Today the Windows group announced some changes in their increased efforts against piracy and new steps being taken to protect Windows Vista (see for details).  These changes are coming in Windows Vista SP1 (due out in Q1 2008).  Along with disabling some of the known exploits that counterfeiters are using, changes are being made to product activation.  Specifically, the Reduced Functionality Mode (RFM) is being replaced with new notifications to let customers know that their systems are not genuine when they do not activate or when their systems fail validation.

So what does this mean for Windows Server 2008?

If you don’t know already, Windows Server 2008 uses the same activation method as Windows Vista.   With the release of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, Microsoft made a strategic policy decision requiring for all editions of Windows, both client and server. As part of Microsoft’s Genuine Software Initiative (GSI), we have added an element of engineering, which is the Software Protection Platform (SPP) that introduced new technology for our volume licensing customers called Volume Activation 2.0 (VA 2.0).  VA 2.0 allows for different types of activation and is configurable by IT Pros to automate and manage the product activation process for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista system licensed under volume licensing while addressing piracy and key management issues. VA 2.0 eliminates the use of product keys at the time of software installation and enables better protection and management of customer-specific product keys through new and enhanced activation management tools.

Up until now, customers who have been testing pre-release versions of Windows Server 2008 have not encountered the new volume activation methods because the pre-release versions use the same activation methods as our retail products, which are done primarily through online activation.  However, when Windows Server 2008 releases in Q1 2008, volume license customers will notice that they will now be receiving KMS and MAK keys for activation purposes.  Full technical and planning information for Volume Activation is located here:

But back to the change in the process if a server should not be activated. .  With Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista, when a system was never activated or the activation process failed, the system entered reduced functionality mode (RFM) and certain function and features of the operating system would cease working.  Based on customer feedback, we are moving away from reducing functions if a server is not activated properly, and instead will provide clear and prominent notifications to customers that their systems are not activated and require activation.  The notifications will be recurring and we will also let them know what steps they should take to activate the system to ensure they are using genuine software.  This is similar to what we did with previous versions of Windows. 

As we get closer to the final release of Windows Server 2008, you can expect to see more materials available on Volume Activation, but to get started now, look at the different documents that have been published in the TechNet library.

Julius Sinkevicius