You can now download KMS for Windows Server 2003 SP1 (x86 and x64). The KMS can be used to activate Vista in corporate networks that have more than 25 clients. Until now, the KMS host was only available for Vista.

When I first heard that a Vista machine has to be used to operate KMS, I found it very strange. After all, "a single KMS host is capable of supporting hundreds of thousands of KMS clients" as this Microsoft paper states. Obviously, KMS for Windows Server 2003 was behind schedule, too.

KMS Options Windows Server 2003The installation of the KMS is quick and easy. It is just a click on the setup file. Configuring it is a bit more difficult because it lacks a GUI. You have to use the slmgr.vbs script for that. After you installed the KMS you can start the script from the command line. If you run it without any parameters it will list all its options in a separate window.

The installation package comes with a readme file discussing the difference between running the KMS host on a Vista machine and on a Windows 2003 Server. Here is a summary of their differences:

  1. "The KMS for Windows Server 2003 service (sppsvc) is installed as a package over the existing operating system."
    The KMS host doesn't have to be installed on Vista. You just have to activate it using a KMS key. On Windows Server 2003 you can install and uninstall KMS.
  2. "There is no GUI support for the Windows Server 2003 service. Therefore, all interaction with KMS must be done using the built-in script, slmgr.vbs."
    I must admit that I don't understand this point. It seems to imply that there is a GUI for the Vista KMS host. However, I have never read about a KMS GUI. Please let me know, if you understand this better.
  3. "Notably, SLUI.exe, which in Windows Vista is the recommended tool to map error codes to descriptive text, is not supported."
    It seems that KMS still is a very primitive tool if you need a command line tool to map error codes...
  4. "It is also important to note that the KMS service for Windows Server 2003 and the corresponding KMS key only support the activation of volume editions of the Windows Vista operating system."
    As far as I understand this, the Windows Server version of KMS doesn't support the activation of a Vista OEM edition. By the way, KMS can't be used to activate retail editions of Windows Vista.
  5. "Although both online (Internet) and offline (telephone) activation of the KMS service are supported, offline activation of KMS for Windows Server 2003 can only be done using the slmgr.vbs script."
    I hope you don't belong to those poor admins who have to activate Vista machines with phone calls.
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