I suppose, most organizations use Microsoft's Key Management Services (KMS) to activate Vista/Windows 7 and Server 2008/R2 machines. The Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT) is usually used by smaller organizations which prefer to activate Windows with MAK or retail product keys. However, even if you work with KMS, VAMT can be useful to keep track of your Windows activations. KMS still only has a command line interface and VAMT has a nice GUI which gives you a good overview of the activation status of all Windows machines. In this post, I will summarize the enhancements of VAMT 2.0 compared to VAMT 1.2. VAMT 1.2 is part of the WAIK and already supports Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. VAMT 1.1, which is available as a separate download, only supports Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. Please note that VAMT 2.0 is still in beta. For an introduction to VAMT please read my review of VAMT and my article about proxy activation with VAMT.
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MMC 3-based user interface
VAMT 2.0 uses the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) 3. The main difference to the interface of VAMT 1.2 is that there now is a third pane in the middle where the managed computers are displayed. In VAMT 1.2, you had to create a folder before you could add computers. In VAMT 2.0, these folders can't be added anymore. This might be a disadvantage in large environments. If you want to add new computers you have to click on the Products folder. New is that you can use LDAP queries to add computers. VAMT 1.2 only allows you to manually add computers and search for computers in Active Directory or Workgroup.
Command line interface
It is now possible to run VAMT 2.0 from a command line interface, allowing you to use the tool in scripts. This enables you to schedule Windows activation tasks. To learn more about VAMT's command line interface switches, you can run just run vamt /?
Install products key remotely
Aside from the command line interface, this is probably the most interesting new feature in VAMT 2.0. With VAMT 1.2, you can only remotely activate Windows machines. But this assumes that the correct product key is already installed on the client computer. VAMT 2.0 has a new product key folder where you can add your own keys. To remotely install a product key, you have to right click on the corresponding machines and then select the key from your VAMT database.
If you already scanned your network with a VAMT 1, then you can save the data to a .cil file and import it to VAMT 2. The difference between opening and importing a .cil file is that the latter won't overwrite the already loaded (Computer Information List). VAMT will remove all duplicates. Note that you can't open .cil files in VAMT 1.2 that you saved with VAMT 2.0.
Office 2010 support
As you probably know, Office 2010 also requires activation. It is only available as a beta, but if you want to try how Office activation works in a network, then you need VAMT 2.0 (or KMS 2.0 in Windows Server 2008 R2).
Last activation status
This is just a minor enhancement but it can be helpful sometimes. You can display the last activation status of a computer through its context menu. It is the same message you see in the "Status of the last action" column. The problem is that you often can't see the whole message because it doesn't fit in the column. With this new command, you spare yourself from resizing the VAMT window. The arrows on the right hand side allow you to scroll through all computers.