Both options to activate Office 2010, KMS and MAK, have their up- and downsides. This article discusses a few things you have to consider when you decide for the activation method in your organization.
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Now that you have an overview of the Office 2010 KMS activation and MAK activation, I can address the question of whether KMS or MAK is the better option to activate Office 2010. Most of the arguments also apply for Windows Vista and Windows 7 activation.

Microsoft recommendations

You need at least 5 Office 2010 installations if you want to activate Office 2010 with KMS; however, Microsoft recommends using MAK activation if your network has fewer than 25 computers. If you have more than 50 Office 2010 machines, Microsoft recommends going for KMS.


The biggest advantage of KMS is that the Office clients don't have to be configured. Once your KMS host is running and activated, you usually won't be bothered again with activation issues. By contrast, MAK requires that you ensure activation whenever you install Office 2010. However, you can also automate the MAK deployment process.

Limited number of MAK activations

Another downside of MAK activation is that whenever you have to reinstall a machine, the number of possible installations with the corresponding MAK key is reduced by one. Some organizations deploy new OS images when major updates are required, such as Windows service packs, or when a user has messed up his desktop. In such an environment KMS is probably the better option.

180 days

The biggest downside of KMS is that Office clients have to be activated again after 180 days. Thus, you always have to ensure that your KMS infrastructure is working properly. The main advantage of MAK is that once a machine is activated, it will stay activated as long as you don't make major changes to the computer.

In the field computers

Using KMS to activate Office 2010 on the laptop computers of business travelers is at best problematic because the computer might not be able to reach the KMS host when the 180 days are over; Office 2010 will then start complaining. Since the user can continue working with Office, this might or might not be a big deal, depending on who is using the computer.

Working with MAK and KMS activation

Since there are situations where KMS activation is problematic, many organizations end up working with MAK and KMS. The downside of this option is that you have to deal with two different activation methods, which increases the complexity of your infrastructure. Because MAK activation is the more flexible option, it might make sense in some environments not to use KMS activation.

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By now you have probably realized that there is no clear answer to the question of whether KMS or MAK  is the better to activate Office 2010. I certainly didn't cover all possible scenarios here. Thus, before making a decision, you have to evaluate your own environment. Bottom line: If you have a big network where new machines are added frequently, KMS is usually the better option. In a small static network, MAK is often the preferable solution.

Articles in seriesOffice 2010 activation
  1. Tim W 13 years ago

    Didn’t I read an article the other day that Microsoft has given up on the Office Genuine Advantage program?

    Will this mean the end of these administratively intensive key management schemes?

  2. Tim, I am afraid not. It only means that you don’t have to verify the legitimacy of your Office installation when you download updates add-ons from Microsoft.

  3. Debi Smith 12 years ago

    Can not activate MS office Pro Plus 2010. I have no idea how.

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