Microsoft TechNet– Download & License Keys Reminder

Microsoft Technet keysAs many of you know, Microsoft have decided to retire their TechNet software download and licensing subscription service, with the last day being the 31st August 2014.  This is a real blow to the many IT Professionals out there who use TechNet to keep their Microsoft product skills honed, and who also use it to further teach themselves about Microsoft products in their own non-production lab environment.  Microsoft are instead suggesting that IT Pros now use “free evaluation resources”,which consist of the following:

TechNet Evaluation Center: Free access to download and evaluate the latest Microsoft products with no feature limits. Based on customer feedback, the program also provides access to some prior versions of Microsoft software, including Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, and others. Evaluation time limits vary by product and are based on typical customer needs, with server trials lasting 180 days.

TechNet Virtual Labs: Free online testing environments, designed to be completed in fewer than 2 hours, without the need to install evaluation bits locally.

The benefit of both of these options is that they are free!  Free is good, though it all comes back to the age-old equation/quandary of time versus money.  Although the TechNet Evaluation Center and Virtual Labs are free (money), what they lack is the ability to provide IT Pros with the opportunity to create and run their own permanent (time) Microsoft based lab  (ie: non-production) environments. 

Microsoft TechNet Subscription EndedSpeaking from experience, I have, and continue to, invest significant amounts of time in building and running my own lab infrastructure, running a number of Microsoft products from which I learn a great deal as well as conducting some personal proof of concept projects.  The last thing I want to do is have to rebuild this environment every 180 or so days, I personally want to know that the time I am investing in building out my lab environment is well invested, and that I won’t have to go re-inventing the wheel in 6 months time.  Now, 6 months may sound like a long time, and in fairness it kind of is, though in our busy and fast paced IT worlds this time can, and almost always does, pass in a flash. Lab based projects or learning is often put on hold whilst real-life (eg: non-lab related work, family, etc) takes over our spare time.

The TechNet Virtual Labs are a good idea, though the 2 hour time limit doesn’t provide you with enough time to really get your teeth sunk into a particular product or create your own semi-complex custom environment.  Rather you’d probably find yourself accessing a virtual lab instance to learn or investigate a couple of features at a time and leave the more detailed or complex set-ups to the Microsoft evaluation products (> 180 days). 

Anyway, all of this is something of a moot point since unfortunately as there hasn’t been any indication from Microsoft, despite a petition with a significant number of signatures from global IT Pros, that they will be re-instating the TechNet subscription downloads and license keys any time soon.

So, those of you with an existing Microsoft TechNet subscription are likely downloading any ISO images you think you’ll need for your lab before your subscription expires as after this time you will lose this ability (see image below):

Microsoft TechNet Download Expired

It would appear that although you can’t download the ISO images after your subscription has expired, your license keys (at least those that you have claimed – you can only claim >10 new keys per subscription per day) are still available for viewing.  Whether your TechNet subscription license keys will be approved via the online Microsoft license registration process after your subscription expiry is unknown to me, as I haven’t tried.

One thing to bear in mind is that if it is possible to use your pre-claimed licenses after your TechNet subscription have expired then there will no doubt be some legal considerations, as your subscription has technically expired so you should no longer use those license keys. 

I personally can’t justify the extra significant cost of an MSDN subscription, which would provide me with access to Microsoft license keys again, so I will likely have to start looking at alternative products (eg: Linux OS, etc) to run and start learning in my lab environment.  Of course I will continue to run Microsoft products, though not for anything that I may want to run for an extended period of time.

I understand the piracy implications associated with the TechNet subscription that Microsoft faces and why they did what they did, though it’s just unfortunate that so many IT Pros and Microsoft advocates will no longer have this great subscription resource readily available to them.  I wouldn’t be opposed to a Cloud based TechNet subscription where you were perhaps allocated a block of resource that you could divide amongst the VMs in your Cloud environment.  This wouldn’t stop people running production VMs using a TechNet subscription (perhaps limit the level of inbound/outbound traffic?) though would help dramatically in Microsoft’s fight against piracy.

About Simon Seagrave 706 Articles
Simon is a UK based Virtualization, Cloud & IT Technology Evangelist working as a Senior Technology Consultant and vSpecialist for EMC. He loves working in the ever changing IT industry & spends most of his time working with Virtualization, Cloud & other Enterprise IT based technologies, in particular VMware, EMC and HP products. As well as on this site, you can find him on Twitter and Google+


  1. If you’re spending large amounts of time standing up a lab environment then you should be saving that configuration in a tool like puppet or chef so you can replicate it. Then the “time bombed” software shouldn’t be a problem.

    This should be a boon to IT pros as lab recipes can be easily shared and results, verified. Maybe time bombing the software will get lazy sysadmins to get their act together in that regard.

    • Hi Mike,

      Good call, agreed – this definitely provides a great opportunity for IT folk to learn about Puppet or Chef as there are also so many valuable production use cases also.

      I have to be honest and say that it is still on my “to-do” list, I got as far as buying a book on Puppet though haven’t read it next. 🙂

      This will definitely spur me into action to start reading it.



  2. Simon,

    The “online lab” type scenarios are OK for some levels of functional testing, however they don’t allow you to test against, for instance, specific types of hardware. So imagine wanting to deploy caching software, and run against an SSD, or deploy FC or FCoE cards to test out some functionality.

    I seriously think MSFT are missing a big trick. They can’t get past the revenue they make from the operating system and their support is so archaic unless you’re paying for Enterprise support that they can’t easily move to a free software + support model that would be practical and scalable.

    Now if MSFT are lucky, they will make revenue from some cloud licencing, but I think they have a long hard road ahead.

    Personally, I’m spending more and more time getting familiar with Linux and all of the open source solutions out there, because they are the future.


    • Hi Chris,

      Good points.

      Unfortunately I think Microsoft’s response to the testing against particular hardware types, etc would be to download the 180 day evaluations copies, as most testing wouldn’t likely take longer that that.

      Microsoft has a very dedicated and loyal IT Pro base behind them (myself included) and I firmly suspect that the end of the TechNet subscription will cause many Pros, such as yourself and no doubt countless others, to look at “alternatives” which don’t provide you with the same time limitations in your education, up-skilling and PoCs. Of course, this will then influence your recommendations in your day to day working environment, as most folk will generally stick with the technology and products that they know and are most comfortable with.

      With Open Source products seemingly getting more traction in this increasingly Cloud focussed IT world I personally (if I was Microsoft) would want as many skilled advocates of my product (both Cloud and traditional OS/Back Office Apps) out in the wild.

      Providing the MS IT Pros (via a new style TechNet, eg: TechNet Cloud Edition) with access to a Azure based sand box/pit with access to installable MS back office apps, no time restrictions and a certain amount of resource assigned to their Cloud instance is one possible option IMHO. It’d address the piracy issue though admittedly they would have to stump up the hardware and running costs for providing such a service. That said, I very much doubt a yearly TechNet Cloud subscription would cover all of these costs though if you factor in the apparent lost revenue from piracy associated with the old/existing TechNet model then perhaps the financials around a TechNet Cloud edition may stack up (and get people using and becoming familiar with your Cloud infrastructure)?

      As for me I’m going to start learning Puppet so that i can quickly and easily start deploying evan OS/Apps in my lab environments, though I would prefer to have my old TechNet licenses back. 🙂

      Thanks for the comments.



      • Simon, one thought on the 180-day licence. Will Microsoft allow users to perpetually request new licences? E.g. say you download and run W2K12R2 today and do some testing then delete the VM (because the VM is a mess and uninstallation never works), will you be able to reuse that licence on a new VM each week?

        Imagine you get to the end of your 180 day trial; will your account allow requesting a new licence again?

        I’d compare it to the way VMware does 60 day licences; you get a one time chance and after that you can’t re-request the same product.

        This is where I think the 180-day offer could fall down. It’s going to be interesting!


        • Hmmm, good point. I guessing so, though as I’ve been using my TechNet subscription licenses for the past number of years it’s been a while since I’ve used a 180 day MS eval install.

          From memory (always dangerous 😉 ), and I could be wrong here, I don’t think you needed to register it – it just ran for 180 days (or less depending on the OS or app).

          I’ll need to take look into the current MS eval license arrangement to find out what the scoop is.



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