Microsoft to shut down TechNet subscription service

Microsoft to shut down TechNet subscription service

Summary: One of the best software deals around is about to be retired. Microsoft announced today that after 15 years it will shut down its TechNet subscriptions service in 60 days. Microsoft has other, similar programs, but none are as generous as TechNet.


Good night, TechNet.

The online Technet blogs and customer support forums will live on, but Microsoft announced today in a letter to subscribers that it plans to retire its venerable TechNet subscriptions service. New subscriptions will no longer be available after August 31, 2013, and the subscription service will shut down as current subscribers' contracts end.


Microsoft has offered TechNet subscriptions for most of the modern Windows era, debuting in 1998 as a massive packet of CDs, and evolving into a download option as broadband connections became common.

The services have historically been one of the best deals around for frugal IT professionals and PC enthusiasts. For an annual subscription fee of a few hundred dollars, subscribers get the right to download virtually all of the desktop and server software Microsoft sells, with multiple product keys. The software is licensed for evaluation purposes only, but that restriction is part of the license agreement and not enforced in the software itself.

As a result, a lot of enthusiasts used TechNet as a way to get cut-rate Windows client and server upgrades and licenses. Those product keys would up activating Windows on PCs deployed for everyday use instead of hewing to the “evaluation only” restriction.

To make matters worse, that smoking deal was also a boon for software pirates, who figured out long ago that they could subscribe to TechNet and sell the keys (sometimes along with counterfeit media) via the web, at prices that were too good to be true.

Over the years, Microsoft has tried to clamp down on piracy, cutting the number of product keys available to TechNet subscribers in 2010 and again a year ago, in 2012. It also changed the terms so that usage rights expired when the subscription did (although product keys continued to work).

But as the farewell letter notes, “IT trends and business dynamics have evolved,” and TechNet has outlived its original purpose.

Given its history, today’s announcement shouldn’t be a surprise. Here are the details:

  • New subscriptions won’t be accepted after August 31, 2013. Newly purchased subscriptions must be activated by September 30, 2013.
  • Current subscribers will still receive subscription benefits until their current contract ends. For most retail customers,subscribers are limited to a single year.
  • Existing subscriptions that expire on or before September 30, 2013 may be renewed for one year. Renewals may be purchased until August 31, 2013.
  • Subscribers with active Microsoft Certified Trainer accounts may continue to access their program benefits until March 31, 2014.
  • MVPs will continue to receive the option for a free Visual Studio Premium with MSDN subscription. 

In practice, that means TechNet downloads will continue until sometime near the end of 2013, as those one-time renewals expire.

Microsoft has posted an FAQ here that also covers subscription benefits through Microsoft programs such as Not-For-Resale (NFR), Volume Licensing (VL), IT Academy (ITA), MAPS, Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), and Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP)..

According to Microsoft, “The service is being retired so that Microsoft can focus on bettering our free experiences for IT professionals through TechNet including the TechNet Evaluation Center, Microsoft Virtual Academy and TechNet Forums.”

Those programs typically offer time-limited versions of software that function just like fully licensed versions until they hit an expiration date. For Windows 8, Microsoft offers a 90-day evaluation version of its Enterprise edition only. (Enterprise editions are available as volume licenses only, not at retail.) That’s a far cry from what TechNet subscribers get today: three Windows 8 Pro product keys, each with multiple activations permitted, as well as a perpetual license for Windows 8 Enterprise.

Microsoft typically offers Windows Server for longer trial periods, such as the 180-day Windows Server 2012 Essentials trial.

Product keys downloaded as part of a TechNet subscription won’t expire, although license rights for products downloaded as part of a current subscription will cease when the subscription ends.

Microsoft’s developer-focused offering, MSDN Subscriptions, will continue to be offered. MSDN prices are significantly higher than those for TechNet. For IT professionals who genuinely need Windows client and server releases for long-term evaluation, the MSDN Operating Systems package is probably the best deal. It costs $699 for the first year, with renewals running $499. That’s a steep jump from the $199 and $299 annual costs (renewals $149 and $249) for TechNet Standard and Professional, respectively.

The MSDN OS offering includes virtually all editions of Windows, even unsupported ones, as well as Windows Server 2012 and 2012 Essentials. Microsoft Office is included only with the two priciest levels, starting at more than $6119 for the first year and $2569 a year for renewals.

Microsoft did not announce any changes in its Action Pack program, which offers discounted software to registered partners.

Technet license changes through the years:

Topics: Software, Microsoft, Servers, Software Development, Windows

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  • Wow!

    That's a serious bummer.
    David Gewirtz
    • yes it is

      sad day.
    • Bizspark?

      Somebody is still buying Technet? Ever hear of Bizspark?

      Jump through those hoops and get most of that software free for three years.
      Decide you are a tech startup, choose a name, use your own address, put up a one page placeholder website, google voice number, poof, get all kinds of stuff for free or at great partner discounted prices.

      Seriously, why doesn't anybody talk about this more often?
      • Thanks

        thanks for the bizpark tip.
      • bizpark

        how can I put up a one page placeholder website, can you give an example?
      • And the Sole Intent Is...?

        Is this simply to gain free software for personal use, and gain, by committing fraud? Or are you a legitimate enterprise?
      • Bizspark is not guaranteed approval

        I applied for Bizspark last year and was denied. They required that I was creating a unique cloud based product to be accepted. Since I am a consultant I did not qualify. I can't believe they are doing this. At least someone tried to create a petition:
      • How about DreamSpark?
    • this is a gfy to technet and all the greedy gobins that want to rape us and

      Good bye good service - helow virii, spyware, adware, junk and crap. zd is the greedy glutton of malware that perpertrates the internet. Sorry to lose a valuable service. This is just the tip of corporate greed.
  • Sad day

    R.I.P. TechNet. I'll miss you dearly!
  • “The service is being retired

    so that Microsoft can focus on bettering our free experiences.."

    Translation - things aren't going well in the 'post PC' world and we need to raise revenue by forcing you into higher cost subscriptions and reducing the availability of free stuff.
    • Good Translation

      Unfortuately :(
    • And?

      It was a very generous service they were offering and they have every right to discontinue it. They have no obligation to offer anything for free.
      • yes, it was quite generous

        @jhnnybgood - They're under no obligation, but there are a LOT of us out there that use Technet for the home lab to keep ahead of what the enterprise is running, so that when new stuff DOES hit the enterprise sector we know what it looks like and how to interact. Or in the case of Win8, what to avoid or how to mitigate problems. Individual consultants with lower budgets are definitely in that boat, but I know IT folks who pay to keep one about, and I personally have one because I lost my company paid subscription after a layoff. Without Technet, a lot of Field Engineers and up through the Systems Administration guys will start to look outside the box, whether that means pirating or personally jumping ship to Linux or Mac. The former is GOOD for Microsoft (just like it was good for them when the Field Engineers who were pirating at home brought their skills as well as snuck Windows into the workplace), but if the the latter happens will have bad consequences for their marketshare in a few short years. So while they're under no obligation, there are consequences. Time will tell what the consequences are, but history would indicate they are on the losing side of this one unless they drop the activation crap so as to encourage piracy on the home front again.
        • admiraljkb is right

          The hidden value of these subscriptions is that it did allow people to keep up with the technology. And it created the people who new how to use these programs. But maybe MS is not concerned with that anymore. They want everybody in the cloud so they no longer need all these people pushing their technology.
          I was bothered by the killing of Small Business Server and I am more bothered by the end of TechNet.
          • indeed

          • Except that ...

            ... you can freely download 90 eval copies of almost everything Microsoft make (and it sounds like this is the direction they're moving in for the remaining products they don't currently offer).

            So, net-net, this is a better position since you'll be able to play with most of Microsoft's tech free of charge - which is cheaper than a TechNet subscription anyhow.
          • 90 days doesn't work for lab environment

            I have a big lab running at home with almost the whole MS catalog on actual rack mount servers that are truly a lab. It really helps me out in the field in the enterprise world but it is impossible to even build an environment like that in 90 days. I can see some reasons for them discontinuing but there should be some loophole for true professionals to have a free lab without time limits for testing and to encourage rolling out their products.
          • bingo

            @jrp, You understand it pretty well. Sounds like we're in the same boat. The folks that think this move is ok have either stopped being technical (ie went the mgt path and had the technical bones pulled from their heads), or just aren't in a position to need a technet.
          • Technet

            Petition against ending Technet :




            and a German one :