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.

Update that enables Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 KMS hosts to activate Windows 10

Today, a blog reader notified me that Microsoft released an update that extends KMS for Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 to enable the activation of Windows 10-based clients. Find it here.


I blogged about the update for Windows Server 2012 (R2) and Windows 8/8.1 before but now these older operating systems can also serve as KMS servers for Windows 10. All you need is the update that enables Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 KMS hosts to activate Windows 10 as discussed in KB3079821

Until now the workaround was to leverage Active Directory based activation for Windows 10 whilst you left your KMS server in place for the older clients. That works well and I have used it before. But with this update you can use your older KMS servers for all activations of windows clients.

Windows 10 KMS Client Setup Keys

Windows 10 build 10240 has been released to the Fast Ring. That’s what I’m running on my laptops now. There were heavy rumors yesterday that this is the to Release To Manufacturing (RTM) build and is the one to be publically available on July 29th. But there is no hard confirmation on this by Microsoft yet Build 10240 now available for Windows Insiders in Fast and Slow rings.


“Over the past few days we’ve been preparing our release pipelines and processes, and this build is one step closer to what customers will start to receive on 7/29 …

On Monday we announced that builds from here on will only be available through Windows Update, so to get this one you can either wait and it will be installed automatically.”

Here’s how you prepare to roll it out in your company.

In a previous blog post I wrote about the update you needed for your KMS server to be able to activate Windows 10 clients. Read about that in KB3058168: Update that enables Windows 8.1 and Windows 8 KMS hosts to activate Windows 10 You can get ready today, you have all you need.

Meanwhile Microsoft has also published the Windows 10 client KMS activation which keys can be found here Appendix A: KMS Client Setup Keys


Do note this is the key you use when you activate the Windows 10 Client against a KMS server. It is not the KMS license server key. That one you’ll need to obtain from your valid Microsoft licenses.

If you don’t have a KMS, the MAK key option will still be available.

Windows 10 looks set for a great start. DELL has been accepting preorders for a month now (Dell Brings Windows 10 to Life: Pre-order Today) which will be shipped to you on July 29th. Windows 7 owners could already reserve their upgrade via Windows update. The OEMs and the customers seem ready. I’ve heard of several large deployments in the works, often from organization still running Windows XP. We’re a Windows 8.1 shop but our new images are being build and will be deployed as the default image via MDT. We won’t let our investment in software assurance go to waste Winking smile

KB3058168: Update that enables Windows 8.1 and Windows 8 KMS hosts to activate Windows 10

Unless you’re living under a rock you will know that Windows 10 will be available on July 29th 2015. Microsoft has prepared for this by already making an Update that enables Windows 8.1 and Windows 8 KMS hosts to activate a “later version of Windows”. This must mean Windows 10. I do not know if this means that even the versions after Windows 10 will be activated by a KMS server running this update but it might.

Select the version you need for the KMS server or servers you use and install them.


Launch the update by launching Windows8.1-KB3058168-x64.msu


Click “Yes” to install the update


Install the update


Restart the KMS Server


So there you go, you’re ready to to start deploying Windows 10 Enterprise edition which can then be activated by your KMS server when the new client OS is generally available. Good luck.

Closing note: Don’t even bother posting comments where you ask for KMS Server keys or MAK keys for Windows 10. As I’ve stated before, while it might be more fun to join the pirates we’re the navy and as such we don’t condone piracy Winking smile. Got it? GOOD!