Understanding Microsoft Subscription Activation – Part 2

In Part 1 we discussed the concepts of Subscription Activation. In Part 2 I’ll run through the steps of using Subscription Activation and some troubleshooting tips

In this demo I’m using just a single Windows 10 E3 Enterprise License, in the real world you probably want to use Azure AD groups to assign the licenses to users.

Windows 10 Pro Licensing Checks

I would recommend checking the licensing status of Windows 10, some of this will be covered further in the troubleshooting section

  1. Logon to your Windows 10 Pro Computer
  2. Start > Settings > Updates & Security > Activation

Windows 10 Pro shows as activated or is it?

1st Rule of Subscription Activation Club – “Don’t Trust the GUI
2nd Rule of Subscription Activation Club – “Don’t Trust the GUI
3rd rule of Subscription Activation Club…….Do I need to say it again 😉

Licensing Tools

Microsoft has 2 built in tools to help check the licensing status of Windows

  • SLMGR
  • Licensingdiag.exe

In the example below I have used the SLMGR /DLV to output the licensing status, here’s a breakdown of the below screenshot:

  • The Edition is Windows Professional
  • Windows has been assigned a Windows KMS Client Key to activate against a KMS Host but a KMS Host is not available in my lab
  • Partial Product is the last 5 characters of the KMS Client Key
  • License Notification\Reason 0xC004F056 (The Software Licensing Service reported that the product could not be activated using the Key Management Service (KMS)
  • Message shows the client needs to be activated with SLMGR /ATO but no KMS host exists so this will not work

Tip:
Read the KMS documentation to understand the requirements
KMS needs a particular count of servers and clients present on a network to activate them.

I’ll fully solve this at the end of the blog post and introduce you to the Licensingdiag.exe tool

3. Ensure your Windows 10 Computer is Azure AD Joined

  1. Logon https://portal.azure.com
  2. Open Azure AD

3. Click on the Licenses

4. Select All Products > Windows 10 Enterprise E3 > Assign

3. After this is complete logon to your Windows 10 Computer using your Azure AD credentials

Note:
We can then make some checks on the licensing and on the Identity aspect to ensure they are correct

Identity Configuration

Providing all of the Identity configuration in your environment is setup correctly we can check from Windows 10 to ensure this is correct

  • Open Command-Line (but not as an admin)
  • Run the following command:

dsregcmd /status
Ensure the criteria below is being met

Azure AD Joined

WAMDefaultSet = Yes
AzureAdPrt = Yes

4. Lets look at the Windows 10 Activation

So we can see from the GUI that Subscription Activation appears to be active…..But wait….Remember our Windows 10 Pro computer did not have a license assigned or activated

Let’s make some sense of this…

“Windows is activated using your organizations activation service”
This is being seen as there is a KMS Client License key and Windows knows that Windows requires a KMS Host to activate it but it does not exist

A built in tool in Windows exists to check the full licensing status called Licensingdiag.exe.

Note:
There is an exception to the rule here. Azure Virtual Machines by default are licensed by Azure’s own KMS and therefore you will see this message

5. Run Licensingdiag.exe -cab <PathtoOutput.cab>

Example: licensingdiag -cab C:\temp\LicensingOutput.cab

The files below are generated. I’ve highlighted the ones I normally focus on initially for any issues. For this scenario we will only need the SPPDiagReport.xml

  • Open the SPPDiagReport.xml

Let’s break this down…

  • This shows a problem with current licensing and activation of Windows 10 Pro
  • 0xC004F056:

The Software Licensing Service reported that the product could not be activated using the Key Management Service (KMS)

EditionId should always be “Professional”
ProductName will change to Windows 10 Enterprise when Subscription Activation is successful

  • Shows the current licensing channel (KMS)
  • If the computer has a OA3 firmware based license it will be shown here
How to resolve?

In this scenario you have 2 practical solutions:

  • Purchase a retail license key
  • Purchase a MAK license key
License Windows

We can use the SLMGR.vbs to resolve

# Remove the existing KMS Client Key
slmgr /upk

# Install the retail\MAK key
slmgr /IPK xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx

# Activate the license
slmgr /ato

Check Windows Activation Settings

Notice that the licensing status has now changed and Windows has a Digital License

Use the LicensingDiag.exe to generate a new SPPDiagReport.xml

Notice the key differences…

The product is now fully licensed

  • 0x4004F401

“The Software Licensing Service reported that the application has a store license”

  • ProductName is now Windows 10 Enterprise
  • Licensing channel is now Retail
  • Confirm the slmgr /dlv output

This concludes a brief overview of Subscription Activation and some troubleshooting techniques

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