The goal of most K2000 administrators is to have a fully automated installation process that is easy to maintain. Scripted Installations fit the bill- they are fast (typically, 2x-10x faster than other images), flexible, hardware independent, and simple to modify. However, the purpose of this article isn’t to sell you on Scripted Installations so we’ll leave it at that and hope you’re already using them to be as agile as possible for your users.
One possible hurdle that one may encounter when setting up a Scripted Installation is figuring out how to provide the license key and activate Windows. Unfortunately, the answer is not as straight forward as it once was. You see, things change, and Windows Licensing is no exception. Due to piracy, administrative needs, and many other factors, Microsoft has introduced multiple methods for licensing Windows. Let’s take a look at the methods and talk about how to utilize them when preparing scripts to install Windows 7/Vista/2008.
A successful answer file requires no intervention. The most rational thing to do is to put your license key into the answer file, correct? Maybe not… Previous versions of Windows required a key and the K2000 Answer File Wizard has an enticing text box for it in the wizard. Logically, you are compelled to enter the key. Please read on before doing so though; It may seem counter-intuitive, but the best thing to do is to choose a KMS key (yes, even if you aren’t using KMS) and change it with a postinstall task after the OS installs; or leave the license key field blank in the Wizard or set it to /Image/Name and value of Product Name in the answer file you created.
Unlike Microsoft Windows XP, which can’t be installed without the key, Windows 7 can be (and even does better without it). Having the Win7 key in your answer file typically causes problems ranging from a complete failure, to a prompt for the key during the installation.
What should you do? First you need to understand the relationship between your source media and key type. Installation disks and key types are not interchangeable. Using the same type of key and media is required. What do I mean, well the OEM disk that came with your computer won’t work with your Volume License key. Likewise, the Volume Media that you downloaded from Microsoft doesn’t work with an OEM key. The type of media you use determines how you should provide the license key and activate Windows. The following are some guidelines:
- Retail key: A single key for one computer. Typically this is a small organization that does not have a high volume of installations. Most customers with retail keys choose to install a trial version and manually enter the key (answer file with no key and specified Product Name). Alternatively, you can modify your answer file and enter the new key before each installation (leaving out the product name/image type).
- OEM key: Single computer license used to install Windows 7 at the factory. Typically, used by medium size organizations trying to leverage the license that came with the computer. While this might be the easiest purchase option due to price and availability, this can be the most difficult to administer and deploy in many environments. If OEM is what you have- Leave the key field in the answer file blank and select the Image Type (Product Name). The installation media checks for the manufacturer meaning that your source media is only compatible with computers that came from the same manufacturer. During the installation, Windows 7 automatically gets the key from the computer. An OEM key is tied to the motherboard and other BIOS settings. So if you replace the motherboard or BIOS, the OEM media might not work on that computer any longer. The other caveat is the media should only be used on computers that came with Windows 7 installed. You can’t legally install Windows 7 from an OEM disk onto a system that came with Windows XP for example.
- Volume MAK: A multi-seat license managed by Microsoft, requires internet access to complete the activation. Volume seats are typically used in organizations with more than about 50 computers. Leave the license key field in the answer file blank and selects the Image Type (Product Name). Create and use the following post installation task (batch script) in your Scripted Installation. Simply replace the X’s with your MAK key; also consider separating these into 2 tasks, so you don’t have to activate (“burn an activation”) each time you deploy an image/script for testing purposes.
REM Configure Client using VL MAK cscript.exe c:\windows\system32\slmgr.vbs /ipk XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX REM Activate the machine using the VL MAK cscript.exe c:\windows\system32\slmgr.vbs /ato
- Volume KMS: Multi-seat license managed by a KMS server that you host, typically used by larger enterprise customers, but available to many Microsoft Licensing Agreement customers. The client keys are the same for all KMS clients, your Microsoft-issued KMS key does not go on the clients, it goes only on the KMS server. If you don’t have a KMS Server configured and you have a volume key, chances are you use a MAK style key. Even though your K2000 has a drop-down with the keys right there for KMS clients, as tempted as you might be, we recommend selecting the Image Type rather than using Autodetect; feel free to select your key, but also select the image to install. If properly configured, your KMS server should pick up the new Windows 7 installation, automatically set the key, and activate it.