Windows activation technologies for windows 7

Posted on 2011-02-27
Last Modified: 2012-05-11
Hi there,
I need to know the difference between Key Management Service (KMS) AND Multiple Activation Key (MAK) and in what situation i should use KMS and MAK.

Please if you can make it simple and straight forward is better rather then sending me to look at a link.

Question by:Zak

Accepted Solution

jatremillo earned 500 total points
ID: 34993812
Since you didnt want a link, here is something I found quite a bit ago when I was looking for a solution for my small network of 300 users as well:

Give credit to Michael Pietroforte for writing this aricle.

Microsoft recommends using KMS in environments with more than 25 computers. When I first read about KMS, I also thought that it is the best option for us. However, I am not so sure about this, anymore. Actually, at the moment, it is fifty-fifty.

KMS Pros

No client configuration necessary: All you have to do is to install KMS. Your Vista machines will find the KMS automatically using DNS. So, any time, you install a new Vista machine, you don’t even need to worry about having it activated.
Vista computers don’t need special internet access: Since KMS activates the Vista machines; they don’t need any kind of internet access. Essentially, this means that you don’t have to change the firewall configuration for your clients. You only have to make sure that your KMS host can connect to Microsoft’s volume licensing servers.
KMS Cons

Vista clients have to renew their activation every 180 days: By default, each KMS activated Vista computer will contact the KMS every 7 days. They have to confirm their activation at least every 180 days (plus grace period.) This means that you always have to keep an eye on your KMS, DNS, your Vista clients, etc. to see if everything is still working, properly. If technical problems come up, then you’ll have to spend extra time fixing them.
The KMS host has to renew its activation every 180 days: In my view, this is the biggest disadvantage of KMS. If there are problems with your KMS key, activation might fail. We already had such an incident. So, this is not just theory. In such case, you will be dependent on Microsoft. I, personally, feel very uncomfortable with this idea.
KMS is difficult to implement with decentralized infrastructure: If your organization has multiple branches, you have to make sure that those Vista clients can connect to your KMS host, for example, by VPN. Depending on your network infrastructure this might cause extra work. You could also install a KMS host in every branch which also means more work. It is possible to use a Vista machine as KMS host in smaller branches. But then you have to make sure that this computer is always available.
In the field computers: If your company has many employees working in the field using laptops, then KMS might not be the best activation method. You probably will use MAK to activate these machines. Of course, you can combine KMS and MAK. You could use KMS for the Vista computers in your corporate network and MAK for the rest. However, you then have to deal with two different activation methods which means that you need the corresponding know-how and infrastructure for both technologies.
KMS needs dynamic DNS with SRV record support: If you don’t use Active Directory, you might not have your own DNS server and use the one of your ISP, instead. Your ISP probably will not allow you to modify their DNS records. That means having to mess with the registry on your Vista clients to tell them where they can find the local KMS.
It is difficult to test KMS: Before using such an important new technology, I always want to try it, to see if it is reliable and to get some experiences, also. This is difficult with KMS since you can’t test it in a virtual environment and you need at least 25 different Vista clients before KMS will activate them.

MAK Pros

Less than 25 Vista computers: In this case you have no other choice anyway, since you can’t use KMS.
Onetime, non-expiring activation: In my view, this is the most important advantage of MAK activation. Once you activated your Vista machines, you don’t have to care anymore about product keys. You don’t have to watch out for your KMS host and your Vista clients don’t have to contact Microsoft, anymore. And, most important of all, there is a lower risk of your desktop computers becoming useless because activation failed on your KMS host.
Your network doesn’t have internet access: If your computers are in a high security network without any connection to the outside world then MAK activation is the best choice.
MAK is the more comprehensive solution: MAK activation works no matter how your IT infrastructure is organized. You can use it on your in the field computers, in branches, in high security networks etc. Thus, if you only want to deal with one Vista activation solution then MAK is probably the better choice.
Similarities to Windows XP Volume License Keys (VLKs): If you are already familiar with volume licensing under XP, you don’t have to change your deployment strategy much since MAKs are managed like VLKs. There is, however, one important difference: You have to activate your Vista machines after you deployed the MAK key.
MAK Cons

MAK activation needs extra care during the deployment process: Every time you deploy a new Vista machine, you have to take care of its activation afterwards. You can deploy the MAK with the Vista image, but you’ll always need an extra step for activating your Vista machines. KMS is easier to handle here. Once your KMS infrastructure stands, you don’t have to think about activation during the deployment process.
Every MAK allows only a limited number of activations: This number is dependent on the number of licenses you purchased. If you increase the number of Vista clients, you have to increase your possible MAK activations, too. But this is not the only problem. It is quite probable that you will need more MAK activations than the licenses at hand. For instance, if you have to reinstall a machine, you have to activate it again which decreases the number of times you can use this MAK. The same applies to test installations. If you used up all your possible activations, you’ll have to contact Microsoft again. It will, then, depend on their goodwill if they allow you activations that are more than the number of purchased licenses. With KMS, you won’t have this problem since the KMS host can activate an infinite number of Vista clients. As far as I know, this number is not transmitted to Microsoft.

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