26 August, 2010

Windows 7 Activation Methods and Issues

Recently we have reached more than 30 computers with Windows 7 Professional in our organization. This means that we can know use our KMS (Key Management Service) that requires 25 or more Windows 7 computer to be perfectly operational. As you all know, a lot of things have changed with Windows 7, including the licensing. For more information about Windows 7 licensing, you can look at this document (.doc) that comes from Microsoft.

In our company, all the Windows licenses were activated by using a MAK (Multiple Activation Key). When we have reached enough computers to use the KMS, I quickly started to transfer MAK activated desktops to KMS licensing. This was the easy part. You can even do it without standing up from your chair! Thanks to slmgr.vbs command! Or there is even a better tool to manage your desktops licenses! Windows Automated Installation KIT (Windows AIK). There is a tool included with this program, "Volume Activation Management Tool" (VAMT). You can download Windows AIK from here. This tool gives you more than an activation tool but today's topic is "Activation" so, let`s continue with this subject! Basically, this Volume Activation Management Tool scans your Active Directory, or even your Workgroup, and gives you a detailed list of all the desktops & Servers with Windows 7. From this list, you can see if your client is activated with a MAK, OEM or KMS key, or it's not activated at all! You can see the error codes for easy troubleshooting and there is even an "error code look up" tool! There is an option to choose multiple computers and with only a click, change all these computers licenses to KMS licensing service!

While I was transferring the entire Windows 7 family under our newly created KMS server, I realized a very strange problem. From 35 computers, I had only 4 that didn't activate! So I started to look around to understand the cause of the problem. I tried the activation process directly from these computers, but it didn't work! I used to get this error code 0xC004F035.


After a little bit of Google search and trying solutions by myself, I finally realized the common thing between these 4 computers that would not activate! First of all, they were all "Dell OptiPlex 745" family computers. But i had many of these same models activated with no issue! After checking the bios versions of these computers, I realized that these 4 computers were the only ones with old (really old) BIOS! When I compared the bios version of all the "Dell OptiPlex 745" computers, it was so clear that the only ones that I could not activate were the ones that the BIOS were out of date! After a quick BIOS update, I was able to proceed with the activation without a problem!

The Windows KMS & MAK systems are great tools for IT people and you really have to take advantage of these systems. This little article shares one of my experiences with these services and I thought that it can be useful to someone else to know that even the BIOS is important with a Windows 7 activation. Because windows 7 want's to verify a bunch of information during the activation and including some information from your computer's BIOS. If your computers BIOS or other drivers are not up to date in your organization, you may see other issues of this kind! Don't forget to update!






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