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Windows Forums member, grr, asked the following question in our suggestion box:
There are 10 or more different types of keys for Microsoft products. example, VLM, KLM, abc, xyz, oem, etc. I have to admit that still till date I’m not having a proper and reasonable understanding of all these different keys. It would be great if a post could be made on the blog explaining the difference for these keys.
In this post, we’ll explain the difference between product keys for Microsoft products.

Microsoft Product Key Types

  • CUS – This custom key requires special actions to activate or install.
  • MAK – This volume license key (MAK) allows multiple activations.
  • RTL – This retail key allows multiple activations.
  • STA – This setup key bypasses activation.
  • VL1 – This is a VA 1.0 key.
  • OEM – This is an Original Equipment Manufacturer key that allows multiple activations.
  • AAA – This retail key is for AA* programs and allows one activation. These keys are issued in batches.
  • AAL – This lab use key is for AA programs and allows multiple activations.
  • AAM – This is a multiple activation key for AA program customers.
  • AV1 – This volume license key (VA 1.0) is for AA programs and allows multiple installations.
  • AV2 – This volume license key (KMS) is for Academic Alliance programs.

*AA = Academic Alliance


Windows 7 Product Keys

There are 4 types of retail consumer keys for Windows 7:
  • Retail key: This key comes with a retail box or download copy of Windows 7, and can be used for a clean install or upgrade.
  • Retail Upgrade key: This key comes with a reduced-price upgrade only version of Windows 7 & can be used for upgrade only.
  • OEM COA Non-SLP key:  This is the regular OEM key without the special BIOS check. This type of key is provided with copies of Windows marked for purchase with a new PC only.
  • OEM SLP key: This key is used for OEM computers that use BIOS-locked activation, used by large PC  manufacturers.
I hope this clears up some questions about the different types of keys available for Microsoft products.
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About Rich

Rich is the owner and creator of Windows Guides; he spends his time breaking things on his PC so he can write how-to guides to fix the problems he creates.

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One thought on “Microsoft Product Keys—OEM, Retail etc. What’s The Difference?”

  1. RSVR85 says:

    I never knew there were so many different key types available. Thanks muchly for the clarification Rich, nice post ;)

Comments are closed.

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