Please note that the instructions here only contain the essentials of KMS (Key Management Service) installation. In uncommon network configurations, for example, if you can't use DNS auto-discovery, you have to consult Microsoft's documentation.

This is the short version of KMS installation:

  1. Get a KMS Key from Microsoft Volume Licensing.
  2. Download and run the setup if you want to install the KMS on Windows Server 2003. If you want to run the KMS host on a Vista machine, you don't need this download.
  3. Launch a command prompt. On a Vista machine you have to launch the command prompt with elevated privileges (type "cmd" at the Start Search bar, right click, select "Run as administrator").
  4. To install the KMS key enter this command: cscript C:\windows\system32\slmgr.vbs -ipk <KMS Key>
  5. To activate the KMS host use this command: cscript C:\windows\system32\slmgr.vbs -ato
  6. In most cases no additional configuration is necessary. Run slmgr.vbs without any parameters to display all options.
  7. The KMS host will automatically publish its SRV records in your DNS server. If not, check out this article.
  8. You don't have to configure anything on your Vista machines and no product key is required.
  9. They will use DNS auto-discovery to find the KMS host and get the product key from there.
  10. On your clients you can check the application event log under Windows Logs to monitor the activation process (Microsoft Windows Security Licensing SLC events 12288 and 12289)
  11. On the Vista KMS host you can find the event logs under Applications and Services/Key Management Service. (Microsoft-Windows-Security-Licensing-SLC event 12290).
  12. On a Windows Server 2003 SP1 KMS host you'll find the event log entries under Applications.

Okay, this is the theory. Unfortunately, I wasn't really able to test it. You can't test KMS in a virtual environment and you need at least 25 Vista machines. Now, who has 25 physical computers in the lab just for testing purposes? I really don't understand why Microsoft makes it so difficult for us.

So if you want to test KMS, you can only check the event logs in order to see if your Vista machines try to activate via your KMS host. If you try to activate Vista manually on a KMS host which has been contacted by less than 25 KMS clients, you'll get this error message: 0xC004F038 The computer could not be activated. The returned count from your Key Management Service is insufficient. This way, you will know at least that that your Vista machines are able to find your KMS host. By the way, My Digital Life lists all common KMS errors. Very useful post!

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In the next post in my series about Vista Volume Activation 2.0, I will explain the reason behind our failure to activate our KMS host on a Windows Server. It is a good case in point on how Vista activation can cause problems. Please, check the "Related" section below for the list of articles in this series.

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