Activating Windows Server 2016

Activating Windows Server 2016

So it’s time to make sure we start thinking about activating Windows Server 2016 in our environments.

If you manage on premises environments with one or more AD domains or even forests you might be in a situation where Active Directory Based Activation (ADBA) is the easiest solution. If you set this up you’ll enjoy automatic activation of the OS after joining domain configured with ADBA.  This is what I use for the Office and Windows editions that support it. It’s fast and easy to set up.


Now when you’re hosting IAAS services this might not be your best approach as that means it will need to be set up in the AD of your tenants. Something your most often don’t manage or control if an AD is even present. You also need the right versions of both AD and client software and operating systems to use this. That can also be an issue on premises. But don’t worry. Both Key Management Service (KMS) and Automatic Virtual Machine Activation (AVMA) will work for IAAS and for on premises in these situations.

I actually support 2 on premises environments where ADBA is being used for the recent OS  and Office versions while KMS is still around for the older OS versions. That way as the old OS versions are phased out the KMS infrastructure can be retired as well.

KMS Server  activation

You can use a Windows Server 2012 R2 or 2016  server as a KMS server. I just made sure my KMS server was fully patched before I attempted to install and activate the Windows Server 2016KMS key. That means that on Windows Server 2012 R2 you want KB3172614 installed as this enable support for Windows Server 2012 R2 as a KMS server host to activate Windows Server 2016. See For Windows Server 2016 this means don’t do anything unless you have all the zero day patches installed.

First we take a look at the current situation by running slmgr.vbs /dlv

Uninstall the current KMS key using slmgr.vbs /upk, please use an elevated command prompt Winking smile


Now you can install the new Windows 2016 KMS key on your KMS server. If you run in to any issues here, restarting the KMS Service can help ((“net stop sppsvc” and “net start sppsvc“) . Try that first.



The key listed here is for all you wannabe pirates out there, sorry, this is the navy. If you’re, looking for illegal keys, cracks, keygens, activators or dodgy KMS virtual machine for Windows activations and such this is not the place Winking smile.

If you now run slmgr.vbs /dlv you’ll see that the license status is “notification” as the server hasn’t been activated yet.


You now need to activate your server with the KMS key first by running slmgr.vbs /ato


We can now look at what’s installed now by running slmgr.vbs /dlv again. As you can see we’re in business to activate all our Windows Server 2016 and any OS version below that if t supports KMS activation.


Now in Windows 2012 R2 and later we also have the Volume Activation Tools feature you can install and use to do this, just like you use this for the ADBA setup.



Activate guest VMs on Hyper-V hosts

Configure Guest VMs activation with AVMA

If you’d like to leverage AVMA, which is especially handy as a IAAS hoster, you’ll need to use Windows Server 2016 or 2012 R2 Datacenter on your Hyper-V hosts and activate them by your chosen method (MAK, KMS, ADBA). You also need to use Windows Server 2016 or 2012 R2 Standard/Datacenter in the guest VMs. As long as your Hyper-V hosts is activated, every new guest deployed on them will be activated automatically. That’s it. There’s no need for a KMS or ADBA configuration for the guest (tenant VMs) or even an internet connection. The later is great for more secured environments. Easy peasy.

The only thing you need to do is use the AVMA client key in the slmgr /ipk. These are public ones actually just like the KMS clients keys.


There are two things to note: The first,a s you can read in the link to the AVMA documenation above:

“AVMA requires a Microsoft Virtualization Server running Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter or Windows Server 2016 Datacenter. A Windows Server 2016 AVMA host can activate guests that run the Datacenter, Standard or Essentials editions of Windows Server 2016 and Windows Server 2012 R2. A Windows Server 2012 R2 AVMA host can activate guests that run the Datacenter, Standard or Essentials editions of Windows Server 2012 R2.”

This means a Windows Server 2012 R2 Host cannot activate Windows server 2016 VMs. You can upgrade “cheaply” that way, let’s put it like that.

Secondly make sure the VM has Data Exchange turned ON in Integration Services. That’s the mechanism leveraged to make AVMA work. You should have that on anyway, really, I mean it 🙂

Configure Guest VMs activation with KMS

The public client KMS keys for VLK media can be found here: Appendix A: KMS Client Setup Keys I’ve only included a screnshot of the Windows Server KMS client keys here. More info is in the TechNet page.


To make sure a Windows Server 2016 Datacenter VM can activate via a KMS serer install use the below commands to replace a MAK key for example:

slmgr.vbs /ipk CB7KF-BWN84-R7R2Y-793K2-8XDDG
slmgr.vbs /ato

NOTE: all these keys can be used within a template or via unattented installation config files.

26 thoughts on “Activating Windows Server 2016

    • I’m not aware whether Windows Server 2008 R2 has an update to support this and whether it ever will. It’s getting pretty old.

    • Not that I know. In the past sometimes an update for W2K8R2 came later but for now I’m working from the assumption it won’t be supported. After all that OS is getting very old.

  1. What is the exact name of the WS2016 edition you grab off of the MS Licensing Service Center? When activating my WS 2016 product key on my KMS host, I keep getting error: 0xC004F050. My KMS host is a server 2012 R2 box and I am using this to activate all of our Win7 and Win10 workstations. Thanks.

  2. I’m still receiving the Error: 0xC004F050 The Software Licensing Service reported that the product key is invalid after following the instructions above. I’ve verified with my license provider and i have the correct key
    KMS server is 2012R2 is currently being used to activate all 2012r2 and below servers and all Win10 and below workstations.

  3. Hi, we can’t activate guest through AVMA. Key added on guest successfully. Error: 0xC004FD03. Guest is Windows Server 2016 Standard (RTM). Hyper-V host is fully activated Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter. Some tips?

    • One issue can be that you don’t have Data Exchange turned off in Integration Services but as your host isn’t W2K16 that’s probably the issue. I’ll have to put that more clearly in the blog post. AFAIK and as it states in the docs you’ll have to run at least the host version equal or high than the guest VM OS versions. So to activate W2K16 Std in a Guest you’ll need to have the host running W2K16 DC edition an be activated.

      “AVMA requires a Microsoft Virtualization Server running Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter or Windows Server 2016 Datacenter. A Windows Server 2016 AVMA host can activate guests that run the Datacenter, Standard or Essentials editions of Windows Server 2016 and Windows Server 2012 R2. A Windows Server 2012 R2 AVMA host can activate guests that run the Datacenter, Standard or Essentials editions of Windows Server 2012 R2.”

  4. This is the same error I receive when I attempt to install a Windows Server 2016 key. I have found that to activate 2016 with KMS the KMS host needs to be on at least Windows Server 2012. I suspect it is the same with Windows 10 2016 LTSB.

    Error: 0xC004F050 The Software Licensing Service reported that the product key is invalid

    While this link show

    Windows Server 2008 R2 is not supported as a KMS Host for Windows Server 2016 or Windows 10 Enterprise 2016 LTSB edition

    My existing KMS host server running on Windows server 2008 R2 and existing environment clients are Windows7,8, 10, Windows server 2008R2, 2012R2, Office 2010, 2013. Please guide me so that I can able to execute in production environment.

    Can you please confirm?

    • Yup. Move to W2K12R2 for the KMS or higher or use AD based activation if possible, whatever suits you best. It’s all less dangerous and risky tan it seems.

  5. I have a W2k8r2 datacenter. i want to activate guest vm from its license but not sure how or which key to use. can you help put

  6. I was able to put the Windows 2016 KMS Key on my Windows 2012 R2 KMS Host following your steps, but I’m still unable to register a Windows 2016 Client. I’ve installed the KMS Client Key WC2…QY and I still receive an 0XC004F074 error.

    Anyone got this issue ? Any needed patch on the Windows 2016 Client server ?

    • Finally it was the missing KBs 3058168, 3021910, 3172614. I have misread that they are needed also when fully patched. My bad!

  7. Hi great article, been following you guys for a few years now. Could i just ask…i have set up a 2012 R2 KMS server a while back to activate Win7,Win8,W2K08 and W2K12R2 and all works fine. However i will be activating Win10 and W2K16 soon. In our volume licencing centre should i use: “Windows Srv 2012R2 DataCtr/Std KMS for Windows 10” or “Windows Srv 2016 DataCtr/Std KMS” ?? I am assuming i should use the 2016 KMS key on my 2012R2 server but will it still activate Win7 machines? Cheers

    • Windows Srv 2016 DataCtr/Std KMS – that will also activate Windows 10 LTSB. The Windows Srv 2012R2 DataCtr/Std KMS for Windows 10 was used when Windows 10 went RTM and Windows Server 2016 wasn’t released yet or if this is the last KMS key you could legally use before your agreement expired and if you didn’t renew.

  8. Hello, First of all – Thank you so much for a lovely article.
    I need the direction as I am a newbie to the networking /licensing concept. Please forgive me if my questions are silly:
    Currently, our organization has KMS installed on Windows 8 box. Now, I have created a new VM (VM Ware Esxi host) with 2016 Standard (evaluation version).
    As per your article, installed the Volume Activation Services on the VM -Windows 2016. I do have the KMS license Key, next what? Do I install the key and proceed as per the above. I am confused like if I activate, what about the KMS service which is on Windows 8 box? Does it not end in conflicts? As stated., I am newbie to this concept and appreciate if you can provide me with the right steps – for migrating the Old KMS host service (windows 8) to new virtual machine (windows 2016).

    Thank you very much.

    • Not sure what you mean. A MAK key is to avoid having to use KMS or AD based activationwhen that doesn’t work for your environment. KMS or AD based activation does not require the MAK keys. VKL install media have the public client KMS key by default and you use to licensed KMS key yiu have with your agreement to set of the activation method(s) you need.

  9. We are running KMS on a Windows Server 2016 vm. The KMS current count is stuck at 1, total requests received is at 17. We are beginning to upgrade all of our VM’s to 2016 DC edition. I’ve read where KMS, for server activations, only requires 5 hits for the count to start increasing. We have 20, and no luck. Any ideas as to why the count won’t increase?

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