Before the release of Windows Vista, Microsoft operating systems installed under volume licence agreements, such as those available within the University via the Microsoft Select and Campus Agreements, did not require activation. However, this changed with the release of Windows Vista and Volume Licensing 2.0.
Operating systems that use Volume Licensing 2.0 must be activated after installation. For volume licence editions, this currently applies to Windows Vista and all editions of Server 2008; we expect future Microsoft operating system releases are to have similar requirements.
There are a number of mechanisms that may be used to activate systems, and broadly speaking these fall into two categories, namely permanent activation via a one-time operation, or an activation lease which is automatically renewed as required.
The preferred mechanism for activating Microsoft operating systems obtained under the Microsoft Campus and Select Agreements is via a lease obtained from a central server. This uses a service provided by Microsoft called the Key Management Service (KMS). It may be used for volume licence versions of Vista Business and Vista Enterprise downloaded from the ITSS Site Licensed Software site (restricted access), and all versions of Windows Server 2008 purchased from the Computing Services Shop. Vista Ultimate and work-at-home editions purchased from the Shop each use permanent one-time activation.
1.1. Central KMS Server
The Computing Services provide a server running KMS to provide activation leases. This KMS server may be used to activate systems installed from volume licence media obtained under the University Microsoft Select or Campus agreements excluding work-at-home and Vista Ultimate editions. It may not be used to activate versions of operating systems obtained from other sources.
For details of how to configure Windows operating systems to activate agains the University KMS, registered ITSS should refer to the ITSS Wiki Microsoft Volume Licensing Activation pages (restricted access).
If you need to run servers that cannot periodically contact the central KMS server (for example you have servers on an isolated network for security purposes) please contact OUCS via firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss alternatives.
The following generally applies to systems activated via a KMS server.
1.2. Permanent Activation
Systems activated via a one-time method, and not using the KMS server, will never need to be activated again, unless significant changes are made to the hardware of the system.