Activating Microsoft Products

Last updated: January 30, 2023
Audience: All UW

This page covers product activation for Microsoft products. This page is intended for IT administrators on campus.

Topics on this page


Microsoft has transitioned many of its products to its Volume Activation licensing system. The system includes two licensing options, the Key Management Service or KMS, and the Multiple Activation Key or MAK. For most systems, especially those that will remain on campus or that will have regular access to the UW network, KMS activation should be used. For systems located off-campus or those without regular access to the UW network, use of a MAK for activation may be appropriate. See Off-Campus Activation below or contact if you need assistance in determining the best activation mechanism for your use case.

UW-IT runs the University’s KMS server,  As of October 2021, the KMS server has been loaded with the necessary keys:

    • Windows Server 2022 activation key activating the following products:
      • Windows Server 2022 (all editions)
      • Windows Server Semi-Annual Channel
      • Windows Server 2019 (all editions)
      • Windows Server 2016 (all editions)
      • Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2019
      • Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC N 2019
      • Windows 10 LTSB (2015 and 2016)
      • Windows 10 Professional
      • Windows 10 Enterprise
      • Windows 10 Pro for Workstations
      • Windows 10 Education
      • Windows Server 2012 R2 (all editions)
      • Windows 8.1 Professional
      • Windows 8.1 Enterprise
      • Windows Server 2012 (all editions)
      • Windows Server 2008 R2 (all editions)
      • Windows Server 2008 (all editions)
      • Windows 7 Professional
      • Windows 7 Enterprise
    • Office 2010 Suites and Apps
    • Office 2013 Suites and Apps
    • Office 2016 Suites and Apps
    • Office 2019 Suites and Apps
    • Office 2021 Suites and Apps

Systems being activated must have access to the UW network at least once every 180 days. The KMS will not help you activating a Windows version which is not volume licensed, i.e. Starter or Home editions are individually licensed.

The KMS will activate products that are not covered by the UW Microsoft Campus Agreement. You should always verify licensing before installing any software.

Automatic Activation with KMS

To ensure your systems will use the KMS to automatically activate, you need to have the following DNS SRV record in place:

_VLMCS._tcp.<dns zone here>     600 IN SRV 0 100 1688

The record needs to exist in the zone for which product activation clients will exist.  For example, for the “” zone, the record: 600 IN SRV 0 100 1688

will ensure that all activation clients, both Windows and Office, on hosts, either server or workstation, whose DNS suffix is will find the KMS and activate. For example, the host will auto-discover the KMS and activate.

UW-IT has already added records for the campus DHCP pools and other centrally managed domains, such as those used for the Delegated OU’s and Managed Workstation’s DDNS space.

Manual Activation with KMS

For systems where you either don’t want or don’t have a DNS domain, you can manually point the activation clients at our KMS.

For Windows:

  1. Open an elevated command prompt (Run as Administrator)
  2. cscript %systemroot%\system32\slmgr.vbs -skms
  3. cscript %systemroot%\system32\slmgr.vbs -ato

For Office:

  1. Open an elevated command prompt (Run as Administrator)
  2. cd “%installdir%\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office14\”
  3. cscript ospp.vbs /
  4. cscript ospp.vbs /act

NOTE: The specific office directory in the above guidance is dependent on the Office version AND whether you have installed the 32 bit or 64 bit version. For example, you might find ospp.vbs at “c:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14\“.

Imaging Issues

If you are deploying Windows to many computers using a disk image, please follow the directions provided by Microsoft.

Of particular note:


Run sysprep /generalize immediately prior to shutting down your deployment reference image. This resets the activation timer, security identifier, and other important parameters. Resetting the activation timer is important to prevent images from requiring activation immediately after starting first boot.

Note that running Sysprep does not remove the installed product key and you will not be prompted for a new key during mini-setup.


Use an imaging technology that is compatible with Windows.


Deploy using standard techniques such as disk duplication or WDS.


Re-activating after a System State Restore

After you’ve restored the system state, you’ll find that your computer has lost its activation. And what’s worse, it won’t automatically reactivate. To fix this, follow the steps outlined here.

Additional Info:

NOTE: Error 0xC004F074 is the most commonly encountered KMS activation error customers encounter. It is most commonly caused by a time issue on the client. Get the client computer time updated and try again. Unfortunately, the above error code reference doesn’t mention this cause.

Off-Campus Activation:

Systems that are located primarily off-campus or that don’t have access to the UW network at least once every 180 days may need to use a VPN to activate–this is the recommended solution for off-campus activation scenarios. A VPN connection can be used from an off-campus location to provide access to the KMS server, rather than using a MAK.

From the perspective of the University, there are significant risks to providing a MAK because it comes with no controls for how often it is used. This is especially true given we are a large environment that utilizes a decentralized IT model.  We get one to two MAKs for each product and each MAK has a predetermined number of allowed activations. This makes it vital for us to pre-establish the expected number of uses with any customer, track those expected uses, and detect misuse before Microsoft detects it and disables that MAK, possibly impacting those customer’s valid use. This potential for volatility means we’d like to not use MAKs at all, but will use them when the need is dire.

For this reason, approval to get a MAK will require significant business justification. As an example of a valid business need, the UW has a couple research vessels which go out to sea for long periods with extremely limited and irregular connectivity. For this scenario, using a VPN during a short connection timeframe is not viable and the need to keep systems working normally on those research vessels is of high importance to the UW.

If you feel you need a MAK or would like assistance in determining the best activation method to use, please work with your local/departmental computing support team first. Computing support staff may wish to review the information on the page at:

and follow the link “Request Microsoft Server Software” to request access to the MAK for your product.

Getting Help

If you are still unable to activate to the KMS, please contact

It is very helpful to include the output from the failing command and the output from the following diagnostic commands:

cscript %systemroot%\system32\slmgr.vbs -dli
cscript %systemroot%\system32\slmgr.vbs -dlv
net config wksta
ipconfig /all
portqry.exe -n -e 1688

Service Level Expectations

Newly installed Microsoft products using the KMS for activation will continue to work for 30 days. Existing Microsoft products using the KMS for activation have an activation which is good for 180 days.

Any loss or change to the UW Campus KMS for a timespan of 30 days has no significant impact on UW customers.

UW-IT will endeavor to resolve any incident as soon as possible, but the shared expectation should be that this is not significant until the incident has been open 30 days. Likewise, UW-IT will seek to inform customers about changes to the KMS as soon as possible, but the expectation is UW-IT may make changes and not communicate them for 30 days. Changes will be communicated via the mi-announce mailing list.

Keep in mind that all volume-licensed Microsoft software activated by the Campus KMS has subscription-based alternatives which all those eligible at the UW for volume-licensed software can choose to use. In all cases, UW-IT recommends that customers use the subscription-based software instead of the volume-licensed software.