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Activating Microsoft Products

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

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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 p172 network, KMS activation should be used. For systems located off-campus or those without regular access to the p172 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 November 2015, the KMS server has been loaded with the necessary keys to activate the following products:

    • Windows Vista Business or Enterprise
    • Windows 7 Professional or Enterprise or later
    • Windows 8 Professional or Enterprise or later
    • Windows 10 Enterprise or Education or later
    • Windows Server 2008 or later (any edition)
  • Windows Server 2012 or later (any edition)
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 or later (any edition)
  • Office 2010 Suites and Apps or later
  • Office 2013 Suites and Apps or later
  • Office 2016 Suites and Apps or later

Systems being activated must have access to the p172 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 p172 at least once every 180 days may need to use a MAK for activation of any or all of the Volume Licensed products. In some cases, and where available, a VPN connection can be used from an off-campus location to provide access to the KMS server, rather than using a MAK.

If 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 “Activation via MAK” there for more details.

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