What is KMS?
Microsoft Key Management Services (KMS) provides a way to activate volume license editions of Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office. It is designed to allow Volume Licensing customers to automate the activation process in a way that is transparent to end users. Volume Activation applies to systems that are covered under a Volume Licensing program and is used strictly as a tool for activation and not tied to license invoicing or billing. KMS is required for the following versions of Windows and Office:
- Windows Vista
- Windows 7
- Windows 8
- Windows Server 2008
- Windows Server 2008 R2
- Windows Server 2012
- Office 2010
- Office 2013
How KMS Works
When a supported version of Windows or Office is installed, the computer will attempt to discover the KMS Server on the network. This is accomplished by checking for a SRV record in the DNS Zone of the computer. If that record is present, the computer will contact the KMS server and automatically activate the license. KMS activations are valid for 180 days. The computer will periodically check in with the KMS server to renew the computer’s activation.
The initial KMS activation process requires network connectivity to the campus network, either through a wired, wireless, or VPN connection. Computers must also connect to the campus network at least once every 180 days to re-activate.
KMS is not a suitable activation method for computers that do not have network access or do not connect to the campus network at least once every 180 days. In these cases, there is an alternate activation method, Multiple Activation Key (MAK).
For automatic discovery to work, the KMS SRV record must be present in the DNS zone of the computer. For example, a computer with the DNS address computer_name.ad.unc.edu would check the ad.unc.edu zone. A computer with the DNS address computer_name.its.unc.edu would check the its.unc.edu zone.
To determine if the required record is present in a domain, run the following command using command prompt for windows:
nslookup -type=srv _vlmcs._tcp.<domain>
Note: Replace the <domain> with your domain such as “ad.unc.edu”
If the correct record is present, you should see something like this:
_vlmcs._tcp.<domain> SRV service location:
priority = 0
weight = 100
port = 1688
svr hostname = its-kms0.ad.unc.edu
If this test fails, you will need to have the following DNS record added to the DNS zone:
_vlmcs._tcp.<domain>. 3600 IN SRV 0 100 1688 its-kms0.ad.unc.edu.
Manual Windows Activation
In cases where automatic discovery doesn’t work, Windows can be manually pointed to the KMS server. To manually activate Windows, use the following steps:
- Open a command prompt with elevation (Right click and run as administrator).
- Run the following command to point Windows to the KMS server.
cscript c:\windows\system32\slmgr.vbs -skms its-kms0.ad.unc.edu
- Run the following command to activate Windows.
cscript c:\windows\system32\slmgr.vbs -ato
Manual Office Activation
In cases where automatic discovery doesn’t work, Office can be manually pointed to the KMS server. To manually activate Office, use the following steps:
- Open a command prompt with elevation.
- Navigate to the Office installation folder. These are the typical locations:
- Office 2010 32-bit: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14
- Office 2010 64-bit: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office14
- Office 2013 32-bit: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office15
- Office 2013 64-bit: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office15
- Run the following command to point Office to the KMS server.
cscript ospp.vbs /sethst:its-kms0.ad.unc.edu
- Run the following command to activate Office.
cscript ospp.vbs /act