Windows Vista volume activation failure

This content is 17 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

When I upgraded my Vista installation from a (not-yet activated) copy of Windows Vista Business Edition to Windows Vista Enterprise Edition, the activation counter was reset to 30 days; however, since then it’s been bugging me with the following message

Volume activation has failed.

Your computer could not be activated.

DNS name does not exist

Cryptic though the message is, it’s really quite simple – this is a volume licensed (Enterprise) copy of Windows Vista so it is looking for a key management server (KMS) to activate itself. I’m at home today, so it can’t find one but in any case, as I had not provided a product key during installation, Vista could not activate. Once I provided the appropriate multiple activation key (MAK), Vista was able to activate via the Microsoft servers.

It was interesting to see the changes in the system properties as activation took place. First the remaining time to activate dropped from 24 days (30 days minus the 6 since I upgraded the PC) to 5 days when the MAK was accepted. Then, once activation had completed successfully, Windows acknowledged that it was activated and genuine.

There’s more information about this error in Microsoft knowledge base article 938107 and Christian Mohn has blogged about a similar experience he had with Windows Vista Business Edition requiring the product key to be re-entered.

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