Spelunking with the Key Management Server (KMS) to activate office 2013.

Some learnings of the week gone by…

Methods of activating Office 2013

1.      Multiple Activation Key (MAK)

MAK activates systems on a one-time basis, using Microsoft's hosted activation services, either via the Internet or by telephone. This is the traditional way we know of activating office.

Sub divided into MAK Independent activation & MAK proxy activation.

2.      Key Management Service (KMS).

A client-server model in which you must install and activate a KMS host activation key on a KMS host computer. This establishes a local activation service in your environment. Office 2013 client computers connect to the local Office 2013 KMS host for activation on an on-going basis.

3.      Active Directory-based activation of Office 2013

Active Directory-based activation can activate all Office 2013 volume license clients throughout a domain. Active Directory-based activation is available only for Office 2013 on Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012.

Types of Serial keys involved

1.      Office 2013 Multiple Activation Key (MAK)

The MAK activation is used for one-time activation through Microsoft hosted activation services, either via the Internet or by telephone.

Get this key from the Volume Licensing Service Center Portal

2.      Office 2013 Generic Volume License Key (GVLK).

The GVLK enables Office 2013 to automatically discover and activate against your KMS host or Active Directory infrastructure.

Get this key from http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn385360(v=office.15).aspx

3.      KMS Host Key

A KMS Host Key is used to activate the KMS host with a Microsoft activation server. Get this key from the Volume Licensing Service Center Portal.

KMS in a Non-Domain environment.

This works, but needs additional effort. After considerable trolling on the internet I have not found this documented anywhere so here it is:

  1. Clients might not be able to resolve the FQDN of the KMS server.

    Workaround: Ensure the DNS server & DNS suffix is configured on the workstation.


  2. KMS server does not have permissions to query the workstation for a report.

    Workaround: Ensure the workstation has an admin account with a known password which the KMS server can use for querying.


  3. Local firewall on the workstation blocks the KMS server query

    Workaround: Enable firewall exception for WMI. (Guidance available on TechNet)


  4. Grossly mismatched time between server & client might result in authentication failures between the KMS server & the workstation.

    Command to Sync the time on the Client with the time on the KMS server.

    net time \\<kmsserver> /set /y


Additional Learnings which I have not found documented.

  1. KMS binaries can be downloaded from the Volume Licensing Service Center Portal as an .iso image or from the public Microsoft download center. I used the one from the Volume Licensing Service Center Portal.

    Yet to figure out the difference between the two.

  2. Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT) is purely an optional tool & not needed for KMS functionality. However I would recommend this to be installed.

    In case it does not work properly make sure you upgrade to the latest version whatever the prerequisites.

  3. The Help section has a laundry list of commands. The only ones I used were on the client side.

    To Force activation:

    cscript "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office15\ospp.vbs" /act


    To Display the failure history for MAK/retail activation:

    cscript "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office15\ospp.vbs" /dhistorykms


    Note: ospp.vbs is installed as part of the default office 2013 setup.


  4. VAMT provides a point-in-time view of the computers and products that it manages. It cannot provide an ongoing view of your environment. You should refresh the status from time to time. You can easily get an update license status.   Documented & Reproduced from Here

  5. I have not found any way to query the KMS server to know which and how many clients it has activated. The current method of reporting is via the VAMT which connects to the client for a report. If the client is unavailable on the network it will not be reported on.


  6. Useful Links

    Download: Microsoft Office 2013 Volume License Pack



    Volume Licensing Service Center Portal



    Understanding KMS



    KMS activation of Office 2013



    Manage Product Keys Using Volume Activation Management Tool 2.0


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