Q. How can I avoid users having to enter product keys when I deploy Microsoft applications through Group Policy or Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS)?

A. If you have volume-license copies of Microsoft products, such as Microsoft Office, you don't have to activate the product after installing it and you can use one product key for all copies. However, users still must enter the product key even if you deploy the application through Group Policy or SMS.

To avoid users having to enter the product key, the best (and simplest) approach is to create an administrative installation of the application by running setup.exe with the /a switch. The /a switch lets you specify a folder into which the installation files will be copied and lets the administrator enter the product key so users don't have to. (Specifying the /a switch doesn't install the application on the machine; it just creates a new installation medium.) An administrative installation creates a new .msi file that, when it's used, doesn't prompt the user to enter the product key. To perform the administrative installation procedure, follow these steps:

  1. Insert the Microsoft Office 2003 CD-ROM. (You can use this procedure with most Microsoft products, including Microsoft Office XP, Microsoft Office Publisher, and Microsoft Project.)
  2. Start a command-prompt session (click Start, Run, and enter cmd.exe).
  3. Change the drive prompt to the CD-ROM drive.
  4. Run setup.exe, specifying the /a switch:
    setup /a
  5. The Microsoft Office 2003 Setup wizard will start. At the screen that the figure at Figure shows, enter an organization name, specify an installation folder, and enter the product key. Click Next.
  6. Check "I accept the terms in the license agreement" and click Install.
  7. An installation progress screen will be displayed. After the installation is finished, click OK to close the Installation Complete dialog box.

If you navigate to the folder you specified in step 5, you'll see a complete Office installation set that has .msi files dated with the current date. Use these files to deploy the application through Group Policy or SMS.

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