Terminal Server Licensing Explained…

I am going to start off the technical topics with a fairly light yet very confusing topic- once it’s explained though it’s very simple.

Terminal Server Licensing is probably among the easiest for us to troubleshoot, however, there are so many different scenarios it gets confusing FAST!

The story on Terminal Server Licensing changes dramatically from Windows 2000 to Windows Server 2003.  Here I’d like to see if I can explain the Server 2003 scenarios.  If you have specific questions about 2000 just ask!

A client access licensed is issued to every type of client that will access the Windows Server 2003 Terminal Server, here is a link to the legal part of this if you need it (here I am sticking to the technical facts):


This includes Windows Server 2003 client connections, Windows XP (all versions), Thin clients etc.

The other big change is there are now two types of licenses: Per User and Per Device. Built-in Licenses still exist so that the Windows Server 2003 Terminal Server Licensing Server can support/ issue licenses to Windows 2000 Terminal Servers.



This type of license is not managed right now.  What this means is when you have your terminal server configured in a PER USER Licensing mode in Terminal Server Configuration console the Terminal Server must be able to discover an activated terminal server license server.  As long as it can do that a user will never be denied a connection to the terminal server based on licensing.  You will never see the number of available licenses decremented in the Terminal Server Licensing snap in either.



When the Windows Server 2003 Terminal Server is configured to use PER DEVICE license mode it will behave just like Windows 2000 used to.  A computer will connect to the terminal server and get a temporary license, then connect again and get a permanent license.  This license will expire at 90 days.  Some point before it expires it will renew, if the client doesn’t connect in the time period before the license expires the license will go back into the available pool of licenses the Terminal Server Licensing console.



This type of license still exists on Windows Server 2003 for backward compatibility for Windows 2000 Terminal Servers.

Here is an excellent resource for additional information regarding terminal server licensing and how you can troubleshoot many issues related to licensing such as license server discovery, only temporary licensing being issued etc.:


With all that being said- one last important piece of advice- When to call the Licensing Activation Team (also known as the Clearinghouse) and when to call support.


Basically- if you need to activate licenses, change the type of activation, reactivate a license server or license pack, or to reclaim lost licenses before their expiration date that all has to be done through the clearinghouse.   They can be contacted via:

• In the United States, call (800) 426-9400 or visit the Microsoft Licensing Program Reseller Web site.

 • In Canada, call the Microsoft Resource Centre at (877) 568-2495.

 • If you are outside the United States or Canada, please review the Worldwide Microsoft Licensing Web sites or contact your local Microsoft subsidiary on the Microsoft Worldwide Home Web site. ]


When you get errors in the event logs about not being able to find the license server, in the license manager snap-in, or on the client workstation machines trying to connect to the terminal server  that is when you follow the link above if that doesn’t work you may need support J

This just begins to scratch the surface- more posts later on this topic but if you are having terminal server licensing problems be sure to go to this link before you get too frustrated J