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Determine Product Key Needs

The Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 operating systems come in a variety of editions. To simplify Volume Activation and the number of product keys that an organization needs, Microsoft created product key groups. Product keys for KMS and MAK apply to product groups rather than individual editions; however, KMS and MAK use product key groups differently:

  • MAK activation uses product key groups as individual groupings. Product keys for MAK activations are directly associated with a single product group and can only activate the Windows editions within that specific product group.

  • With KMS, product keys work hierarchically with the product groups. Product keys for KMS activations are associated with a product group and can activate the editions within that specific product group, as well as other editions below in the product hierarchy.

The product groups for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 are shown in Table 3.

Table 3. Product Groupings

Volume License product key group

Windows Operating System Edition

Client VL

  • Windows 7 Professional

  • Windows 7 Enterprise

Server Group A

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 HPC Edition

  • Windows Web Server 2008 R2

Server Group B

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise

Server Group C

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 for Itanium-Based Systems

Choosing the MAK product key group

Because MAK product keys are associated with a single group it can only activate OS editions that corresponds to that group, chose the MAK from a group that matches the Windows edition to be installed. For example, if you are installing Windows 7 Enterprise, install the Client VL MAK key in the image or directly on the target systems.

Choosing the KMS Key

With KMS, product keys are associated with a product group and can activate the Windows editions within that specific product group as well as any editions below it in the product hierarchy. The first and least-inclusive group of the hierarchy is the Client Volume Licensing product group; Server Group C is the most inclusive group in the KMS hierarchy.

This hierarchy extends to Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 Volume License editions and product key groupings. Separate KMS keys will be issued for each product key grouping, meaning that a customer will have access to a KMS key for Client VL for both Windows 7 and Windows Vista. The KMS key for the newer Windows products will also activate the previous generation, meaning that a customer can have a single KMS key to activate multiple editions and generations of Windows. Table 4 shows the correlation between the product groupings.

Table 4. Product Group Correlation

Volume License product key group

Windows edition

(Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2)

Windows edition

(Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008)

Client VL

  • Windows 7 Professional

  • Windows 7 Enterprise

  • Windows Vista Business

  • Windows Vista Enterprise

Server Group A

  • Windows Web Server 2008 R2

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 HPC Edition

  • Windows HPC Server 2008 R2

  • Windows Web Server 2008

  • Windows Compute Cluster Server 2008

Server Group B

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise

  • Windows Server 2008 Standard

  • Windows Server 2008 Enterprise

  • Includes editions without
    Hyper-V™

Server Group C

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 for Itanium-based Systems

  • Windows Server 2008 Datacenter

  • Windows Server 2008 for Itanium-Based Systems

  • Includes editions without
    Hyper-V

Choosing the KMS Host

As previously mentioned in this guide, KMS can be hosted on a client or server operating system on a physical computer or a virtual machine. When choosing the KMS host system, consider the operating system editions that will be activated with KMS. A KMS that is hosted on Windows 7 can only activate client operating systems, but a KMS that is hosted on Windows Server 2008 R2 can activate both client and server computers. See Table 5 for an explanation of this hierarchy.

Table 5   KMS Hierarchy

Product Key group

KMS can be hosted on (KMS key activates KMS host)

Windows product editions activated by this KMS host

Client VL for Windows 7

  • Windows Vista

  • Windows 7

  • KMS for Windows Server 2003 v1.2

  • Windows 7 Professional

  • Windows 7 Enterprise

  • Windows Vista Business

  • Windows Vista Enterprise

Server Group A for Windows Server 2008 R2

  • KMS for Windows Server 2003 v1.2

  • Windows Web Server 2008

  • Windows Web Server 2008 R2

  • Windows HPC Server 2008 

  • Windows HPC Server 2008 R2

Includes previous plus:

  • Windows Web Server 2008 R2

  • Windows Web Server 2008

  • Windows HPC Server 2008 R2

  • Windows HPC Server 2008

Server Group B for Windows Server 2008 R2

Includes previous plus:

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise

  • Windows Server 2008 Standard

  • Windows Server 2008 Enterprise

Includes previous plus:

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise

  • Windows Server 2008 Standard

  • Windows Server 2008 Enterprise

Server Group C

Includes previous plus:

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter

  • Windows Server 2008 Datacenter

  • Windows Server 2008 for Itanium-Based Systems

Includes previous plus:

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter

  • Windows Server 2008 Datacenter

  • Windows Server 2008 for Itanium-Based Systems

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