Windows 10 Subscription Activation, helps automatically upgrade an OEM device from Windows 10 Pro to Windows 10 Enterprise, when a user logs onto Azure Active Diretory (Azure AD), making all the enterprise features instantly available.
This feature join Windows AutoPilot, let you eliminate product keys altogether, and instead let you assign Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5 licenses directly to Azure AD users — just as you would with Office 365 or EMS. Once this step-up is done, you can see the subscription status in the Settings app, as shown in the screenshot below:
Windows 10 Subscription Activation is supported with Windows 10 Pro 1703 and later releases. And, because, it isn't a direct replacement for KMS or MAK activation, "a pre-activated Windows 10 Pro typically through OEM activation is required." Activation through OEM key embedded in the firmware, enables automatic compliance for the underlying Pro edition licensing requirement to deploy Windows.
Since it leverages Azure AD, the device will periodically check for a valid subscription license, if the license is removed or if the device is not able to check for a long period, it'll automatically step down to Windows 10 Pro. So, make sure to have the internet access on the device.
This feature also works for traditional Active Directory-joined devices. However, associating Azure AD account with a device through "Add work account" process won't work.
To make this feature work, the following is needed:
- Azure Active Directory, but any Azure AD edition will work.
- A per-user Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5 subscription through an Enterprise Agreement (EA) or Microsoft Products & Services Agreements (MPSA).
- Follow the steps under to make licenese available in Azure AD, if you've an active per-user Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5 or Windows VDA E3 or E5 subscription:
- a corresponding $0 Add-On license, which starts adding license to Azure AD,
- and then designated volume licensing admin (online services contact) will receive and process some e-mailed instructions.
- Once this is done, you can see license in Azure Active Directory, as shown in the picture below:
For SMB customers, similar capabilities as part of the Cloud Solution Provider [CSP] channel were announced last year — see here.
Many assume that this is done by Intune (or other MDM services) pushing down a policy to change the Windows 10 product key, either using a MAK key or a KMS key. And while that's certainly possible to do, that approach is not ideal: MAK keys have limited activation counts, so you have to make sure you don't run out of activations, and KMS requires periodic connectivity to the corporate network as well as on-premises infrastructure, explains Microsoft.