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Microsoft Volume Licensing: Product keys FAQ

Microsoft Volume licensing (OLP, EA programs etc.) allows two ways of activating products – either via MAK, or KMS keys.

What is MAK and how does it work?

MAK (Multiple Activation Key) is a single activation key for a specific product. When a company buys e.g. Office 2019 Standard, they commonly receive 1 MAK – no matter the number of licenses they have bought. This MAK is used to activate all devices the licenses were bought for. The number of possible activations is multiple times higher than the number of bought licenses in case the company needs to replace their hardware for example. The company itself must ensure that the software isn’t being used on more devices than was the number of purchased licenses.

One of the advantages of Microsoft Volume licensing is that the organization doesn’t need to keep track of which device was activated with which key. Another benefit is the possibility of batch activation of multiple devices at once – thanks to the Volume Activation Management Tool, or similar.

What if our company receives 2 MAK keys for the same product?

If you make purchases of the same product on different dates (e.g. when you need to buy additional licenses, or need to split the order in two or more), you can receive a different MAK key for each order (applies both to used and new software). This fact doesn’t make any difference as you can activate your devices with any of the MAK keys you’ve received.

Let’s say you bought 10 licenses containing a MAK key A and then ordered 15 additional licenses containing a MAK key B. All 25 licenses can be activated with either of them. The important thing you need to keep in mind is that the number of currently used/activated devices must not exceed the total number of licenses you have bought (25 in this sample case).

Why are there different MAK keys for orders made on different dates?
It’s because they come from different License Agreements (LA).

Can Microsoft block a MAK key?

Microsoft almost never blocks MAK keys. But rarely, another complication can occur (although it’s not much likely for this to happen either): the number of activations per one MAK can get exhausted. In such case, it is important to remember that:

  1. When a MAK runs out of available activations, it never cancels activations that were already made.
  2. We will always offer a solution to enable activation of more devices:

    • We will either ask Microsoft (in the name of the original acquirer of the license) to increase the number of possible activations,
    • or we will provide a different MAK key for the same product – according to Microsoft’s terms and conditions¹.

Our company regularly checks the status of the number of possible activations for MAK keys and if we find out this number might be exhausted soon, we are able to proactively handle the situation.

What is KMS and how does it work?

KMS (Key Management Service) is a system from Microsoft for a central activation of products within an organization. When using this system, the products you have purchased are activated inside your network by a KMS server (instead of the Microsoft servers).

Microsoft only activates your KMS server (this happens just once) – after the KMS key is entered. The KMS server then activates the software itself. One activation lasts for 6 months and during this time period, it is necessary to connect your devices (which have access to the KMS server) to your network to prolong the activation.

The KMS system is suitable especially for big organizations that frequently require changes of devices, users or both.

Do you need additional consultation about Microsoft Volume licensing? Contact us!

¹ To explain how this works a bit more: It is important to know that the activation key used for volume licenses is really only a key. Your right to use the software comes from the purchase of licenses (copies of a computer program). Let’s compare this to a real-life example: When you buy a house, you become a rightful owner of it. And even if you lose the key, the house is still yours, you just need to call a locksmith (that would be our company in the case of volume software licenses).

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