SBS 2003 CAL’s and SBS 2008  are no longer available for purchase, however there are still many of these servers in use and some in growing companies in need of additional CAL’s.  The solution is to buy SBS 2011 CAL’s and exercise downgrade rights.  Microsoft does have very good documentation available for doing so, but based on questions in the forum it seems to be very difficult to find, partially because the links have changed several times.  This article is by no means authoritative, you should refer to the current Microsoft documentation, but it is pulled, word for word, from the most recent documents I was able to find;   SBS 2011_Licensing_FAQ

The following outlines the options for purchasing, the downgrade rights available, and how to install the SBS 2003 CAL’s.  SBS 2008 of course does not require the CAL’s to be installed, you just have to maintain documentation for your CAL licensing for any potential audits.

Q. How do I obtain CALs for earlier versions of Windows Small Business Server when they are no longer offered on price lists?
A. It depends on what editions you need CAL for:

  • If you need additional SBS 2008 or SBS 2003 Standard CALs; you will need to acquire Windows Small Business Server 2011 CAL Suites and exercise your downgrade rights.
  • If you need additional SBS 2008 Premium CALs, they will remain available on the Open price lists for a period of time. This is due to the fact that the SBS 2011 Premium Add-on does not include the same components that are in 2008 Premium and therefore the SBS 2011 Premium Add-on CAL Suites do not offer downgrade rights.

Customers who acquire SBS 2011 CALs or SBS 2011 Premium Add-on CALs are eligible for the following CAL downgrades:


Q. How will SBS 2003 CAL activation work in that scenario since SBS 2011 [Edit: and 2008] does not require CAL activation but SBS 2003 does?
A. If you have acquired SBS 2011 CALs through the Volume Licensing (VL) channel, you can obtain SBS 2003 CAL product keys through the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC); these keys can then be used to downgrade to SBS 2003 (R2) CAL’s. For customers who have acquired SBS 2008 and 2011 CALs from channels other than VL, such as FPP and OEM, please use the following product keys to activate SBS 2003 Standard CALs.

A product key can only be used once to activate the designated number of CALs for that given key. Therefore a combination of keys may need to be used to activate all of your 2003 CALs. We have provided 3 keys that will activate 5 CALs each and 3 keys that will activate 20 CALs each. This is so customers can activate anywhere from 5 to the maximum number of 75 CALs supported with SBS 2003. It is recommended that you use the 20 CAL Keys first and then use the 5 CAL keys to avoid a situation where adding the 20 CAL key(s) last may put you over the 75 CAL limit when you have existing CALs.



Comments on: "How can I add CALs to my SBS 2003, or SBS 2008" (11)

  1. Hello, I mistakenly installed on a license server that were not what were his, as I can remove those licenses? Thank you.

  2. I Can’t use this manual, bacause SBS 2003 not use these type of licenses

    • It seems to remove or transfer CAL’s you need to:
      -go to Server Management
      -choose Licensing
      -click on add Licenses
      -a wizard will start
      -choose agree
      -under contact method select telephone (internet will not work for this)
      -enter the license code or codes you wish to remove and continue
      -you will be given a list of phone numbers to call, and Microsoft will help you from there

      There should be no charge by Microsoft for the call as I understand it.

  3. I have a SBS 2003 with the default 5 User CAL’s. I would like to buy 10 more SBS 2003 CAL’s. If I understand correctly, I will need to buy SBS 2011 CAL’s and exercise by downgrade rights to install SBS 2003 CAL’s. Is that correct ?? Few questions:

    1) Once I buy the 2011 cals, do I use the product key’s listed in your blog? Or do I have to call Microsoft to get the product key to activate the 2003 CAL’s.

    2) What are some good sites to buy the CAL’s ?

    3) How do I install the CAL’s ? Please advise.

    Thanks !!

    • Yes, you do need to buy SBS 2011 CAL’s, standard or premium, which ever meets your needs, and excise downgrade rights. To answer the other questions:

      1) Yes you use the keys in the blog article, or please refer to the Microsoft documentation from which this was extracted; SBS 2011_Licensing_FAQ. They will activate without calling Microsoft.

      2) I cannot recommend a source for purchasing licenses, but I do recommend you buy through a local Microsoft Partner who is a licensing reseller. They can assure you get the correct CAL licensing version that will allow the downgrade rights, this may be limited to FPP, and/or Volume Licensing versions. The following site may help to locate a Microsoft partner in your area

      3) Licenses are added by using the SBS 2003 Console under Server Management, Licensing, Add Licenses
      Keep in mind you MUST keep the paper documentation of your new CAL’s and be prepared to present them if audited. You also cannot install the same 2011 CAL’s on one server, and exercise downgrade rights on another.

  4. Thanks for a quick response. I really appreciate your input. I guess what you meant was to buy SBS 2011 CALs. I am bit confuse, why would Microsoft publish the activation keys. What if someone just use those keys without buying the CAL licenses.

    Thanks !!

    • Yes 2011, sorry. I corrected that. Glad it was of some help.

      As for why they publish the keys, I am not certain, but all current server version CAL’s are based only on an honour system, there is no way to add them to any server since 2008 for monitoring. This is also true of SBS 2008 and 2011, which is why you MUST keep the documentation. Companies do get audited, and the penalties are high if you do not have proper licensing verifications for all software and CAL’s.

  5. I have SBS 2008 standard. I have five users assign to remote into server. I notice only two users can concurrently login into the server. How many CAL that I need and what type of CALs I should purchase?

    • Hi Harry.
      All Windows servers allow 2 remote sessions for administration, ONLY. It is not for running applications. In order to allow more remote users you have to install Terminal Services, now called Remote Desktop Services. That role is not available for any version of SBS. It is also cannot be installed on a domain controller, though there were hacks to do so on older, non-SBS, servers versions.

      You need to add another server to your network running Server Standard, physical or virtual, any version 2008 to 2012 R2, join it to the domain, and enable Remote Desktop services on it. You will then need an SBS CAL for each user accessing any server resources and an RDS CAL for each user accessing the RDS server. The following article outlines the process.

      Note: if you have SBS 2008 premium it has the licensing included for the second/RDS server. You still need the CALs as described above.


  6. graciasssss me ayudo mucho

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