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Windows 7 Enterprise Activation

Alert: This information is only for the Enterprise edition of Windows 7 obtained via the Campus Agreement and does not apply to the Windows 7 Ultimate Edition. Windows 7 Ultimate uses retail activation, that is, each set of media uses its own unique key, and does not work with the KMS activation method. IT Services recommends using Windows 7 Ultimate for any covered machine that will not be on campus and connected to the campus network.

With Windows 7, Microsoft has rolled out a new licensing procedure. Prior volume-license versions of Windows used a single volume license key. If the volume-license key from these earlier versions of Windows were to somehow be used by pirated versions, there was no way to invalidate that key without invalidating all copies of Windows installed using that key. Microsoft has introduced a new system for activation that no longer requires distribution and entering of such keys, called Key Management Service (KMS).

  • For systems connected to the University of Chicago network (wired, wireless or VPN), Windows 7 machines will activate via the KMS server supported by IT Services. This will simplify administration and minimize the likelihood that our license keys will be used by unauthorized parties. Once the steps listed later in this document are taken, no further action will be required to activate Windows 7 machines. KMS activation does not require that the system contact Microsoft for activation, nor will any action be required if the hardware changes, but you must be connected to the University of Chicago network to use KMS activation; you will not be able to activate with our KMS from off-campus unless you connect via the VPN.

  • For systems not connected to the University of Chicago network, or in cases where firewall rules block access to the KMS server, you may be able to use a different edition of Windows 7. Our Campus Agreement permits faculty and staff to use Windows 7 Ultimate, so this can be used in cases where KMS activation is impossible or undesirable. Windows 7 Ultimate media uses retail activation, meaning that each set of Windows 7 Ultimate media comes with its own unique key that only permits one activation; you cannot install one set of media on multiple machines, nor can you move the installation from one machine to another. If you choose to use Windows 7 Ultimate for your on-campus Windows 7 installations, you will need to purchase one set of media for each Windows 7 Ultimate machine.

  • For Departmental IT groups planning a sizable deployment of systems off-campus, or otherwise not connected to the university network, you may have other options. Please contact the IT Services Site Licensing Office to discuss your situation.

Activating Windows 7 Enterprise

Windows 7 Enterprise must be activated within 30 days of installation. Three days after having been installed, the Windows 7 Enterprise installation will begin attempting to contact a KMS and will continue trying every two hours until it successfully activates.

  • If you are connected to the campus network via IT Services wireless or DHCP, then your Windows 7 Enterprise installation should find the KMS automatically and activate.

  • If your machine belongs to an Active Directory Domain which is aware of the location of the KMS, then your Windows 7 Enterprise installation should find the KMS automatically and activate.

  • If your machine does not belong to an Active Directory Domain and is using a static IP, you will need to ensure that you have properly configured Windows 7 Enterprise with sufficient information about the default domain it belongs to, so it can locate the KMS and activate.

Once Windows 7 Enterprise has successfully activated via the KMS it will remain activated for 180 days and attempt to renew this activation once every seven days.

Activation Details

Unlike the prior departmental versions of Windows distributed on campus, Windows 7 does not require a license key to complete the installation. Following installation, Windows 7 enters a grace period and will function normally for up to 30 days before it enters a reduced-functionality mode (RFM). To ensure full functionality following the grace period, the computer must be activated by the KMS prior to the end of the 30-day grace period.

When a Windows 7 Enterprise machine is attached to a network, it will attempt to activate automatically by looking for a KMS server using the DNS information it has been configured to use. The DNS servers operated by IT Services have had the KMS service record for the domains over which IT Services has control published on them. These domains are:




Windows 7 Enterprise installations attempt to determine their domain for the purposes of KMS activation through a variety of methods:

  • If the Windows 7 installation has been joined to an Active Directory domain, then it will check with the AD for the KMS name. The IT Services contains the KMS server information. Administrators of other Active Directory domains will need to add the KMS record to their domains for automatic KMS discovery to work.

  • Windows 7 Enterprise installations which belong to no Active Directory domain, but which use the IT Services DNS servers and are in one of the domains listed above should automatically discover the KMS, but need to have their domain suffix set correctly.

  • Non-AD Windows 7 installations connected to the network via the DHCP servers operated by IT Services, including wireless connections, should have their domain suffix set correctly so they may automatically discover the KMS and activate.

  • Non-AD Windows 7 installations configured with static IPs may need to have their domain suffix set manually for automatic KMS discovery to work. You can manually set the domain suffix as follows:

    1. From the Start Menu, go to Control Panel > System and Maintenance > System

    2. In the “Computer name, domain, and work group settings” section, click Change settings. The Systems Properties screen appears with the Computer Name tab open.

    3. Click on Change. The Computer Name/Domain Changes screen appears.

    4. Click on More. The Primary DNS Suffix should show (or one of the domains listed above). If it doesn’t, enter (or one of the domains listed above) and click OK.

    5. You can also identify what you have set for the <default-domain-name> by running the ipconfig program on the Windows 7 machine and looking at the Connection-specific DNS Suffix.

  • If the KMS is found and can be reached, the Windows 7 machine will request a six-month activation. At no point in this process does the Windows 7 client machine communicate with Microsoft regarding activation. After one week, the Windows 7 machine will automatically try to obtain a new six-month activation from the KMS server. So long as the KMS server is available, the Windows 7 machine will always remain activated. If the Windows 7 machine is unable to reach the KMS prior to the expiration of the six-month activation, it will enter a 30-day grace period, following which it will enter a reduced-functionality mode (RFM).

  • To find Windows 7 Enterprise’s current activation status and activate it:

    1. Go to Control Panel > System and Maintenance > System. The View basic information about your computer screen appears.

      1. If Windows 7 is already activated, the last section on the screen, Windows Activation, displays the message “Windows is activated.”

      2. If Windows 7 is not activated, the screen shows the number of days remaining in the grace period to get activated.

    2. Click the Activate Windows now link. The Activate Windows Now screen appears.

    3. Click Activate Windows online now. The next screen confirms that the activation was successful.

Keywords:site, license, site_licensing, licensing, software, microsoft   Doc ID:19418
Owner:Brian P.Group:University of Chicago
Created:2011-08-02 19:00 CDTUpdated:2017-05-18 13:42 CDT
Sites:University of Chicago, University of Chicago - Sandbox
Feedback:  64   25