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Choosing a licensing mode

Updated: January 21, 2005

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

Choosing a licensing mode

Products in the Windows Server 2003 family support two licensing modes:

  • Per Device or Per User

  • Per Server

The following diagram illustrates the two modes:

Per Server licenses as compared to other licenses

If you choose the Per Device or Per User mode, each device or user that accesses a server running a product in the Windows Server 2003 family requires a separate Client Access License (CAL). With one CAL, a particular device or user can connect to any number of servers running products in the Windows Server 2003 family. This is the most commonly used licensing method for companies with more than one server running products in the Windows Server 2003 family.

In contrast, Per Server licensing means that each concurrent connection to this server requires a separate CAL. In other words, this server can support a fixed number of connections at any one time. For example, if you select the Per Server client licensing mode with five licenses, this server could have five concurrent connections at any one time (if each client requires one connection, this is five clients at any one time). The clients using the connections do not need any additional licenses.

The Per Server licensing mode is often preferred by small companies with only one server. It is also useful for Internet or remote access servers where the client computers might not be licensed as network clients for products in the Windows Server 2003 family. You can specify a maximum number of concurrent server connections and reject any additional logon requests.

If you are unsure which mode to use, choose Per Server, because you can change once from Per Server mode to Per Device or Per User mode at no cost. For more information about licensing and licensing modes, see Licensing overview and the Licensing Checklists for licensing.


  • If you use Terminal Server, you need to take additional steps to set up and activate Terminal Server Licensing. For more information, see Terminal Server Licensing.

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