMS keys are used on devices which usually do not leave from the corporate network, or at least not for a very long period.
 

FEW

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Microsoft has developed different types of keys so it suits a different kind of requirements of companies running Windows.
  • MAK: Multiple Activation Keys

    MAK keys are used to activate a specific number of devices. The count is pre-configured as a deal between Microsoft and the Enterprise. Every time a device is activated using the MAK key, this is what happens:
    1. The connection is established to Microsoft's own activation service;
    2. The key is then verified, i.e. validated if any more copies can be activated using that key;
    3. If passed, then 1 is subtracted from the number of activations still available.


  • However, there is a huge drawback with MAK keys. If the device goes through re-installation or the hard drive is wiped clean, the count is not returned or increased. This is specifically useful for clients where re-installation is rare, and the machine stays as is for a very long time. (I'd highly recommend using MAK keys for Virtual Machines)

  • KMS: Key Management Services Keys

    If a company wants to keep a tap on their Windows device and make sure these computers get back to the corporate network from time to time and do not need to connect to the internet, KMS is the way to go. Instead of going through Microsoft Activation Server, KMS keys go through corporate KMS servers.

    Enterprise is given KMS key using which they need to configure an in-house server using Microsoft's Software Licensing Service. So this can be the only device which stays connected with the internet. In short, the KMS server grabs the license from the client devices and then verifies it with the Microsoft licensing service.

    The advantage you have with the KMS activations is in when Windows is installed on that computer again, the keys can be used to reactivate the same or another computer. This is why the devices that activated using KMS keys need to connect every 180 days, otherwise, they would expire.

    KMS keys are used on devices which usually do not leave from the corporate network, or at least not for a very long period.
Why would you recommend MAK licenses for Virtual Machines? To me they would consume a license each time they are spun up and different people are using them. MAK licenses are really meant for a physical system with a dedicated user or users.

Thanks,
Ed
 

Andy

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Why would you recommend MAK licenses for Virtual Machines? To me they would consume a license each time they are spun up and different people are using them. MAK licenses are really meant for a physical system with a dedicated user or users.

Thanks,
Ed
Hi Ed,

That's a good question you have 👍

To use MAK or KMS is a user preference.

I work primarily on VM for servers.

To me, VM is scalable, transportable (can be moved to another host if needed) and VM tends to have checkpoints or snapshots, in case a VM went wrong, we could just roll it back to the previous snapshot.

That's my reason for using MAK over KMS.

It's a different story if you just use the VM only for testing, which meant to be destroyed and rebuilt over time.

Cheers 🍻
 
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FEW

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Hi Ed,

That's a good question you have 👍

To use MAK or KMS is a user preference.

I work primarily on VM for servers.

To me, VM is scalable, transportable (can be moved to another host if needed) and VM tends to have checkpoints or snapshots, in case a VM went wrong, we could just roll it back to the previous snapshot.

That's my reason for using MAK over KMS.

It's a different story if you just use the VM only for testing, which meant to be destroyed and rebuilt over time.

Cheers 🍻
Hi Andy,
I think I might understand what your saying, please correct me if I'm wrong.
In your case of VM servers they stay pretty consistent, they are built with a purpose and remain. It's easy to go back to a previous checkpoint if something goes wrong and that does not affect the MAK license authentication. Using MAK in this situation where the VM server will not be rebuilt and remain will work fine.

I'm looking at it from a workstation point of view and it might be better to explain my situation.
I work for a university and looking at using virtual systems for students to access software that normally would not leave campus.
Term enrollments vary with fall and winter terms the heaviest. So during those times we would need to spin up extra systems to met demand. If we use MAK keys for MS Project each time we spin up extra systems for a student to use it would consume a license and never release it. So eventually we would hit a point where the licenses were all reporting in use and then stop authenticating. It this case a KMS license would be best so that always authenticates and no worry about using up all the licenses. Or am I missing something on how VM workstations function?

Thanks,
Ed
 

Andy

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FEW said:
It's easy to go back to a previous checkpoint if something goes wrong and that does not affect the MAK license authentication.
Correct 👍

In your situation, I'd suggest create a new VM and activate the Windows using KMS, then create an initial snapshot (don't remove this snapshot)

When the term finishes, rollback to that initial snapshot.

Please keep in mind, even though that's a VM, it has a unique identifier. So if you export/import VM to another host, don't export just the VM. Make sure that you copy the whole VM including its configuration.

KMS activation relies on that unique identifier. So even though you already have an activated Windows, when you create a new VM and use that existing VHDX, it will become deactivated as soon as you booted that VM because the VM has a different unique identifier.

Cheers 🍻
 
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