Microsoft Slash TechNet Product Keys from 10 to 5 to 3

Mike Halsey MVP
Mar 22, 2012

In September 2010, citing concerns over piracy, Microsoft slashed the number of product keys available to subscribers of its TechNet service from 10 per product down to 5.  This caused some arguments but Microsoft still insisted that the annual subscription of $349 was great value for what you got.  Now though the company has announced that the number of available product keys is to be slashed even further to just 3 per product.

So what does this mean?  Fortunately it doesn't mean that for $349 you only get three Windows product keys and three for Office.  You will get three for Windows 8 Home Premium, three for Windows 8 Professional, three for Windows 8 professional Plus, three for Windows 8 Ultimate and so on.  For office it's three for Office 15 Standard and three for Office 15 Professional etc.  That's still excellent value for money for software that's just "for evaluation purposes".  Each licence will still also do 10 activations so so that will make up 24 installations of Windows 8 which is enough for anyone to "test".

In a blog post that can only be seen by current subscribers the company said...

Beginning in mid-March 2012, subscribers to TechNet Subscriptions (excluding TechNet Standard which are entitled to 2 keys per product) may access a maximum allocation of three (3) product keys for Microsoft Office and Windows Client products in connection with their subscription. The allotted keys may only be used for software evaluation purposes. Once the maximum keys have been activated, no more keys will be made available. Additional product keys may be acquired through the purchase of an additional subscription.

There is another restriction though in that subscribers will now only be able to claim 44 keys in total in any one 24 hour period...

Reaching your limit means that you have claimed the maximum number of keys allowed for your program benefit level within a 24 hour period. Every 24 hours you may claim another set of keys, up to your program levels maximum.

So why is the company doing this?  Again they say it's because of piracy concerns...

Why has Microsoft limited my access to product keys?

We are acting to protect the value of your subscription. If we did not act to prevent abuse of subscriptions we would eventually have to either limit the products available in a subscription or raise the price of your subscription. We believe that this is the best compromise to continue to deliver the highest value to you while limiting abuse at the same time.

Some people might turn off TechNet now or perhaps take up a pricier MSDN subscription instead, though the question now needs to be asked how long it will talk for Microsoft to reduce the number of MSDN keys as well.

It's a blow to existing subscribers, especially to long-time subscribers such as myself who need to be able to test different hardware configurations, dual boot systems and virtual machine environments.  For those however there are the trial versions of Windows and Office.  Office 2010 has a 60-day trial verstion and hopefully this will continue with Office 15.  Windows 7 also offers a 30 day trial version and we can only hope that Windows 8 does to.  This will help circumvate some of the issues regards fewer keys being available from TechNet.

It just seems a pity though that the move isn't coming with a price reduction but never mind  :/


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  1. Adam said on November 1, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Of course…. this would work if 10 activations were allowed. MS in their wisdom and fulfilling a history of screwing over customers, have reduced the activations per key to 5.

  2. Rover said on August 16, 2012 at 5:28 am

    The changes will also unfortunately be retrospective, in that if you run an install of say Windows 7 using even the retail keys given you from your Technet Subscription from 2010/2011 for example – That key you currently use will become unusable from the 1st September 2012 if you do not currently subscribe to Technet. That really sucks to be honest.

    1. Doug said on February 1, 2013 at 2:56 am

      Rover, you may be a little off there. Activations prior to the policy change are not affected unless you renew. So a lot of subscribers are subscribing again under a different e-mail address and let their old subscription expire (but the keys remain valid). Microsoft does not like this but making the old keys fail would get them in legal problems that they want to avoid..

  3. Doug said on June 14, 2012 at 3:26 am

    “Each licence will still also do 10 activations so so that will make up 24 installations of Windows 8 which is enough for anyone to test.”

    Really?? How sure are you that you get 10 activations per key?

    If you have a statement from Microsoft listing the number of activations per retail key, please share it. I have been trying to get that for months.

  4. Br.Bill said on March 23, 2012 at 1:27 am

    Dear ghacks comment software: thanks for removing my does-not-equal signs so that I look like an idiot.

    3 keys x 10 installations [DOES NOT EQUAL] 24 activations.

    1. Chris said on March 24, 2012 at 5:05 am

      Nobody thought you were an idiot until you posted the correction :p

  5. Zippy said on March 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    Aren’t you supposed to get this number of product keys *per year*? I signed up to TechNet Professional just over twelve months ago, understanding that I’d only get five keys per product (albeit with multiple activations per key), but I also understood (perhaps erroneously) was that the advantage of renewing my subscription for another year was that I’d gain further product keys.

    Having now paid for another year, I now have precisely zero additional product keys… so what have I paid for here? Did I misunderstand something somewhere along the way? If I did, what’s the point in renewing my subscription? Why pay hundreds of dollars a year if I get nothing more than a couple of additional support calls that I never use?

    It seems very odd to me that as a subscriber, I’d only get one batch of product keys, for life, regardless of how many times I pay my subscription.

    1. Mike Halsey MVP said on March 22, 2012 at 4:36 pm

      @Zippy, I made that mistake once too! My subscription expired at the end of January and I’m holding off now until October when WIndows 8 comes out. Suffice to say it’s a mistake you only ever make once :}

  6. Lee said on March 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    A price cut? But then they’d be faced with the same problem. TechNet is still a phenomenal deal, and MS is trying to find a ratio that works for price:license that discourages widespread piracy and still allows devs to get the job done.

    The fact that they’ve cut to three — which really equals, what, 30? 36? Windows 7 licenses when you count all versions — hasn’t and won’t impact my work at all. I suspect the case will be the same for most subscribers.

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