Windows 2003 terminal server CALS.

Posted on 2006-04-10
Last Modified: 2012-06-27
How does the terminal server licensing work for Windows 2003?

If I buy 5 terminal server cals, are they concurrent connections or do you have to buy one for each user that logs in.
If it is buy each user who logs in and not concurrent connections, is the license then tied to the user login name so
it knows who has what cal? How are the cals tracked, and to what object are they tied to?
Question by:mharmon777
    LVL 77

    Expert Comment

    by:Rob Williams
    With TS there is only one type of CAL to buy, however, when you install them you can choose device or user CAL's. The default is per device. You have a 1 time opportunity to change that to per user CAL with the Terminal Services Licensing console. Yes with either option you need 1 CAL per user or per device, though you can re-assign it to a different device or user if required. Currently user CAL's are not actually "tracked", not to suggest you do not need the appropriate number of licenses. A couple of good articles regarding TS licensing:

    LVL 15

    Accepted Solution

    Actually you buy TS CAL's as either User CAL's or Device CAL's. They have different part numbers, but the same price. At installation time, either type of CAL can be registered as a User CAL or Device CAL, but I'm not sure about the legality of buying one type of CAL and installing it as the other type. I can't see Microsoft getting bent out of shape about it though.

    A Terminal Server can only support one type of TS CAL. It's either configured for TS User CAL's or TS Device CAL's. The TS License Server must have the same type of TS CAL's installed.

    Most thin client devices (Wyse WinTerms etc) will only work with TS Device CAL's.

    TS Device CAL's are ideal in situations where staff use a limited number of devices to connect to the Terminal Server, or use thin clients. Good for where the ratio of staff to devices is high. eg Shift workers using PC's and thin clients to connect to the Terminal Server.

    TS User CAL's are ideal in situations where staff use lots of different types of devices (but not thin clients) to connect to the Terminal Server. Good for where the ratio of staff to devices is low. Eg staff use a work PC and a home PC to connect to the Terminal Server.

    Windows 2000 and XP included a TS Device CAL for Windows 2000 Terminal Services, but Microsoft stopped bundling client licenses with Windows Server 2003. Longorn will be the same - Windows Vista will not include any TS CAL's for 2003 or Longhorn.

    I recommend that you buy Software Assurance with any TS CAL's. That will give you Longhorn TS CAL's next year at no additional cost (other than the cost of Software Assurance, which is likely to be a fraction of the cost of new licenses for Longhorn TS CAL's).
    LVL 77

    Expert Comment

    by:Rob Williams
    I must apologize I see you can purchase device or user CAL's, they have different part numbers, however, they are the same price. Interestingly though, when I create an order with my supplier, Tech Data, if I oder 5 of 1 and then add 5 of the other I get 10 of the first one. This may just be a problem with the suppliers ordering system. I wonder just how interchangeable they are.
    Checking further you do have a one time right to convert your CALs at any time throughout the license period but you are supposed to have software assurance to accomplish this, as per:

    According to the following article you can now mix user and device CALs, I believe this is as of 2003:
    "You may choose to use a combination of TS Device CALs and TS User CALs simultaneously with the server software"

    Thank you Darwinian999  for the corrections.
    LVL 15

    Expert Comment

    "You may choose to use a combination of TS Device CALs and TS User CALs simultaneously with the server software" - yes, but on different Terminal Servers. Each Terminal server can be configured for TS User CAL's or TS Device CAL's, but not both simultaneously.

    A TS license server can hold (and issue) both types of TS CAL though.

    We can only hope the one day Microsoft may learn that simple concurrent user licensing (like Citrix successfully use with Presentation Server) is good for their customers and good for them. Until then, customers, consultants, resellers, distributors and Microsoft support staff have to put up with the horrible TS CAL licensing system that Microsoft currently have.

    Author Comment

    So with Terminal server user Cals they are NOT conncurrent?
    While I have 20 users, I will never have more than 10 connecting at a time.
    Are you saying that I must purchase 20 Windows 2003 workstation terminal server cals even though no more than 10 will be connecting at a time?
    LVL 15

    Expert Comment

    Correct - they are NOT concurrent.

    If you use TS User CAL's, you'll need one for each user that connects. ie 20.

    If you use TS Device CAL's, you'll need one for each device that runs a Terminal Services session.

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