Changes to Windows Server 2008 Terminal Server Licensing (Part 1)

If you would like to read the next article in this series please go to Changes to Windows Server 2008 Terminal Server Licensing  (Part 2).

Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services will present a whole new set of features and functionality that will most likely be of interest to many. As organizations explore these new technologies, it will be important to understand how Windows Server 2008 terminal server licensing differs from Windows Server 2003 and how Microsoft is making the process of terminal server licensing easier to manage. This two-part series will explore the changes in terminal services licensing in Windows Server 2008, including functional changes and management improvements.

Some highlights of the changes are as follows:

  • Per User CAL allocation is still not enforced – although it can be tracked in Active Directory.

  • Terminal Server CAL revocation for Per-Device CALs

  • Changes to license server discovery

  • New built-in tools to assist in troubleshooting licensing-related issues

  • Interface changes surrounding management and reporting

Installation Process Changes

The first noticeable change in the licensing process is the installation of the terminal server licensing service itself. In Windows Server 2003 and earlier, you would simply install Terminal Server Licensing from the Add/Remove Programs component of Control Panel. However, everything in Windows Server 2008 is role-based. In other words, you install the Terminal Services Licensing role on the server rather than selecting an “optional component” to install.

Another thing that has changed is an additional rights requirement when installing a Domain-scope license server. The administrator performing the installation must have Domain Admin rights because part of the installation now involves adding the license server computer account to the Terminal Server License Servers security group in Active Directory. As with Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Admin rights are still required to install a Forest-scope license server in order to update the same TS-Enterprise-License-Server site object.

As with Windows Server 2003, the following steps are necessary to complete the terminal services licensing process:

  • Install the TS Licensing Role on the server

  • Activate the License Server with the Microsoft Clearinghouse

  • Install per-user and/or per-device CALs on the License Server

  • Configure your terminal servers to discover/use the License Server

To install the TS Licensing Role on a Windows Server 2008 host:

  1. Open Server Manager and select Roles from the hierarchy. On the right side, select Add Roles. This will launch the Add Roles wizard.

  2. From the Select Server Roles screen, check the box next to Terminal Services and click Next.

  3. On the Introduction to Terminal Services screen, click Next.

  4. Select TS Licensing and click Next.

  5. Configure the type of discovery scope that should be used for this License Server, either Domain or Forest. Also, select where the TS Licensing database files should be located.

  6. Click Install to install the role.

As with Windows Server 2003, Server 2008 caches the installation files for most roles so there is no need to supply the installation media when installing any of the Terminal Services Roles.

License Server activation remains unchanged, except for a small terminology change; Windows Server 2003’s Internet (Automatic) activation is now just called Automatic.

License Database Files

Once the installation is complete, you will notice a few differences in the files contained in the LServer directory compared to those from Windows Server 2003. The changes are a result of an updated JET database format, also used with Microsoft Exchange 2007.

Windows Server 2008

Windows Server 2003




This is a checkpoint file used to determine which transactions in the transaction log (edb.log) must still be committed to the licensing database. This file is updated each time a transaction is committed to disk and is used to quickly recover the integrity of the licensing database if the database was not shut down correctly.



Current transaction log for the Terminal Service Licensing database (TLSLic.edb). This file will grow to 5 MB in size, at which time it will be renamed to edbxxxxx.log, starting with edb00001.log and incrementing each time.





Reserve transaction log files that serve as a drive space placeholder. There are two of these created, typically 5 MB in size, and are only used in the event the drive hosting the transaction logs runs out of space. These files are used to facilitate a clean shutdown of the database.

In Windows Server 2003, these files were simply res1.log and res2.log.


This is used as a template transaction log file, which is used when the edb.log file reaches 5 MB in size and is renamed. While edb.log is being renamed, edbtmp.log begins accumulating new transactions, and is then renamed to edb.log once the existing edb.log file has been renamed.

Once edbtmp.log is renamed to edb.log, a new empty edbtmp.log file will be created. There was no Windows Server 2003 equivalent.



This is the actual Terminal Services Licensing database file.



This is temporary workspace for processing transactions.

CAL Types

Windows Server 2008 License Servers can issue a plethora of Terminal Server license types, including all varieties of Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003 and Windows 2000 CALs. However, the only Windows Server 2008 Terminal Server CALs now available are Per-User and Per-Device. Absent is the eluding “External Connector License”, although surely it won’t be missed as it was hardly ever used due to cost.

In total, a Windows Server 2008 License Server can issue 9 different types of Terminal Server CALs:

Operating System

Per-User CAL

Per Device CAL

Internet/External Connector License

Temporary CAL

“Built-In” CAL

Windows Server 2008




Windows Server 2003




Windows 2000 Server




Temporary CALs issued from a license server always match the version of Windows on which the license server runs, so Windows Server 2008 license servers will only issue Windows Server 2008 temporary CALs. The “built-in” CAL still exists and can be issued to clients connecting to a Windows 2000 terminal server.

License Server Discovery Process

The discovery process has not changed much from Windows Server 2003 to 2008. However, the terminology has changed for the discovery mode. Windows Server 2003 offered a choice of three modes – Workgroup, Domain or Enterprise; however Windows Server 2008 now refers to the latter more appropriately as Forest.

Selecting Forest mode adds an entry in the Active Directory site object, just as it did in Windows Server 2003. Since the same location in Active Directory is used, no schema updates are necessary prior to installing a Windows Server 2008 license server.

As for the actual discovery process, nothing has changed:

  • Workgroup mode license servers must be in the same local subnet as the terminal servers to be discovered automatically.

  • Domain mode license server will be discovered automatically provided the license server is installed on a domain controller.

  • Forest mode license servers will always be discovered automatically by terminal servers as an entry for the terminal server is made in the Active Directory site object (just as in Windows Server 2003). Microsoft recommends using Forest mode for most implementations.

  • A license server installed on the same server as the terminal server itself will always be discovered, regardless of mode.

More to Come

Stay tuned for part two of this article series where I’ll discuss changes regarding per-user CAL allocation, reporting, CAL revocation and management interface changes.

If you would like to read the next article in this series please go to Changes to Windows Server 2008 Terminal Server Licensing  (Part 2).

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