In this blog post I’ll be discussing Subscription Activation with some real world information and troubleshooting. There is a lot of documentation provided by Microsoft which is very good but I’ll pick the key points out simplify what you need to know to get started

What is Subscription Activation?

Subscription Activation is licensing model that allows businesses to deploy Windows 10 in their environments without the upfront requirement to license them as Enterprise. Windows can be deployed as Windows 10 Pro which requires a valid license and activation

A business can then purchase and assign users Windows 10 E3 Enterprise licenses in Azure. A user who is assigned a license can then step up Windows 10 Pro to Enterprise by simply logging in with Azure AD credentials



You should complete a full list of requirements and understand which specific type of scenario and the desired outcome, this will ensure your project starts well 🙂

To name a few considerations below but this should be a full discovery and cover a both technical and non-technical requirements of the existing infrastructure and business requirements.

  • Is Subscription Activation being used for a physical desktop Infrastructure?
  • Is Subscription Activation being used for VDA\VDI scenarios?
  • What is your current licensing model?
  • What growth is expected?
  • Are you using BYOD?
  • Have you designed and implemented an identity solution?
  • Will the deployment of Windows 10 be On-Premises or in the Cloud?

The references below highlight specific environmental scenarios and what may be a good fit for your business. When virtualizing Windows 10 and using Subscription Activation you will need virtualization rights which is an extension of the Windows 10 E3 Enterprise License and these come in user and device licenses. See the references below for more details.

Licensing Windows desktop operating system
For use with virtual machines

How it works – Scenarios
How it works – VDA Scenarios

Identity Model

2. Organizations require an identity model to leverage Subscription Activation

  • Hybrid Identity
  • Native Cloud

Your computer needs to be Azure AD Joined as one of the requirements

Microsoft 365 identity models and Azure Active Directory
What is hybrid identity with Azure Active Directory?
Hybrid identity documentation

Your Identity platform needs to be designed, configured and licensed correctly to support cloud services such as Subscription Activation

  1. Windows 10 Pro licensed and activated

Windows 10 Pro can be licensed with the following methods:

  • KMS – Enterprise Licensing
  • MAK – One Time Activation
  • Retail
  • OA3 – Firmware based license key that ships with Windows 10

MAK is a one time activation and is subject to the underlying hardware staying consistent. Any changes to the underlying hardware such as CPU’s will invalidate the license

Ensure you use the docs below when deciding on how to license Windows, each as it’s use cases

Plan for volume activation
How to validate the OEM activation key in Windows 10

Windows 10 E3 Enterprise Licenses

Windows 10 Enterprise E3 builds on Windows 10 Pro by adding more advanced features designed to address
the needs of large and mid-size organizations. Examples include advanced protection against modern security
threats, the broadest range of options for operating system deployment and update, and comprehensive device
and app management. Customers with devices running Windows 10 Enterprise will be able to take advantage of
the latest security and feature updates on an ongoing basis, while having the ability to choose the pace at which
they adopt new technology. “

There’s different ways to purchase and consume these licenses.

Licensing Microsoft 365
License Policies

Purchase Windows 10 Enterprise E3 from a Cloud Solution Provider (CSP)

Windows 10 Enterprise E3 with a CSP


  • Assess your environment and understand which model, scenarios and licenses fit your use case. This is the most important step
  • You need a supported Identity Model to leverage Subscription Activation
  • Read and understand all the licensing requirements for your desired scenario including costs

In Part 2 we’ll look at a basic deployment and troubleshooting