How to configure Visual Studio 2013 with licenses from a multi-pack

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2/21/2014 - Marco (updated on 11/13/2017)

If you're only interesting in what we promised to show you in the title of the article, then you can jump to the tl;dr at the end.

Silver Partnership

Encodo is a member of the Microsoft Partner Program with a Silver Competency. We maintain this competency through a combination of the following:

  • A yearly fee
  • Registration of .NET products developed by Encodo (Punchclock and Quino in our case)
  • Customer endorsements for .NET products that Encodo has developed
  • Competency exams

This involves no small amount of work and means that the competency isn't that easy to get. You can also use Microsoft competencies (e.g. MCSE) but we don't have any of those (yet).

We've had this membership for a while in order to get partner benefits, which basically translates to having licenses for Microsoft software at our disposal in order to develop and test .NET software. This includes 10 licenses for all premium versions of Visual Studio, up to and including the latest and greatest.

The partner web site

In previous versions, we were able to go to the partner web site and, after a lot of effort, get license keys for our 10 licenses and distribute them among our developers.

I mention the effort only because the partner site(s) and page(s) and application(s) are so notoriously hard to navigate. Every year, Microsoft improves something on the site, generally to the style but not the usability. I pluralized the components above because it's hard to tell how many different teams, applications and technologies are actually behind the site.1

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  • You have to log in with your official LiveID but some pages mysteriously don't use the common login whereas others do use it and still others just log you out entirely, forcing you to log in again.
  • Some pages work in any browser whereas others highly recommend using Internet Explorer, some even recommending version 11. If you don't use IE, you'll always wonder whether the site failed to work because it's so buggy or because your browser is not properly supported.
  • The downloads page includes Windows operating systems and server software of all kinds as well as productivity software like Office and Visio but mentions nothing about Visual Studio.

It's basically always been a mess and still is a mess and our suspicion is that Microsoft deliberately makes it hard to redeem your licenses so that you'll either (A) just purchase more licenses via a channel that actually delivers them or (B) call their for-fee hotline and spend a bunch of money waiting on hold before you get forwarded from one person to another until finally ending up with someone who can answer your question.


The convoluted path to licenses

That question being, in case we've forgotten, "how can I please get your software to recognize the licenses that I purchased instead of threatening me that it will go dark in 90 days?"

The magical answer to that question is below.

First, what are we actually trying to accomplish? We have a multi-pack license and we want some way of letting our users/developers register products. In most cases, this still works as it always has: get a license key and enter it/register it with the local installation of the product (e.g. Office, Windows, etc.)

With Visual Studio 2013 (VS2013), things are slightly different. There are no multi-pack license keys anymore. Instead, users log in to their Visual Studio with a particular user. VS2013 checks that account for a license on the MSDN server and enables its functionality accordingly. If you have no license registered, then you get a 90-day trial license.

If the license is a multi-pack and the user accounts are individual...how does that work? Easy: just associate individual users with the partner account and assign them licenses. However, this all works via MSDN, so it's not enough to just have a Windows Live account. That user must also be registered as an MSDN subscriber.

So, for each user, you're going to have to do the following:

  1. Get them a Windows Live account if they don't already have one
  2. Add that account ID to the partner account
  3. Enable that user to get premium benefits (this can take up to 72 hours; see below for more detail)
  4. Register that Windows Live account as an MSDN subscriber
  5. Enter your credentials into VS2013 or refresh your license

The solution (with screenshots)

Sounds easy, right?. Once you know what to do, it's not so bad. But we had a lot of trouble discovering this process on our own. So here are the exact steps you need to take, with screenshots and hints to help you along.

  1. Log in with the Windows LiveID that corresponds to the account under which the Silver Membership is registered.

  2. Navigate to the account settings where you can see the list of members registered with your account.

  3. Add the email address of the user to that list of members2

  4. Make sure that the "Premium" box is checked at the end of the list3

  5. A six-character TechID will be generated for that user. The site claims that it can take up to 72 hours for this number to be ready for use on the MSDN site. Our experience was that it took considerably less time.

  6. Give that user their ID and have them register with MSDN to create a subscriber

    1. Get the Tech ID for your user from the steps above;
    2. Browse to the MSDN home page and click "Downloads"4
    3. Click "MSDN Subscriptions" in the sub-menu under "Downloads" (totally intuitive, right?)5
    4. Ignore the gigantic blue button enticing you to check out "Access benefits" and click "Register a subscription"6
    5. You'll finally be on the page to "Activate your subscription". Use the exact same address as registered with the partner account and enter your Tech ID.7
  7. Once the user has a subscriber, that user can log in to VS2013 from the registration dialog to enable that license8

Logging in has other benefits: you can store your VS2013 settings on the Live server and use them wherever you work with VS2013 and have logged in.


  1. You can confirm our impressions just by looking at the screenshots attached below.

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Nellie Greenberg
5/16/2018

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