User Experience

Product activation in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 include user experience (UX) refinements that the following sections describe:

  • Product activation notifications
  • KMS activation warning and error dialog boxes
  • Customizable activation help
  • No User Account Control (UAC) prompt for activation

Product Activation Notifications

The Windows Vista® with Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Windows Server 2008 operating systems introduced the notifications UX to alert users about product-activation problems without limiting Windows

functionality. If Windows has not been properly activated and is not within its activation grace period, the computer is in the notifications state with the following UX:

  • Upon logon, Windows displays a dialog box reminding the user that Windows must be activated. It includes options for activating now or later. If the user does not interact with this dialog box within two minutes, the dialog box closes, and the logon process continues normally.
  • In the notifications state, Windows changes the desktop wallpaper to a solid black background, displays taskbar balloon notifications indicating the activation status, and displays dialog boxes showing what action the user needs to take.
  • In the notifications state, the computer has the full functionality of the installed version of Windows, except that the following features are disabled:
    • A computer configured as a KMS host will respond to KMS client requests with an error stating that KMS has not been activated.
    • Windows Update only allows security and critical updates—not optional updates
    • Optional downloads requiring online Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) validation—also called genuine-gated downloads—are not available.

Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 introduce three significant changes to the notifications UX:

  • A new Activate Later dialog box
  • Notifications tailored to specific activation issues
Activate Later

As with Windows Vista with SP1 and Windows Server 2008, if Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 enters the notifications state, it displays the Windows Activation dialog box. The user can click Activate now or Activate later. If the user clicks Activate Now, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 start a wizard that leads the user through the activation process. If the user clicks Activate later, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 display the dialog box shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1 Window Activation dialog box

This new dialog box informs the user about how product activation helps ensure the benefits of using genuine Microsoft software. Clicking either of the links in the dialog box opens the corresponding Web page.

Closing this dialog by clicking the Close button in the title bar returns the user to the previous dialog box. Clicking OK logs the user on to Windows. However, like Windows Vista with SP1 and Windows Server 2008, when Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 are in the notifications state, the desktop still changes the background to a solid, plain black. The user can reset the desktop background to wallpaper or other background color, but every 60 minutes, Windows resets it to black and displays the notification balloon shown in Figure 2 until Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 is properly activated.


Figure 2 Notification balloon

Notifications Tailored to Specific Activation Issues

Because a number of situations can cause Windows to enter the notifications state, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 improve the Windows Vista with SP1 and Windows Server 2008 notifications UX by displaying licensing notifications (warning balloons and dialog boxes) tailored to specific activation issues. This gives the user a better understanding of what caused the issue and how to proceed. The Volume Activation Technical Reference Guide describes the notification balloons and dialog boxes for each licensing issue that causes Windows to enter the notifications state.

KMS Activation Warning and Error Dialog Boxes

Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 display two new KMS warning and error dialog boxes:

  • If the user tries to install a KMS host key, Windows displays a warning dialog box.
  • If a KMS client computer is configured to search for a KMS host using DNS but does not receive any SRV RRs from DNS, Windows displays an error dialog box.

For more information about these dialog boxes, see the Volume Activation Deployment Guide.

Customizable Activation Help

For product activation in managed environments, the Activate Windows now dialog box can be configured to display an optional Learn About Activation Online link, as shown in Figure 4.


Figure 4 Learn about activation online

Clicking this custom link loads an administrator-defined URL in the user’s default browser. This URL can point to a custom Web page or other file stored on the local computer or on a network share. A Volume Licensing customer can use this link to direct their users to the customer’s Helpdesk or other activation-related resources. Displaying the link requires setting the REG_SZ value AlternateURL to the URL of the Web page to display when the user clicks it. The value AlternateURL is in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsNT\CurrentVersion\SoftwareProtectionPlatform\ACTIVATION registry subkey.

No User Account Control (UAC) Prompt for Activation

Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 do not require administrator privileges for activation. Windows eliminates the User Account Control (UAC) prompt during activation, enabling any user who has a standard user account to activate Windows on that computer. However, this change does not allow standard users to remove Windows from the activated state. By default, administrator privileges are still required for other activation- or license-related tasks.