Friday, May 13, 2016

Difference between MAK, KMS and ADBA activation

Last years I did multiple blogposts about activation based on MAK and KMS. Recently I did mention the ADBA license Pack too. This time some pros and cons beween these activation tools.

Multiple Activation Key (MAK) usage:
- For workgroup-joined systems (when no domain is used)
- Systems which are used outside the domain, and not connected in 180 days or more. Otherwise activation will be expired.

Key Management Service (KMS) usage:
- CMD-line based & domain wide, therefore a KMS host is need for every (child) domain.
- A minimum of 25 devices and/or 5 servers for activation
- Valid for 180 days, where every 7 days a check is done

- Windows 7 & Server 2008 support or later

AD-Based Activation (ADBA) usage:
- GUI based & forest wide, so no need to have a KMS host for every (child) domain
- No minimum on devices and/or servers (!)
- Activated during domain-join immediately, and removed when domain-join is undone or 180 days has passed.

- Windows 8 & Server 2012 support or later
- No TCP 1688 (KMS) is used, but default LDAP instead

Hope it's clear that ADBA is the way to go. Less servers needed and easier in communication and activation. Hope you like it too :-)

A setup guide can be found here: Installing Volume Activation Services Role in Windows Server 2012 to Configure ADBA

More blogposts about activation tools:
Update KMS hosts for Windows 10 activation
Usage of Microsoft Office 2016 KMS Host or ADBA License Pack
And many, many more...


  1. No need to install KMS in every (child) domain. You only have to create the proper DNS records to get KMS working in a child domain.

  2. What about ADBA and multiple forests?

  3. What about ADBA in a multi forest enviroment? Is it possible to use 1 activation server to activate machines in a multi forest enviroment?

  4. How do you see what licenses are in use by the ADBA?