No of CAL license to purchase for upgrade to Windows 2008 server

uknet80 used Ask the Experts™
Dear experts,
I have several questions to ask concerning upgrading Windows Server 2003 to 2008 Microsoft license regulation, can you please be patient with me:

Our Current server status:
1- Currently we have two Windows server 2003 Primary and Additional domain controller.
2- File located on Windows server 2003 that is accessed by users
3- More than 1000 user account available under AD server and they all access shared folders.

1- Currently I don’t know how many CAL been purchased under these server, as previous administrator left the company. Is there any way to find out about his?
2- If license was purchased for 1000 CAL, to upgrade this to server 2008, How many license do I have to purchase for both Primary and Additional domain controller? Do I have to buy for additional domain controller too?
3- file server is accessed by 1000 users.  Is default 5 CAL is enough, or I have to purchase 1000 user license for this server, because it is accessed by a 1000 user?
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Technology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013
1.  Talk to the accounting department.  In a software audit, the only true PROOF of compliance is the proof of purchase through invoices and receipts.
2.  If you upgrade to Server 2008, you need 1000 Server 2008 CALs unless the CALs originally purchased were Volume License type with Software Assurance (SA) - SA cost about 50% more than a standard CAL but includes "upgrade rights" as I'll call them.
3. CALs apply to the users OR the devices (depending on the type you get).  CALs are NOT TRANSFERABLE for 90 days after assignment so you can't have 3 shifts of 333 people and claim each shift uses only 333 CALs that are transferred every 8 hours - that's not valid.  Each user would require a CAL meaning you'd need 1000 CALs.  If your users ONLY use work computers at the office (do not connect via VPN, webmail to Exchange, etc - basically if they aren't authenticated by the server from systems outside the company (including cell phones, tablets, etc), then you can get device CALs that apply to the computers and so long as the computer has a CAL, any number of users can use the computer).
1. Contact Microsoft Licensing in your region and tell them you want a consumption report, you will have to provide your business name, address, etc and they will report back with what has been purchased against the business, if any.

2. If you have 1000 users then you have two licensing options (1) per user or (2) per device. If you have 1000 users but say 200 workstations, then you're better off with per device licenses, so only 200 are required. If you have and equivalent or more workstations then per user will be better.

3. If the file server is accessed by 1000 users you would need 1000 CALS. Essentially you would need a specific number of CALS for all of your users / devices depending on the licensing approach you take. Simply saying this file server is access by 1000 is not really a way of cutting corners. Everything in your environment must be licensed, whether it be server or client OS's and CALs.

Once you have the consumption report details, I would suggest speaking with your regional MS Licensing team on your exact setup and options for licensing. Either way for 1000 users you're looking at quite some cost.

Hope this helps.


Thanks for your advices
Answer to your question:

1- Concerning consumption report, I purchased Microsoft license through reseller.  And there I live in Middle East there isn’t any Microsoft branch in our region, if I call Microsoft I give them my detail, do you think they will help me?

2- There are more around 400 laptops, all laptops has windows 7 licenses, which is device based as you say.  Coming back to what you said, I don’t need to purchase CAL, just 5 CAL that comes with windows 2008 server is enough?

There is additional domain controller, whatever apply to primary DC same thing should apply to Secondary DC?

3- The file server is joined to the same domain, and they are accessed by a 1000 users.  It is just a file server NOT AD.  Do I have to purchase 1000 CALS for that server?
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1. Yes, one way or another MS will help you obtain the records which are linked to your organisation or address.

2. The Windows 7 licenses are licenses for the OS to run on that hardware. That is a separate license to run the OS. In order for those devices to connect to the corporate environment, the user will need a CAL (client access license). This can be 'per user' or 'per device'. The 5 CALS you get are enough just to get you going, essentially you will need to purchase more.

If you have 2 servers or 10 servers, with 1000 users and say 400 devices. If you buy 1000 user cals, that's it! If you buy say 400 device cals, that's it again. Remember these are client access licenses, not server access licenses. There are different licensing model for server software such as SQL server, but I don't want to complicate matters on that topic.

3. Again, stop looking at the server back end, if you have CALS, then the clients are licensed to access any servers or workstations on the back end. These type of licenses are not dependent on whether the server is AD, DNS, File, Print, etc...

Hope that helps.


very useful explanation.  I am not familiar with windows server licensing, but I think I am about to get the picture.

What I understood from you is; Windows 7 Licenses is just for that hardware machine, not server.  Separate license required for these devices to connect to server, and that is called CAL, it can be per user or devices.  I think Per device is for my case as this is university environment user number is twice as much as computers.  Let me explain what I understood using numbers.

1- I have 400 devices, for those devices to join to the domain and login, I require 400 CAL for the primary domain controller server 2008.

2- Again for my Additional domain controller I require 400 CAL separate from Secondary DC.

3- File server require 400 CAL.

Total will be:
3 (Microsoft® Windows® Server CAL 2008 Sngl Academic) * 400 = 1200 CAL
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013
CALs are "Client Access Licenses" - an operating system license like what comes with the computer or a Server 2008 license is not a CLIENT access license, it is merely a license to install it to hardware and use whatever can be used directly on that hardware.  The CLIENT access license allows other computers to connect to the server and use it's resources.

Microsoft no longer sells per server CALs as far as I am aware.  So each client only needs ONE license for your network - that license can be assigned to the human being (user) or the device (computer/phone/tablet/etc) that is used to access ANY NUMBER of servers on your network.  

If your users are ONLY using laptops to access network resources (and not cell phones, tablets, and other PUBLIC systems like one might find at a library), then you would most likely want 400 DEVICE CALs and not 1000 USER CALs.
For further reading see this link:

Confirming Leew response, the per device approach seems like the most cost effective way to go forward. As you are an academic institution, you would be eligible to discounted pricing for your CAL purchases, be sure that you are getting 'academic licensing' prices.


Do you mean, having Additional Domain controller doesn't require CALS, because I already purchased for my primary DC? same for the file server?

As per my previous comment whether you have "2 servers or 10 server" and irrespective "whether the server is AD, DNS, File, Print, etc...". They all talk to each other in your environment so therefore you need to remember that the client is allowed to access the servers and that's what needs to be licensed via a CAL.

In layman terms again, if you have 1 AD server or 100 AD servers and 400 devices, then you need 400 device CALS.

Take a look at my previous post to the MS site for further reading, that might help visualise and explain.


Thanks for your help, appreciated.

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