[Windows] Volume Activation 2.0 at UW-Madison

These are some of the important characteristics of Volume Activation 2.0 as implemented at UW-Madison.

In November 2006, Microsoft rolled out their new volume license activation scheme, Volume Activation 2.0 (VA2). Windows desktop (Vista) was the first software released using VA2, but other Microsoft volume-licensed software followed. As of late 2019, Windows Server, non-O365 versions of Office, Visio, and Project are also using VA2. Software for Macintosh does not yet use VA2.

VA2 shifts some of the burden of authenticating software installations and protecting activation keys from Microsoft to institutional users. Microsoft believes that preventing software piracy is an issue for all parties, not just for Microsoft, and VA2 is the next step in turning that belief into an enforceable implementation.

Activation is not licensing; it's a means of ensuring that installations are licensed. The current Microsoft Desktop Campus Agreement that gives users the right to install the most recent version of Office and the Windows OS on computers owned by the UW-Madison is based on the number of Full Time Equivalent employees at UW-Madison, not on the number of computers at UW-Madison. Neither we nor Microsoft negotiated the Campus Agreement with the understanding that there was a fixed relationship between the number of employees and the number of computers eligible for upgrade to the latest version of Office or Windows at UW-Madison.

The bottom line is that departmental users do not need to concern themselves with the number of licenses or the number of allowed installations on UW-Madison-owned computers. They only need to ensure that the machine can be legally upgraded using departmental media, which means that it must be owned by the UW-Madison (for all software) and have a full Windows OS license associated with it (for the Windows upgrade).

Link to Volume Activation 2.0 FAQ (from Microsoft): FAQ

What follows are the important characteristics of VA2 as implemented at the UW-Madison.


Component class nameWeight
Display adapter1
RAM amount range (for example, 0–512 MB, 512 MB–1 GB, 2–4 GB)1
Audio adapter2
Network adapter Media Access Control (MAC) address2
Small computer system interface (SCSI) adapter2
Integrated device electronics (IDE) adapter3
BIOS identification (0 always matches)9
Physical operating system hard drive device serial number11


UW-Madison's VA2 Implementation

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Activation ― A software installation with OEM Activation is what you would receive from Dell (or another OEM) when you purchase a computer with software pre-installed. The new product activation technology used in software installed by OEMs is called “OEM Activation 2.0,” or OA 2.0.

Retail (shrinkwrap) Activation