Microsoft TechNet/MSDN keys will expire at end of subscription period

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 3, 2012
Updated • Jul 6, 2012

Microsoft, in an attempt to fight piracy, has tightened the terms for MSDN and TechNet subscribers once again. Back in March we reported that Microsoft reduced the number of keys that TechNet subscribers received with their subscription from five to 3. Today ZDNet reports that the company has revised its policies again to fight piracy.

Subscribers up until recently received ten product keys for nearly every Microsoft client and server product available, including Microsoft Windows and the company's Office suite. Counterfeit businesses took the keys and resold them to customers who often were not aware that they did receive keys that were not intended for retail channels.

For a single annual subscription fee of a few hundred Dollars, subscribers would get keys that they could resell for a multitude. Even with three keys, it can still a profitable business due to the sheer size of products Microsoft is making available.

microsoft technet subscriptions

The new subscription terms impact subscribers in several ways:

  • MSDN subscribers only get five keys for current versions of Windows and Office, and only three for older versions of the operating systems. TechNet subscribers will maintain their three product keys per version ratio.
  • The numbers of keys that MSDN or TechNet subscribers can claim per day is reduced from (roughly) 55 to around 10.
  • Unsupported software, like Windows 95 or Office 97 will no longer be available under the new terms.
  • New and renewing TechNet subscribers get time-based rights to use the products during the subscription period only.

Previously, subscribers were allowed to keep using the products that they had installed on systems. With the change this is no longer the case.

The subscription provides you with access to software and associated benefits. When your subscription concludes, you will no longer have access to the software or any associated benefits and must discontinue your use of the software.

While it is technically still possible to continue using the products after a subscription has expired, it is now explicitly prohibited to do so.

Existing keys will not be affected by the change, which means that MSDN subscribers who use more than five or three keys respectively can continue to use those after the terms change. Microsoft notes that subscribers can request additional keys if needed, and that it has improved support to deal with additional support requests caused by the change in terms.

A TechNet Standard license is available for $199 ($149 renewal) and includes most Microsoft commercial software expect for Enterprise and Microsoft Dynamics software.

Are you affected by the terms changes?

Update: Changed the original number of keys that MSDN or TechNet subscribers can claim per day as it was inaccurate before.


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  1. MaryN said on July 27, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    If we evaluate a product licensed through MSDN and decide to keep it for future use, can we merely purchase a new license or do we have to reinstall the software?

  2. James Watt said on October 12, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    If only this is the only thing they did. They decided to can the entire TechNet program now. Completely insane! Anyways, do you know if my TechNet keys will continue to work to activate software after TechNet closes for good?

  3. Rich S said on July 2, 2013 at 8:02 am

    There is alot besides the software licesnes in technet.
    support tickets, training, reference, and a thousand little things.

    It’s a bargain by any measure. It really helps us Techies support the computers. and get at stuff we normaly would not.

    Now they plan to discontinue technet, because they are getting people taking advantage of the generous licesnse arangements.

    A good thing was ruined and going down the tubes, thanks pirates.

  4. Tim said on January 16, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    Tom C said: “If you want to use the software longer then your subscription: buy it!”
    What an idiotic comment. Do you not have a brain? FACT is, people DID buy this, they paid big bucks for this.

    Anyone is a fool who gets this just to “try” things out. What a joke that is, not to mention waste of money. The only thief in all this, is Microsoft.

  5. Rick said on December 2, 2012 at 10:41 am

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  6. Chin said on October 9, 2012 at 9:59 am

    I got caught with my pants down on this.
    My subscription just expired (1 October) and I do not have any backup of the softwore or product key I have downloaded. I am currently praying very hard that my development machine is not going to crash on me.

    Anyone has any idea how I can get back the software and product key? Had I known if they are going to change the license, I would have asked for the DVD release. At least, I will have a hard backup copy.

    1. Chris said on October 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm

      Chin – were you notified by Microsoft in any way (email, phone, etc.) that you would be prevented from using the product you acquired via TechNet after your subscription ended? I think that the change in the agreement is for accounts purchased after July 2012.
      Can you still access the product under the license you previously acquired?

      1. Chin said on October 18, 2012 at 4:17 am

        Chris, I send an email to Microsoft.
        This was their reply.
        “Chin, since your subscription has already been expired thus you are no longer be able to download and obtain product key from the MSDN website unless you renew your subscription.”

        As it seems the change in the agreement is for all accounts regardless of whether it is purchased before or after July 2012.

        If your subscription has not expired, I would suggest that you start to download those software you need and save the product key.
        Do not make the same mistake as I did.

  7. Mark said on October 7, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Stop beating up your loyal paying customers by making it harder, more restrictive and more cumbersome to play by the rules. What is wrong with your company?

    You really don’t deserve us!

    1. Mark said on October 7, 2012 at 3:27 pm

      Obviously my comment is mean’t for Microsoft, please don’t take it personally Martin.

  8. Ayman said on August 16, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Microsoft has the right to make changes to its licenses as it sees fit. But has no right to make the change retro-actively. The user has paid the asked price and was promised a certain level of service. Even if they have somehow tugged the right to change the terms in the license agreement, they must provide sufficient notice and an option to cancel the service. MSDN Ultimate subscription, which I have, costs $13,299 and the renewal costs $4,294. I would expect to be notified of such a change at least by email. But NO. I only noticed it today when I went to claim a product key. When I called MS, the customer service personal informed me that the notice is on the help page. Does Microsoft really believe that its customers should check every single page every day to check if there is a change? Is it legal (or even fair) to reduce the terms of service and retroactively after you have paid for it and without sufficient and clear notice to its customers?

    1. Me said on August 31, 2012 at 2:53 pm

      Unfortunately it probably says they can in their T&C when you sign up. But it could be deemed unlawful. They did this when I had a sub, lucky I request a lot of 10 keys for different software, then they changed it to 5 for the ones I hadn’t.

      Didn’t convince me to renew. Also still think the disabling the keys after the sub runs out is a mistake. Yes people should buy after but some, lets say, students, struggle to get the money for the sub so they can then use it to setup labs and struggle to renew. So at least keeps the keys going for another year after.

      Not sure if it was accurate but was told the keys have a limited activation amount. Activated to many times and they get blocked. They should just leave it at that.

      I was going to resub this year, but not anymore with even more restrictions in place.

  9. Bruno said on July 24, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    So Microsoft has revised it again. Now you can only get 2 license keys and are restricted to only certain versions of software. For example, I wanted to do some testing for a client and activate a Windows Vista Ultimate key and was told they are no longer available – only the Vista Business version is allowed now. This is the info posted on their site now:

    On July 16, Microsoft made changes to TechNet Subscriptions to better reflect the intent of the program – aiding IT professionals in evaluating current Microsoft software—and to help protect the integrity of the subscription from unsupported use. As part of this change, we [are]:
    – Removing products that are not intended for use in an IT professional managed business environment. For instance: Windows XP Home Edition.

  10. Scholar said on July 19, 2012 at 12:59 am


    Read the EULA. I’m sure it is explained in there.

  11. Frank said on July 17, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    Hi Guys,

    I don’t have a problem with the new terms.

    But, I dont know if Micro$oft can retro-actively change terms on something I had in the past and take away permanent licences and make them temorary?

    Is this legal?



  12. Miguel said on July 8, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    I don’t know anything about Technet subscriptions nor had one… but, in the past (before those changes you explain in the article), if you bought one of this subscriptions (say, you get a subscription for one year), you got valid licenses for Microsoft products like Windows and Office??

    At least in my country, that $199 subscription is cheaper than a Windows 7 HP retail version (not the upgrade one), or cheaper than Windows 7 HP upgrade + Office 2010 Home and Student.

    Was there anything that prevented anyone getting one of those subscriptions for one year everytime they wanted to update their Microsoft software (so they just got cheaper prices)?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on July 8, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      Miguel, the licenses as far as I remember are only available for testing purposes, and not for productive environments. Having said that, there is no difference in functionality between those licenses and retail licenses in this regard.

      1. Miguel said on July 8, 2012 at 7:24 pm

        Ok, those licenses you get from a Technet subscription are are just for testing purposes and won’t be valid to use for any other purpose. That makes sense.

        Thanks for explaining it :)

  13. Richard Steven Hack said on July 4, 2012 at 2:39 am

    I have to laugh. Like this is going to matter given how many perfectly easy cracks there are for Windows 7… The amount of piracy going on with MSDN subscriptions has got to be like one percent of the cracked systems out there…

    Go to the MyDigitalLife Web site and learn… Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 are broken forever. Windows XP was harder to crack than 7.

  14. Tom C. said on July 3, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Due to my employer I have a Technet license and so I can try out all the mentioned software. Actually the reduction to three license keys for each product isn’t important to me: the idea is to test a specific software and then ignore it or buy it.
    And the same applies to the new expiration issue: If you want to use the software longer then your subscription: buy it!

    I still think, this is a great offer from MS to check out all the available software …

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