Attempting to activate a Windows Server virtual machine (running on any host operating system) may result in activation failure with error code 0xC004C008.
This article applies to Windows Server 2008 and later versions, but there are important differences among versions:
When a server is purchased from Dell with a Windows Server OS, the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) sticker attached to the server contains two product keys: a physical key, which is used to activate the host OS; and a virtual key, which is used to activate virtual machines (VMs) running as guests on that server, provided those VMs are running the exact OS edition specified on the sticker. For example, a virtual key for Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition can only be used to activate VMs running Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition on that host. It will not activate Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard or Datacenter Edition, or any other version of Windows.
When a server is purchased from Dell with a Windows Server OS, the COA sticker attached to the server contains a single product key, which is used to activate both the host OS and VMs running as guests on that server, provided those VMs are running the OS edition specified on the sticker. For example, a key for Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter Edition can only be used to activate the host OS and VMs running Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter Edition on that host. It will not activate Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard Edition or any other version of Windows. All instances of the phrases "virtual key" and "physical key" below apply to this single key; although there is no separate key for the virtual machines, the same rules apply. Note, however, that this does not apply to Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter Edition with Reassignment Rights. The OS license is not bound to the physical server in that situation, and the COA sticker will not be attached to a server but to a card shipped with it.
If a different host OS from the one shipped with the server is used, even a non-Windows host OS, the virtual key can still be used to activate Windows VMs on the server in accordance with Microsoft's end-user license agreement.
The issue arises because the virtual key is bound to the physical server in a manner similar to how the physical key is bound to it, though there are some differences in Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2. The virtual key has an activation count and activation limit associated with it. As long as it is only used to activate VMs on its bound physical host, the key's activation count does not increase. Using it to activate a VM on a different host, however, increases the activation count. This most commonly occurs when a VM is migrated to a different node in a virtualization host cluster. When an OEM-licensed VM in a virtualization host cluster is migrated to another node, it may lose its activation status and must be reactivated using the virtual key of the node on which it now resides. If the wrong virtual key is used to reactivate the VM, that key's activation count is increased.
When the activation count of an OEM virtual key reaches its limit, it cannot be used to activate any more VMs, even on the bound host. Attempting to activate another VM results in error 0xC004C008.
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Article ID: SLN248715
Last Date Modified: 02/23/2017 04:16 AM
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