Volume License key (VLK) is the term used by Microsoft to denote the product key used when installing software licensed under Volume Licensing, which allows a single product key to be used for multiple installations. This form of licensing is typically used in business, government, and educational institutions, with prices for Volume Licensing varying depending on the type and size of the setting. Microsoft software available through the Volume License program include Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Office 2003 and many others.
Since Volume Licensing bypasses activation, VLKs have been exploited by software pirates since the advent of this service. The FCKGW key is a prominent example of VLK exploitation. Although to some this may seem like an easy way to circumvent Microsoft's product activation feature, each VLK is uniquely linked to the company from which it was purchased. Therefore, should the software be installed on more computers than it was licensed, Microsoft can hold the company responsible, and blacklist the product key in extreme cases.
Product activation is a license validation procedure required by some computer software programs. Specifically, product activation refers to a method where a software application hashes hardware serial numbers and an ID number specific to the product's license (a product key) to generate a unique Installation ID. This Installation ID is sent to the manufacturer to verify the authenticity of the product key and to ensure that the product key is not being used for multiple installations.
As a trial, Microsoft first used product activation in some versions of Microsoft Office 2000. Some copies sold in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the United States required the user to activate the product via the internet. After its success, the product activation system was extended worldwide and incorporated into all subsequent versions of Windows and Office. This practice has become a subject of debate, primarily because it was one of the first widespread uses of a product activation system in a general consumer product.
An 'unactivated' product usually acts as a time-limited trial until a product key is purchased and used to activate the software. Some products allow licenses to be transferred from one machine to another using online tools, without having to call technical support to deactivate the copy on the old machine before reactivating it on the new machine.
Some software that requires users to activate online or by phone includes:
Microsoft Windows XP and later
Microsoft Office 2000 Service Release 1 (SR-1, some versions) and later
Xandros Desktop OS 4.0 (Home Edition, Home Edition Premium, and later); product activation is only required to make the Xandros Networks apt-based download tool functional
Adobe Acrobat 7 and later
Adobe Illustrator CS2
Adobe Photoshop CS and later
Norton Antivirus 2004 and later
Norton Ghost 9.0 and later
Norton Internet Security 2004 and later
Intuit TurboTax (product activation was subsequently discontinued after complaints over its activation process)
Quicken (depending on country/edition)
Microsoft Flight Simulator X
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
ERain Swift3D 4
Macromedia MX 2004 series (includes Macromedia Flash, Dreamweaver, and Fireworks) and later
Various TMPGEnc programs
Final Draft (a software application designed for writing screenplays)
All current Spectrasonics synthesiser packages
All current Native Instruments packages
OEMs can use SLP to tie the product activation to the BIOS so that Product Activation of Windows in those computers will be skipped if a unique serial number matches the number in the BIOS.