Managing lower version licenses from a license server running Windows Server 2008 R2

Managing lower version licenses from a license server running Windows Server 2008 R2

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[April, 2010: Updated to clarify CAL types]

Many of our customers have multiple versions of Remote Desktop Session Host servers (formerly known as terminal servers), such as Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2008 R2, in their environment. A remote desktop connection to any of these host servers requires a client access license (CAL) of the same or higher version. The CALs are installed on and managed by a Remote Desktop license server by using Remote Desktop Licensing Manager (RD Licensing Manager). This blog explains how to install and manage different version CALs on a single Remote Desktop license server.

What CALs can a specified license server manage?

Any license server can manage all lower version CALs along with the current version. For example, a license server that is running Windows Server 2008 R2 can manage all lower version CALs including Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Server 2008. These CALs can be installed and managed by the Licensing Administrator on the license server by using RD Licensing Manager in Windows Server 2008 R2.

The license server running Windows Server 2008 R2 will also be able to cater to requests from all lower version terminal servers appropriately, allowing the customer business to continue seamlessly.

Note: Beginning with Windows Server 2008 R2, terminal servers are now called Remote Desktop Session Host servers. All earlier versions are still referred to as terminal servers.

A new feature introduced in Windows Server 2008 R2 allows you to migrate user CALs from one server to another. With this capability, you can migrate your existing Windows Server 2003 CALs from a license server running Windows Server 2003 to a license server running Windows Server 2008 R2 and manage them from the latest server. Please refer to for more information.

The compatibility matrix below shows which CALs can be managed by which license servers.

Windows 2000 Server

Windows Server 2003

Windows Server 2008

Windows Server 2008 R2

Windows 2000 Server CAL





Windows Server 2003 CAL





Windows Server 2008 CAL






1. When a lower version CAL is migrated or installed on a higher version license server, do the rights of the CAL change?

No. For example, if you install a Windows Server 2003 Terminal Services client access license (TS CAL) on a license server running Windows Server 2008 R2, that CAL will only allow the user to access a terminal server running Windows Server 2003 or lower; you cannot use it to access an RD Session Host server running Windows Server 2008 R2.

2. Can a license server manage higher version CALs?

No, a license server can only manage CALs of the same version or lower. For example, a license server running Windows Server 2003 can manage Windows Server 2003 TS CALs and Windows 2000 Server TS CALs, but not Windows Server 2008. Note that Windows Server 2008 R2 CALs are compatible with Windows Server 2008 CALs, so both can be managed by Windows Server 2008 (as well as by Windows Server 2008 R2). For more information, see Windows Server 2008 RDS and Windows Server 2008 TS CAL Compatibility.

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  • Let's assume that we have Windows 2008 R2 licensing server with 2003 and 2008 licenses installed.

    What is the order that licenses are given off to clients? For example if a user tries to connect to the Windows 2003 server, it will get 2003 license and after they are out server will try to give 2008 licenses?

  • @ Grzes: client will be issued license based on the OS version of the TS. In the scenario mentioned by you, the client will first get WIn2k3 TS CAL adn after that when it will try to access Win2k8 TS, it's license wil get upgraded to the Win2k8 TS CAL.

    Hope that helps!


  • We're running a 2003 license server and 2003 hosts with 2008 licenses.  We're wanting to upgrade both to 2008, will our 2008 licenses still work even though they've been used as 2003  licenses?

  • @Chris: Can you please double check your license server OS version and the license version - as it is not possible to install Windows Server 2008 licenses on Windows Server 2003 license server.



  • @Chris: I assume that you have downgraded your 2008 licenses to 2003 licenses for installing on a 2003 license server.If so , same licenses wont work for 2008 hosts . You need to have them again upgraded to 2008. For this you need to call Microsoft Clearing house.

  • I verified that our license server is 2k8, but yes we downgraded our licenses to connect to our 2003 Citrix farm, so calling the Clearing house should allow us to raise them back to the 2k8 level?

  • @Chris: I guess so. You need to call Clearinghouse and they  can confirm if they will be able to upgrade it.



  • I have 100 of RDS CAL 2008 R2 licenses on a Win2008 R2 licensing server (I don't have TSCAL 2003), my citrix servers are both 2003 & 2008. When user connects to 2003 citrix, can it consume the 2008 license?

  • For my earlier issue I was told that I must allocate X number of licenses downgraded to 2003 to allow connection to 2003 servers. But my users actually need to access apps in both 2003 & 2008, so how can I resolve this without allocation & downgrading? appreciate any answer..

  • @Joko Yu: There's no need to downgrade your licenses.  2008 CALs will work fine to connect to 2003 servers.  

  • Hi termserv thanks for prompt reply. I'm new to RDS 2008, I'll tell my vendor to try on this. thanks again.

  • hi

    i have a problem with remote desktop licensing server on windows server 2008 R2. we installed "windows server 2003 - Installed TS er Device CALs" and "Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2 : Installed Per Device CALs (TS, RDS or VDI)" licenses. eventlog says:

    The Remote Desktop license server "LNZTSPLIC01" does not have any remaining permanent Remote Desktop Services client access licenses (RDS CALs) of the type "Windows Server 2003 - TS Per Device CAL". As a result, the Remote Desktop license server cannot issue RDS CALs of the type "Windows Server 2003 - TS Per Device CAL" to the Remote Desktop Session Host server "CX23-AKH". To resolve this problem, verify that the Remote Desktop licensing mode configured on the RD Session Host server matches the type of RDS CALs installed on the Remote Desktop license server. If required, purchase and install additional RDS CALs as needed for this Remote Desktop license server.

    i have set a group policy where i entered the servername and the Per Device setting.

    any ideas???

    thx tom

  • Can you please run tsconfig.msc and select "Licensing Diagnosis" node on the left pane to see whether it is reporting any errors?

  • hi, i could not run it as it is 2003, but i ran lsreport.exe from the resource kit 2003.

    no problems in the logfile, and the license server hands out licenses. as there are 3000 clients which connect to this server i am a little bit scared of the warning in the eventlog.

    any further ideas?

    thx tom

  • I hope my English is correct. I'm translating from my Spanish)


    1 W2k3 Domain Server.

    1 W2k8 R2 License Server

    200 W2k8 CAL

    3 W2k3 Terminal Server

    All servers are in Domain

    If I run tscc.msc in TS (local administrator) and clic "check names" I get that "...Specified  Server are not valid License Server..." but

    I run tscc.msc as "Run as..." using a privileged user from W2k3 Domain Server the License Server is valid.

    In this situation the TS can access normaly to the License Server? I am not sure if this is working fine.

    User are working but I don`t know where they are taken licenses.

    I have some CALs (open) installed in the License Server but no one is issued. If I do a report issued licenses are 0.

    ¿How do I know License Server and Terminal Server is doing his work fine?

    I fear that any day it stops working

    If you need more details, I will be happy to give them



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