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Windows Vista

Managing Windows Licensing and Activation : Notification Experience and Reduced Functionality Mode

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4/7/2013 6:39:33 PM

The focus so far has been on ensuring that your computers are properly activated. However, what happens when activation can't be obtained or maintained? The general result is that the computer enters a grace period and then eventually into Reduced Functionality Mode.

Computers can enter the grace period for several reasons. Initially, the computer will be in a grace period immediately following installation until activation can be performed. After initial activation, MAK activated computers may enter their grace period if substantial hardware changes are noticed. In this case, Windows assumes it has been moved to new hardware and must reactivate to validate it is a legal copy. KMS clients may enter a grace period if they fail to reactivate 180 days following the last successful reactivation. While in the grace period, the computer functions normally except for occasional reminders that the computer needs to be activated.

Volume license editions of Windows will remain in a grace period for up to 30 days. If hardware is significantly modified on Retail or OEM licenses, the grace period is only three days. If activation is not performed during the grace period, the computer will see the Notification Experience (if Windows Vista Service Pack 1 or later is installed) or Reduced Functionality Mode (if the computer does not have Service Pack 1 or later installed).

1. Introducing the notifications-based experience

If a Windows Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008 system are not activated within the grace period, persistent notifications will alert users of the need to activate. While in the notifications-based experience, the system will function normally, with the following exceptions:

  • The desktop background will be black.

  • A KMS host cannot activate or renew KMS clients.

  • Windows Update installs only critical updates (optional updates and those marked as "Genuine Only" will not be made available).

2. Experiencing Reduced Functionality Mode

Prior to Windows Vista SP1, if activation was not performed during the grace period, the computer enters Reduced Functionality Mode (RFM), shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. User interface in Reduced Functionality Mode

There are two flavors of Reduced Functionality Mode, depending upon the reason for entering RFM. If activation is not performed after the initial grace period, reactivation isn't performed at least 210 days after a KMS activation, or reactivation isn't performed after significant hardware change, the computer will enter out-of-grace RFM. In out-of-grace RFM the following limitations apply:

  • One hour logon time limit

  • No access to built-in games

  • No access to premium features (such as Aero, ReadyBoost, and BitLocker)

If the Windows Genuine Advantage program detects a blocked key code or modified activation files, the computer will enter non-genuine RFM. Non-genuine RFM includes the following restrictions:

  • Aero and ReadyBoost are not available

  • Some content from the Microsoft Download center is not available

3. Resolving the notification experience and Reduced Functionality Mode

The first option is to activate Windows over the Internet immediately. If the computer needs to be reloaded or was only a test computer, you may reload the computer and format the hard drive to gain another 30 days of initial grace period. If in RFM, and there is a need to recover data from the workstation, it can be booted into Safe Mode or the explorer.exe process can be launched manually to provide a standard desktop with which any necessary data may be moved.

It does occasionally happen where immediate activation or reload are not options. The workaround in this situation is to use the slmgr.vbs script to re-arm the computer. Similar to how Sysprep will reset the grace period back to 30 days, the slmgr.vbs re-arm command performs the same function much quicker and without resetting the network and licensing information. Keep in mind that a computer may only be re-armed three times. Assuming that the computer was imaged from a Syspreped image file, two more re-arms would be allowed. For this reason, it is always recommended that image files be Syspreped no more than twice before re-creating the image from scratch. With a properly designed unattended answer file, that should be a relatively simple process.

NOTE

An exception to the rule, Windows Vista Enterprise SP1 can be re-armed up to five times.

Other -----------------
- Managing Windows Licensing and Activation : Managing Volume License Activation (part 3) - Managing licensing and activation, Implementing KMS activation
- Managing Windows Licensing and Activation : Managing Volume License Activation (part 2) - Leveraging MAK activation, Comparing KMS and MAK activation
- Managing Windows Licensing and Activation : Managing Volume License Activation (part 1) - Centralizing activation with KMS
- Managing Windows Licensing and Activation : Licensing Windows
- Maintaining Desktop Health : Monitoring Reliability and Performance (part 6) - Using Reliability Monitor
- Maintaining Desktop Health : Monitoring Reliability and Performance (part 5)
- Maintaining Desktop Health : Monitoring Reliability and Performance (part 4)
- Maintaining Desktop Health : Monitoring Reliability and Performance (part 3)
- Maintaining Desktop Health : Monitoring Reliability and Performance (part 2)
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