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Work with Product Keys and Activation

Working with product keys and activation settings can greatly affect the end user's first experience of Windows. Depending on where you enter the product key, the end user may or may not have to enter the key in Windows Welcome. Depending on whether or not you reset the activation clock, the end user may experience a seemingly expired version of Windows. It is important to understand the variety of options available to you as you work with product keys and activation.

Product Keys

The ProductKey setting specifies the product key to apply for each unique installation of the Windows operating system.

There are two Product Key settings you can configure by using Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM).

  • Use the ProductKey setting in the Microsoft-Windows-Setup component to specify the Windows image to install during Windows Setup. The product key that is specified by this setting is stored on the computer after installation. If you choose to activate Windows, this product key will be used.
  • Use the ProductKey setting in Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup to specify a different product key to activate Windows. For example, you can specify one product key to install Windows with the ProductKey in the Microsoft-Windows-Setup component, and then specify a different product key to activate Windows with ProductKey in the Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup component.

If you specify a product key in the windowsPE configuration pass with ProductKey in the Microsoft-Windows-Setup component, then Windows Welcome will prompt for a product key. If you specify the ProductKey in the Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup component during the specialize pass, then Windows Welcome will not prompt the user for a product key.

For more information about these settings, see the Unattended Windows Setup Reference.

For more information about configuration passes, see How Configuration Passes Work.

Activation

In addition to managing product key settings, you can manage activation by using Windows SIM. The SkipRearm setting in the Microsoft-Windows-Security-Licensing-SLC component specifies whether to run the Windows Software Licensing Rearm program.

Rearming a computer restores the Windows system to the original licensing state. All licensing and registry data related to activation is either removed or reset. Any grace period timers are reset as well.

Setting the value to 0 specifies that the computer will be rearmed. This restores the computer to the original, out-of-box state. All activation-related licensing and registry data is removed or reset, and any grace period timers are also reset. This is the default value.

Setting the value to 1 specifies that the computer will not be rearmed and the computer will not be restored to its original, out-of-box state. All activation-related licensing and registry data will remain and will not be reset. Similarly, any grace period timers will not be reset.

For example, if an image is generalized more than three times, the activation clock will not reset beyond that third time, unless the SkipRearm setting is set in Windows SIM.

For more information about using the generalize command in Sysprep, see the Resetting Windows Activation section in How Sysprep Works.

See Also

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