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Volume License

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Title: Volume License  
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Subject: Software license
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Volume License

In software licensing, a volume license key (VLK) denotes the product key used when installing software licensed in bulk, which allows a single product key to be used for multiple installations.

This form of licensing typically applies for business, government and educational institutions, with prices for volume licensing varying depending on the type, quantity and applicable subscription-term. For example, Microsoft software available through volume-licensing programs includes Windows Vista, Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8 Enterprise, Windows Server 2008, Microsoft Office 2007 and many others.[1]

Use of volume license keys

Volume license keys are not generally transferable between organisations; however, this can occur if the associated license agreement is transferred. If this happens, then the original licensee is required to cease all use of the key, and any software installed using it. This may occur when a company reorganises its structure, or when it sells unneeded software licences. Volume licenses are not always transferable; however, some types of Microsoft volume-license can be transferred provided a formal transfer-process is completed which enables Microsoft to register the new owner. A very small number of software vendors specialise in brokering such transfers in order to allow the selling of volume licenses and keys. The most notable of these,, pioneered the sale of Microsoft volume licenses in this way.[2]


Starting with Windows Vista, Microsoft replaced VLKs with Multiple Activation Keys (MAK) or with Key Management Server (KMS) keys:

  • MAK Activation may occur independently (by means of connection to Microsoft through internet or telephone activation) or through a proxy using Microsoft's Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT).
  • Hosts activated via a KMS have to report back to that key server once every 180 days.[3][4]

Unauthorized use

Volume license keys that have been abused have been blocked by Microsoft, starting with Windows XP Service Pack 1. Microsoft argues that it does not need to cater to the needs of those who did not pay for their software. Microsoft even developed a new key verification engine for Windows XP Service Pack 2 that could detect illicit keys, even those that had never been used before. Several security consultants have condemned the move by Microsoft, saying that leaving a large install base unpatched from various security holes is irresponsible because this unpatched install base can be leveraged in large scale Internet attacks, such as Trojan horses used to send spam e-mail. Others have come to Microsoft's defense, arguing that Microsoft should not have to provide support for illegal users. After much public outcry, Microsoft elected to disable the new key verification engine. Service Pack 2 only checks for the same small list of commonly used keys as Service Pack 1. Users of existing installations of Windows XP can also change their product key by following instructions from Microsoft.[5]

Notable keys

A volume license key that was commonly used to bypass product activation in early versions of Microsoft's Windows XP operating system was FCKGW-RHQQ2-YXRKT-8TG6W-2B7Q8.[6] This key was part of the first warez release of the final version of Windows XP by a group called devils0wn, 35 days before the official retail release on 28 August 2001.[7] The key is now obsolete, as it has been blacklisted by Microsoft since August 2004, and affected computers will display a WGA notification.[8] It was made famous partly because it featured in a popular image circulated on the Internet before the retail launch of Windows XP. In the image, the key is written on a CD-R containing the leaked operating system and held in front of a digital Microsoft sign counting down the days until the release of Windows XP.[9]

Users using these keys will receive an error message when they install the latest service pack, and such users are told to obtain a legitimate license and change their product key.[10]


External links

  • Microsoft's website on VLK
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