Microsoft quietly cuts down TechNet subscribers' product keys

Microsoft bloggers, Mary-Jo Foley and Paul Thurott, have uncovered a very interesting change to TechNet – one that wasn’t publicised at all. TechNet subscribers used to get 10 product keys for each of Microsoft’s business products (Windows, Office, etc) – the change that Thurott uncovered reduces TechNet Professional subscribers to five product keys, and TechNet Standard subscribers to two product keys. That’s a reduction of between 50-80%.

Thurott first noticed that the number of TechNet product keys had reduced, and assumed it was a bug. He later updated the post to reflect Microsoft’s statement that it was a change, and not a bug. Microsoft told Foley that the change was in line with Microsoft’s efforts to reduce piracy. Below is the response that Microsoft sent to Foley:

“Microsoft is committed to helping prevent software piracy, which often results in end users being the victims of software counterfeiters. Counterfeiters abuse product keys to create fake software packages and distribute these to the public. These packages are not licensed, do not have support, and can also include malware and spyware.

“Therefore, Microsoft has decided to limit the number of product keys available through TechNet Subscriptions, for all products, to five for TechNet Professional and two for TechNet Standard. TechNet Subscriptions is intended to support software trial and evaluation, versus a production environment. We offer other programs for volume purchasing and installation. We believe this change maintains a sufficient number of product keys for the majority of our customers based on usage data, while greatly reducing the overall risk of piracy and counterfeiting. We apologize for any inconvenience or confusion this action may have caused our subscribers.”

MSDN licensees are not affected by these changes.

For more discussion, visit the  Neowin Forums.

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what said,
Totally understandable. You don't need 10 licenses for evaluation purposes, especially if you're only on a Standard TechNet account. I'm with Microsoft on this one, it just allowed for more piracy.
You can probably count the number of people on Neowin who use TechNet for evaluation on a single hand. The rest use it as a bulk discount system. Not sure why they don't just download a cracked copy from a warez site instead. Much cheaper.

what said,
Totally understandable. You don't need 10 licenses for evaluation purposes, especially if you're only on a Standard TechNet account. I'm with Microsoft on this one, it just allowed for more piracy.

And how does PAYING big money for this, allow for piracy? It doesn't, and you know it.

TC17 said,

And how does PAYING big money for this, allow for piracy? It doesn't, and you know it.

Pay $200, get 10 keys for pretty much all software and then sell 9 keys of Windows / Office / Server etc. Even if you just sold 9 Windows keys, you've made like a thousand dollars.

Since the keys are supposed to be used for evaluation purposes ONLY and you're not allowed to resell them...

TC17 said,

And how does PAYING big money for this, allow for piracy? It doesn't, and you know it.

Alot of people intentially break the rules with the Technet subscription. It can only be tracked if someone calls in for support but it does happen alot. The fact of the matter is that even though you pay $250 you get alot of software for that money.

I'd really like official word from Microsoft on this, so that we know what the new restrictions/advantages vs. costs really are, not what people are discovering via trial and error.

People pay money to use Technet, so IMHO doing this without discussion or a proper announcement is unconscionable.

"People pay money to use Technet, so IMHO doing this without discussion or a proper announcement is unconscionable."

I have spent alot of money on Technet, and reading about it on Thurrots blog ****ed me off, they have no problem emailing me about every new way to spend money on Microsoft products, why not a heads up anout this?

So Microsoft takes everyones money, then changes the rules. What a ripoff. Nothing like stealing is there. Like others have said, people PAY for this service, its not pirating. Yet Microsoft steals from us?

TC17 said,
So Microsoft takes everyones money, then changes the rules. What a ripoff. Nothing like stealing is there. Like others have said, people PAY for this service, its not pirating. Yet Microsoft steals from us?

I'm just going to copy and paste..

And why? Seriously, why?

Considering a lot of people with technet licenses are already abusing the agreement they signed, and that you pretty much get every software Microsoft has ever made (apart from enterprise if you have the standard version) for the cost of like one copy of Windows, it's surprising to see people actually asking them to reduce the prices even more for it.

Not to mention, you can always phone / email Microsoft and ask for more keys if you need them; they will gladly give you more for free.

TC17 said,
And as always, the people defending Microsoft on this. What a joke.

So you need 10 keys for Windows, 10 keys for office, 10 keys for windows server etc, and they're all for evaluation purposes right? You aren't using them on your main computers right?

Go phone up MS, they'll gladly give you the 5-8 extra keys you'll want.

I don't mind the drop in key count. To be quite honest I only used it to try out specific things. I also used it to do my VM installs since those came and went quite often. Technically I could use an activator instead (I have a working/tested one for VM use) but I'd rather have a real key in there. I may have to let my subscription expire come February if I don't have enough to cover the $250 renewal price tag.

P.S. - I did use Windows 7 Ultimate on my production laptop which got me an early start. In my eyes if you really want to "evaluate" something you need to use it in a production setting to some extent anyways. I did later switch to a legally purchased OEM/System Builder key for the same edition. I'm a registered partner so I can follow the rules on that one.

P.S.S. - It would of been really nice if they had let me know.

shinji257 said,
P.S.S. - It would of been really nice if they had let me know.

Microsoft didn't want a rush on keys. Everyone would claim them before the restriction took place.

Ned said,

Microsoft didn't want a rush on keys. Everyone would claim them before the restriction took place.

Yes good idea. Silently screw over the masses instead of to your face.

Windows XP, Windows 7, and Office have been sliced to 2 Keys per SKU, Windows Vista still has 10 keys available per SKU. After the fact admission of guilt from Microsoft that Vista sucked ass? Just a thought. I use Technet for evaluations and I hardly ever activate, there is no point if I keep an install longer than 30 days I just rearm, I bet in the future, technet will axe keys altogether and force you to evaluate sans activation.

Still a little confused. If you only get two keys does that mean you can only have two copies of each software offered for download or just 2 pieces of software altogether?

nubs said,
Still a little confused. If you only get two keys does that mean you can only have two copies of each software offered for download or just 2 pieces of software altogether?

2 keys for each "product" -- but some SKUs share keys. For example, 32-bit Win 7 Pro, 64-bit Win 7 Pro, 32-bit Win 7 Pro KN, 32-bit Win 7 Pro N (and the 64-bit KN and N) use the same keys but have different binaries/skus.

Ultimate (and all of its varieties), is a separate key; Home Premium (and all of its varieties) is a separate key.

First the can the magazine part of the subscription, and now this. i just re-upped a month ago.

Truth is, i dont really need 10 keys per software version, but a heads up email would at least be common courtesy.

I don't know where all this animosity towards Microsoft from some people is coming from. Whether it's 2 keys, 5 keys, or even ONE key, Technet is a steal for professionals who want to evaluate software. I always thought it was an insanely cheap subscription anyhow.

As many have said, and unlike retail keys, these keys generall activate 10 times (some don't require activation at all, others are pre-pidded and there are also MLKs). So it's a ton of activations. It's not really 20 or 50 PCs because most PCs -- even evaluation boxes -- will need to re-activate in their lifetime (swap hard drive, CPU, video, etc.).

I can think of two rationales for non-expiring keys. One is that a professional might "evaluate" some software, decide the want to keep it, buy a commercial license, and simply leave the TechNet key on the system. I don't think that's a violation of the licensing agreement, as long as the commercial license isn't being used on another machine. Remember, the key and the license are not the same thing.

Another is that you might have several test/evaluation platforms representative of the PCs in your company. For example, evaluating whether Office 2010 works on a Pentium 4 notebook with 1GB RAM, that your company happens to have 200 of (with no budget to upgrade). In this case, you might want to leave Windows 7 on a representative sytem indefinitely.

In our case, we want to test software and hardware that we engineer on a variety of configurations (we use MSDN subscription for this purpose, not Technet -- but the subscriptions are similar).

Anyhow, my point is that Technet is super cheap... so don't complain!

Damn ppl complain over anything lol this actually good thing as will make some ppl follow the actual agreement for technet.

BTW each key activated 10 unique machine configuration or 10 pcs. Thats does not mean your plus 9 or your friends machine thats against agreement. also anyone who has generated more then 5 key before this changes get to keep all their keys.

I got technet account but I do beta testing for lots products including pc game so my main pc is evaluation station lol. I am testing different things as well tweaking for max perofrmance etc... then actual changes go on my laptops and other pcs.

Now if you production or development based licenses then go with MSDN more expensive though.

I got technet account but I do beta testing for lots products including pc game so my main pc is evaluation station lol.

So, you're using it for development of software, i.e. beta testing, which is agasint the terms of service, therefore you too are violating what the intent of the licenses are for. Too many people don't read, or don't speak enough engrish to care. (yes that was purposely mispelled)

On the side note, I knew they were going to do this a long time ago, which is why i got my keys for Windows 7, then never re-upped. I might renew my subscription in a year or two, but only for 1 year to see their new toys.

For you guys that keep drilling in the 10 activations, you must have missed the memo about Windows 7 re-activating automatically every 6 months. You'll get the point in a year or two when it tries to auto-activate, fails, disables your system, you call Microsoft and they turn you down for re-activation and you'll have to replace your copies of Windows that you're using on your main machines.

Kelxin said,

For you guys that keep drilling in the 10 activations, you must have missed the memo about Windows 7 re-activating automatically every 6 months. You'll get the point in a year or two when it tries to auto-activate, fails, disables your system, you call Microsoft and they turn you down for re-activation and you'll have to replace your copies of Windows that you're using on your main machines.

I would like to know where you heard this. With the exception of a key management system with Enterprise (a combination not offered by Technet), I am virtually certain this is not the case. Unless there was significant hardware change (new MB, for example), I have never had a reactivation on 7 Basic, HP, Pro, Ultimate or Enterprise, nor Server 2008 Standard/Enterprise/R2; most of my test platforms aren't even connected to the Internet.

Who cares, when you can simply download the trial version of whatever software straight from Microsoft and then fake the OEM info with 1 click of the mouse. Reduces piracy, my ass!!

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