Dealing with App-V Limitations: Machine Specific Licensing

By Rory Monaghan


Licensing is the bane of the IT Administrator. Vendors are anything but consistent when it comes to how they license their products and how you must apply their license(s). With licensing you might have applications licensed per user, per seat, per machine and even possibly restricted based on the number of concurrent users (More and more important with the increased adoption of shared session hosts). You may have an option to purchase a volume license which covers X number of users and is a flexible form of license, usually measured via an audit. I guess the most common for retail Consumer Off The Shelf products that everybody uses would be a license which applied per user.

When applying licenses some vendors applications require a license file to be copied to a certain directory, some set the license\product key in the registry,others use dedicated license servers etc. All of which tend to lend themselves reasonably well to both traditional packaging and sequencing. Unfortunately for those of us that perform sequencing work, there’s a special breed of asshole licensing out there and that is machine specific licensing. Meaning, when you activate or apply the license for the application and it’s then tied to that machine and that machine only. If you go to another machine and Add the application, it will require another license key and if you go yet another machine, that will require another license key and so on and so forth.  This makes applications licensed in this way, immobile and inflexible.

Further to the inflexibility and general pain in the ass these types of applications can be, There’s an extra problem for packagers. If you wish to sequence this application using the App-V Sequencer, you spin up your VM, you capture the install of the application and then what? Apply and activate the license so that’s captured in the package? NOPE. If you do that the sequenced package will be licensed to the VM you are using for the capture. When you take the sequenced application and then try to use it on a different machine it will not work. This same logic applies if you are attempting to use a different repackaging tool with a snapshot\monitoring\capture utility. This not necessarily a unique problem for App-V.

Never fear, Machine specific licensing is not as common as it once was. Personally, I’ve actually started to see it more and more again BUT these vendors tend to have an Enterprise licensing which can be used as an alternative. They just use the machine specific licensing to prevent regular consumers from sharing. Certain PC games by the likes of EA have used this type of licensing. Flexera AdminStudio which is an Enterprise application also has this type of licensing when you purchase individual licenses BUT you do have the option of using a Licensing Server.

In some very rare cases you may even be able to sequence the application and just opt to not apply the license and then create a pre-script to apply this when the application is Added to the client, in even more rare cases you may even be able to have a script run on Removal of the app to claim back the license so it can be applied to another machine. I stress that this is very, very rare from what I’ve experienced. Many vendors with this type of license require you to go through a web portal in order to reclaim the license which does not lend itself well to automation or scripting. Thus why the December 2014 version of the Decision Matrix does not show this as a path forward. It’s so much of an exception that it’s not worth a confusion in the high level chart.



The graph shows that if you have an application with machine specific licensing your best course of action is to contact the vendor to explore options for an alternative licensing model. If you cannot get an alternative then unfortunately sequencing isn’t possible. You will need to deploy as a traditional install. If you can get an alternative license type. Go ahead and sequence with that bad boy!


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