As mentioned in a previous post, I recently had to set up a new KMS host for our company in order to support KMS activation for the latest Windows OSs. Since we started from scratch with a new server, I also wanted to make sure that the Office KMS activation for both Office 2010 and Office 2013 were working as well from the same server (which was how the old KMS host was configured). However the behavior of the Office KMS activation was not as well documented as it is was for OS activation. As you may already know, Microsoft Operating Systems have a hierarchical nature to them. You choose the ‘highest’ OS in that hierarchy that you are licensed for and apply that KMS key to the KMS host. Once done, that OS and all ‘lower’ (as well as older) OS’s activate as well. Fairly simple and only one key is needed to activate your entire organization.
But there was no clear cut documentation on whether or not that was the case with the Office activations or not. But before we get into that any further, let’s first talk about what we did know.
The default KMS licensing service is not aware of any Office KMS keys so in order to install one you must first install a ‘hotfix’ that makes the service aware of the Office products. There are currently two available: the Microsoft Office 2010 KMS Host License Pack and the Microsoft Office 2013 Volume License Pack. On our old server we had installed the 2010 license pack when 2010 was released. Then, a few years later, we installed the 2013 pack.
Now back to the issue at hand. The documentation does not mentioned anything about the relationship between these two products. Are they independent of each other or are, like the OS KMS keys, hierarchical by nature? I made the assumption that they were hierarchical and simply applied the 2013 pack. However, my assumption proved wrong. Office 2013 was activating just fine but Office 2010 was not. The obvious solution at this point was to simply apply the 2010 pack and move on. However, the fact that I was in an untested and undocumented scenario (office 2013 pack being installed before the 2010 pack) made me hesitant to just test that theory on our production server. We don’t really have test or dev instances of KMS Hosts either because of the limited number of host activations we get with each key (as well as the complicated process of waiting for the minimum client counts before the host starts to actually work).
So I decided to take the hard road and actually ask Microsoft for the proper documentation on the proper way to set up your server to activate not only all of our licensed OS’s but also both version of Office. As many of you may have experience, it was a long and painful road and in the end I never really got a clear answer from them. Although my favorite response was a voice mail I got from the Microsoft Volume Licensing team which said
“both products can coexist on the same server. However there may, and we stress the word may, be some application issues. We recommend one product version per server. But hypothetically you could run both”
This, to me, was basically a non-answer and provided no help. But a few days later I received a phone call with the same group and had an actual conversation. The most vital piece of information I received from that conversation was the fact that the office team treats these products independently and that there was no hierarchical nature intended. To me that confirmed that I did indeed need to install both key packs and the they ‘should’ not conflict with each other. With that information I went a head and installed the Office 2010 key pack and, much to my relief, everything worked fine. Our new KMS host now activates all OS’s as well as Office 2010 and Office 2013.
My only hope is that Microsoft learned something from this as well and will update their incomplete documentation.