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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49 Comments

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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!!

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.

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 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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

Pretty bold move by moneysoft especially by not sending subscribers a email of the changes at least. Wonder if the outcry will force a reversal or some other form of compensation???

Windows7even said,
Pretty bold move by moneysoft especially by not sending subscribers a email of the changes at least. Wonder if the outcry will force a reversal or some other form of compensation???

I can't see why anyone should demand compensation for the number of keys being reduced. It's supposed to be for evaluation use only.

Why on earth would anyone need 10 keys for evaluation anyway? I can't see the use for such a number and if you happen to need more than 5 MS will supply then anyway.

StevenNT said,

I can't see why anyone should demand compensation for the number of keys being reduced. It's supposed to be for evaluation use only.

Why on earth would anyone need 10 keys for evaluation anyway? I can't see the use for such a number and if you happen to need more than 5 MS will supply then anyway.

That's not the point at all. The point is that they're changing the terms of the service TechNet subscribers have paid for without even having the courtesy to inform them. I, for one, am glad I didn't renew.

StevenNT said,

I can't see why anyone should demand compensation for the number of keys being reduced. It's supposed to be for evaluation use only.

Why on earth would anyone need 10 keys for evaluation anyway? I can't see the use for such a number and if you happen to need more than 5 MS will supply then anyway.

Someone might want to setup a decent sized virtual network to try a few things out. Each install would need a different key. I don't know of many instances of where a key count greater than 5 might be needed but it could happen.

_dandy_ said,

That's not the point at all. The point is that they're changing the terms of the service TechNet subscribers have paid for without even having the courtesy to inform them. I, for one, am glad I didn't renew.

If you actually needed all those keys, you could always request more. Nothing really is changed except the number presented up front. If you actually used Technet correctly, the number of keys shouldn't be your primary concern anyway.

Not sure how we can make an outcry that would be effective but once mine expires, there is no way I will renew. No warning is just unacceptable.

The honest thing for Microsoft to do would be to lower the price of the subcription by the same %, but fat chance of that happening.

thealexweb said,
The honest thing for Microsoft to do would be to lower the price of the subcription by the same %, but fat chance of that happening.
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.

thealexweb said,
The honest thing for Microsoft to do would be to lower the price of the subcription by the same %, but fat chance of that happening.
Since access to evaluation software is only part of what you pay for, how can you say that it should be reduced by 50%? How do you arrive at that number? Can you explain your evaluation/testing scenario where you need more than five keys? You might be able to work something out with Microsoft.

/- Razorfold said,
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.

Where do you call or e-mail and they'll send extra keys? I haven't heard that one. I know if you run up against your activation limit that you can call and they'll activate for you but I've never heard of them giving you extra keys.

I may be being silly here, but if someone could please clarify it for me, does this announcement mean that if I were to take out a Technet Standard subscription I would have 2 product keys available to me on EACH piece of available software. Also each key has 10 installs available to it, so I could install 10 windows 7 ultiomates?

LiquidCooled said,
I may be being silly here, but if someone could please clarify it for me, does this announcement mean that if I were to take out a Technet Standard subscription I would have 2 product keys available to me on EACH piece of available software. Also each key has 10 installs available to it, so I could install 10 windows 7 ultiomates?

+1 I would like to know this please ?

LiquidCooled said,
I may be being silly here, but if someone could please clarify it for me, does this announcement mean that if I were to take out a Technet Standard subscription I would have 2 product keys available to me on EACH piece of available software. Also each key has 10 installs available to it, so I could install 10 windows 7 ultiomates?
Two keys means two installs, and it's also important to point out that these are evaluation keys that can be used solely for evaluation and testing (but not software development-related testing.) If you put it on a system that is intended to be used for anything else (known as "production use,") then you are in violation of the license. An example of this would be installing it on your primary system that you use for your everyday tasks. TechNet is not a bulk discount service.

hdood said,
Two keys means two installs

Not true. Each key can be used and activated on up to 10 machines. I know because I've done it.

This means that even the low-end TechNet subscribers will still be able to activate 20 machines with the two keys they're given.

andrewhaji said,

Not true. Each key can be used and activated on up to 10 machines. I know because I've done it.

This means that even the low-end TechNet subscribers will still be able to activate 20 machines with the two keys they're given.

Wrong. They changed it back when they started doing 10 keys. They only ever advertised it as up to 10 installs. So back when I started it would be 1 key = 10 installs. Now it is 10 keys = 10 installs and since they stripped down the key count and I have pro that makes it 5 keys = 5 installs.

Now someone is welcome to correct me with proof to back it up but there is no reason to assume that a key is good for 10 installs at all.

shinji257 said,

Wrong. They changed it back when they started doing 10 keys. They only ever advertised it as up to 10 installs. So back when I started it would be 1 key = 10 installs. Now it is 10 keys = 10 installs and since they stripped down the key count and I have pro that makes it 5 keys = 5 installs.

Now someone is welcome to correct me with proof to back it up but there is no reason to assume that a key is good for 10 installs at all.

You're so wrong as you can be. 1 key = 10 online activations. (and more on the phone)

http://social.technet.microsof...e1be-4f32-af15-5060ee7f6e6d

And I just have tested one Windows 7 Home Premium key and one Office 2010 Standard key, and I have installed and activated the same key on 9 different computers now, and will still try to see how many times I can activate online.

And then you have Win7 Enterprise/Pro MAK key if you have Technet Pro, and that key has 500 activations. http://myhken.info/div/vamt_technet_mak_001.jpg

http://social.technet.microsof...c589-44da-807a-12164c17d37f

assume all you like, doesn't make it true.

MS probably just decided to act after articles like Paul thurrot's suggesting it as a way to save money.