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Plan volume activation of Office 2013

Updated: August 20, 2013

Summary: Explains how to plan which methods to use for activating volume license editions of Office 2013.

Applies to:  Office 2013 

Audience: IT Professionals

You can plan the deployment of Office for volume activation of Office 2013 in several steps. Before you read this article, we recommend that you read Windows Volume Activation Planning Guide.

Are you a user?

If you are a user activating a personal copy of Office 2013, follow the Office 2013 activation directions instead.

Are you an admin?

If you are an admin planning to activate and license Office 365 ProPlus, review the Office 365 ProPlus activation and licensing instead.

If you are an admin planning to activate and license Volume license edition of Office 2013, you’re at the right place, keep reading.

In this article:

Plan a deployment

If you are planning a Windows deployment of Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows 8, or Windows Server 2012, you probably have the same considerations for Windows as for Office 2013. To help determine which activation method to use for Windows, see the Windows Volume Activation Planning Guide. Most likely, Office 2013 will use the same method.

A volume activation deployment includes the following steps:

  1. Learn about product activation.

  2. Review available activation models.

  3. Evaluate client connectivity.

  4. Map the physical computer or virtual computer to an activation method.

  5. Determine product key needs.

  6. Determine monitoring and reporting needs.

Most of the information about these steps is covered in the Windows Volume Activation Planning Guide. This article describes an overview of the technology.

When you plan for Office Activation Technologies, think about the following:

  • The Key Management Service (KMS) activation threshold for Office 2013 is five computers. This means that Office 2013 client computers will be activated only after five or more client computers have requested activation.

  • You do not have to enter a product key for Office 2013 KMS clients. You only have to enter an activation key on the KMS host.

  • If you decide to use Multiple Activation Key (MAK), you enter the product key either through the Office Customization Tool (OCT) (Office Customization Tool: Overview) or the Config.xml file. After Office 2013 installation, you can change the product key by using the Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT) or the Office Software Protection Platform script (ospp.vbs). For more information about ospp.vbs, see The ospp.vbs script.

    For information about VAMT 3.0, see Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT).

Review activation methods

Office Activation Technologies provides three activation methods for Office 2013: KMS, MAK, and Active Directory-based activation.

  • Key Management Service (KMS)   A client-server model in which you must install and activate a KMS host activation key on a KMS host computer. This establishes a local activation service in your environment. Office 2013 client computers connect to the local Office 2013 KMS host for activation.

  • Multiple Activation Key (MAK)   If you use a MAK, Office 2013 client computers are activated online by using the Microsoft-hosted activation servers or by telephone.

  • Active Directory-based activation   Available only for Office 2013 on Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012. Active Directory-based activation can activate all Office 2013 volume license clients throughout a domain. Active Directory-based activation is set up through Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) from either a Windows 8 volume license edition computer or a Windows Server 2012 computer.

The kind of key that you install determines the activation method. All Office 2013 volume license editions have the KMS client key pre-installed. You do not have to enter a product key if you are deploying KMS clients. If you want to use MAK activation, you have to enter the correct MAK.

You can also use a combination of KMS and MAK. For example, Office 2013 running on desktops that are connected to the corporate network has the KMS client key installed, whereas Office 2013 running on portable computers has the MAK installed.

The model that you choose depends on the size, network infrastructure, connectivity, and security requirements in your environment. You can choose to use only one or a combination of these activation models. Typically on a client computer, you would use the same activation method for a particular instance of Windows that you use for Office. For more information about how to decide which activation method to use, see the Windows Volume Activation Planning Guide.

To find out more about how to buy volume license editions of Office 2013, see Microsoft Office Volume Licensing Buyer's Guide.

Key Management Service (KMS)

KMS is a client-server model in which the client requests activation from a computer serving as the KMS host. KMS activation requires TCP/IP connectivity between the clients and the KMS host. By default, KMS host uses DNS to publish the KMS service. Client computers connect to the KMS host for activation by using anonymous remote procedure calls through TCP communications port 1688, which is the default port number when you enable the firewall on a KMS host. You can either use the default settings, which require little or no administrative action, or manually configure KMS hosts and the clients that connect to it based on network configuration and security requirements in your environment.

To be licensed, the KMS client must be activated (see Set up Office 2013 KMS clients). The following table describes the license state of the Office 2013 client with respect to activation.

License state of the Office 2013 KMS client

License state Description

Licensed

By default, the KMS client requests activation with the KMS host one time every seven days. (The number of days is configurable.) This design allows the maximum possible time for the client to be in the licensed state.

After the client is successfully activated, it remains in the licensed state for 180 days. When in the licensed state, users do not see any notification dialog boxes prompting them to activate the client. After 180 days, the activation attempt process resumes. If activation is continually successful, the whole activation experience is transparent to the end-user.

Out-of-tolerance

If activation does not occur during the 180-day period, Office 2013 goes into the out-of-tolerance state for 30 days. Users then see notifications that request activation.

Unlicensed notification

If activation does not occur during the out-of-tolerance state, Office 2013 goes into the unlicensed notification state. Users then see notifications that request activation and a red title bar.

You must prepare a KMS host by first installing the licensing files (see Set up and activate Office KMS), and then activating the KMS host key before it can accept activation requests from clients.

Important Important:

The activation key for Office 2013 is not specific to a particular operating system. It is designed to be used on any of the operating systems supported as an Office 2013 KMS host, including both 32-bit and 64-bit editions:

  • Volume license editions of Windows 7

  • Volume license editions of Windows 8 or Windows 8.1

  • Windows Server 2008 R2

  • Windows Server 2012 or Windows Server 2012 R2

Publication of Key Management Service

KMS uses service (SRV) resource records (RRs) in DNS to store and communicate the locations of KMS hosts. KMS hosts use dynamic updates, if available, to publish the SRV RRs. (For more information, see Dynamic update.) If dynamic updates are not available, or if the KMS host does not have permissions to publish the RRs, you must publish the DNS records manually or configure client computers to connect to specific KMS hosts. This might require changing permissions on DNS to let more than one KMS host publish SRV records.

note Note:

DNS changes might take time to propagate to all DNS hosts, depending on the complexity and topology of the network. For more information, see Set up DNS for Office 2013 volume activation.

Use KMS for computers that run Windows and Office 2013 client products

The following operating systems are supported as an Office 2013 KMS host:

  • Volume license editions of Windows 7

  • Volume license editions of Windows 8 or Windows 8.1

  • Windows Server 2008 R2

  • Windows Server 2012 or Windows Server 2012 R2

If you already have a computer that runs as your Windows KMS host and you want to co-host the Office 2013 KMS host, follow the steps in Prepare and set up the Office 2013 KMS host.

Multiple Activation Key (MAK)

MAK is used for one-time activation with the Microsoft hosted activation services. Each MAK has a predetermined number of allowed activations. This number is based on volume licensing agreements and may not match the organization’s exact license count. Each activation that uses MAK with the Microsoft hosted activation service counts toward the activation limit. After Office 2013 is activated, no re-activation is required unless the hardware changes significantly.

There are two ways to activate computers by using MAK:

  • MAK independent activation   MAK independent activation requires that each computer independently connect and be activated with Microsoft, either over the Internet or by telephone. MAK independent activation is best for computers that do not maintain a connection to the corporate network.

  • MAK proxy activation by using VAMT   This enables a centralized activation request on behalf of multiple computers that have one connection to Microsoft. MAK proxy activation is configured by using VAMT (Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT)). MAK proxy activation is appropriate for environments in which security concerns might restrict direct access to the Internet or the corporate network. It is also suited for development and test labs that do not have this connectivity.

MAK architecture

MAK activation requires that a MAK is installed on a client computer and instructs that computer to activate itself against Microsoft hosted activation servers over the Internet. In MAK proxy activation, a MAK must be installed on the client computer by any of the methods previously described. VAMT obtains the installation ID (IID) from the target computer, sends the IID to Microsoft on behalf of the client, and obtains a confirmation ID (CID). The tool then activates the client by installing the CID. The CID is saved and can be used later, for example, to activate test computers that were re-imaged after 90 days.

For more information, see Activate Office 2013 MAK clients.

Active Directory-based activation

On the Windows 8 platform, starting with Office 2013, a third volume activation method is available: Active Directory-based activation.

As with KMS, Active Directory-based activation can activate all Office 2013 volume license clients within the domain. To use Active Directory-based activation, you set up Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) from either a Windows 8 volume license edition computer or a Windows Server 2012 computer to support the activation of all Office 2013 volume license clients within the domain. The Office 2013 volume license clients can run on any Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012 client computer.

Active Directory-based activation uses the same GVLK/KMS host key pair that KMS activation uses. When you use Active Directory-based activation, the Software Protection Platform Services periodically attempts to activate the GVLK against either an activation object in AD DS or a discoverable KMS if the Active Directory-based activation attempt fails. A successful Active Directory-based activation grants a license to the Office 2013 client for 180 days.

For more information about Active Directory-based activation for Windows, see Active Directory-Based Activation Overview.

Change History

Date Description

August 20, 2013

To make content easier to find and use, moved procedural information into separate articles.

July 16, 2012

Initial publication

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