Windows Remote Desktop Server Services CAL 2016 50 User Key

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What You Need to Know about Windows Server CALs

Client Access Licenses (CALs) are different from Windows Server software licenses. A Windows Server CAL is the license that gives users and devices the right to access a server installed with Microsoft Windows Server software.

Why should I buy CALs?

CALs are required by Microsoft licensing for all users or devices that access Windows Server Standard or Windows Server Datacenter. When a customer buys Windows Server Standard or Datacenter, they receive a server license that allows them to install the operating system on one computer. A server software license by itself doesn’t provide the license rights to allow anyone to connect to that computer, whether they work for the company or not. Instead, each user or device needs a CAL.

Windows Server 2016 CAL Customer Scenario

A small office with 15 users that access Windows Server 2016 R2 from multiple devices (desktops, laptops, tablets, phones) buys a server installed with Windows Server 2016 R2 Standard. They should also buy 15 Windows Server 2016 User CALs, one for each employee.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are there Windows Server 2016 R2 CALs?

A: No. CALs were not re-versioned when 2016 R2 shipped. Windows Server 2016 CALs are the proper license for Windows Server 2016 R2 users or devices.

Q: Are CALs included with Windows Server 2016 R2?

A: No. CALs are sold separately, which gives you flexibility to purchase only what you need now—and add more when you need them.

Q: What is the difference between a server license and a CAL? Why do I need both?

A: The server license gives you the right to install and use the server software. A CAL grants a user or device the right to access the server software. This structure offers license affordability to organizations of all sizes.

Q: When do I need to acquire a CAL?

A: You need a CAL as soon as users or devices access or use your server. Keep in mind that you don’t need CALs for unauthenticated access through the Internet.

Q: Can I use a device CAL and a user CAL to access the same server?

A: Yes. Device, User, and RDS CALs are all designed to access the same server.

Q: Is each CAL tied to a specific user or device?

A: Yes. CALs must be assigned to specific users or devices. If a user leaves the company or a device is retired, you can reassign the CAL.

Q: I have some extra CALs from an older version that are not being used. Can I apply these to servers running a newer version?

A: No. CALs must be the same version as—or a more recent version of—the server software they are accessing.



There are two types of RDS CAL:

RDS Per User CALs

RDS Per Device CALs


Securely connect remote users

Users can get access from managed or unmanaged devices

Connect to session-based or virtual-machine-based desktops

Use datacenter apps within corporate networks or from the internet


Securely connect remote users

Users can get access from managed or unmanaged devices

Connect to session-based or virtual-machine-based desktops

Use datacenter apps within corporate networks or from the internet



Per Device Per User
RDS CALs are physically assigned to each device. RDS CALs are assigned to a user in Active Directory.
RDS CALs are tracked by the license server. RDS CALs are tracked by the license server.
RDS CALs can be tracked regardless of Active Directory membership. RDS CALs cannot be tracked within a workgroup.
You can revoke up to 20% of RDS CALs. You cannot revoke any RDS CALs.
Temporary RDS CALs are valid for 52–89 days. Temporary RDS CALs are not available.
RDS CALs cannot be overallocated. RDS CALs can be overallocated (in breach of the Remote Desktop licensing agreement).

When you use the Per Device model, a temporary license is issued the first time a device connects to the RD Session Host. The second time that device connects, as long as the license server is activated and there are available WINDOWS SERVER 2019 RDS CALs, the license server issues a permanent RDS Per Device CAL.

When you use the Per User model, licensing is not enforced and each user is granted a license to connect to an RD Session Host from any number of devices. The license server issues licenses from the available RDS CAL pool or the Over-Used RDS CAL pool. It’s your responsibility to ensure that all of your users have a valid license and zero Over-Used CALs—otherwise, you’re in violation of the Remote Desktop Services license terms.

An example of where one would use the Per Device model would be in an environment where there are two or more shifts using the same computers to access the RD Session Host(s). The Per User model would be best for environments where users have their own dedicated Windows device to access the RD Session Host(s).

To ensure you are in compliance with the Remote Desktop Services license terms, track the number of RDS Per User CALs used in your organization and be sure to have enough RDS Per User CALs installed on the license server for all of your users.

You can use the Remote Desktop Licensing Manager to track and generate reports on RDS Per User CALs.



The RDS CAL for your users or devices must be compatible with the version of Windows Server that the user or device is connecting to. You can’t use RDS CALs for earlier versions to access later versions of Windows Server, but you can use later versions of RDS CALs to access earlier versions of Windows Server. For example, an RDS 2016 CAL or higher is required to connect to a Windows Server 2016 RD Session Host, while an RDS 2012 CAL or higher is required to connect to a Windows Server 2012 R2 RD Session Host.


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