Some days ago, I blogged about the pros and cons of KMS (Key Management Service). In this post, I summarized the pros and cons of using MAK (Multiple Activation Key), the second option for activating Vista in a corporate environment.
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- Less than 25 Vista computers: In this case you have no other choice anyway, since you can't use KMS.
- Onetime, non-expiring activation: In my view, this is the most important advantage of MAK activation. Once you activated your Vista machines, you don't have to care anymore about product keys. You don't have to watch out for your KMS host and your Vista clients don't have to contact Microsoft, anymore. And, most important of all, there is a lower risk of your desktop computers becoming useless because activation failed on your KMS host.
- Your network doesn't have internet access: If your computers are in a high security network without any connection to the outside world then MAK activation is the best choice.
- MAK is the more comprehensive solution: MAK activation works no matter how your IT infrastructure is organized. You can use it on your in the field computers, in branches, in high security networks etc. Thus, if you only want to deal with one Vista activation solution then MAK is probably the better choice.
- Similarities to Windows XP Volume License Keys (VLKs): If you are already familiar with volume licensing under XP, you don't have to change your deployment strategy much since MAKs are managed like VLKs. There is, however, one important difference: You have to activate your Vista machines after you deployed the MAK key.
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- MAK activation needs extra care during the deployment process: Every time you deploy a new Vista machine, you have to take care of its activation afterwards. You can deploy the MAK with the Vista image, but you'll always need an extra step for activating your Vista machines. KMS is easier to handle here. Once your KMS infrastructure stands, you don't have to think about activation during the deployment process.
- Every MAK allows only a limited number of activations: This number is dependent on the number of licenses you purchased. If you increase the number of Vista clients, you have to increase your possible MAK activations, too. But this is not the only problem. It is quite probable that you will need more MAK activations than the licenses at hand. For instance, if you have to reinstall a machine, you have to activate it again which decreases the number of times you can use this MAK. The same applies to test installations. If you used up all your possible activations, you'll have to contact Microsoft again. It will, then, depend on their goodwill if they allow you activations that are more than the number of purchased licenses. With KMS, you won't have this problem since the KMS host can activate an infinite number of Vista clients. As far as I know, this number is not transmitted to Microsoft.
Please, let me know if I missed any argument.