Visual Studio 2013 – Using a Product Key


Recently, I mentioned that the newly minted Visual Studio 2013 asks you to authenticate with a Microsoft account to tie your copy to a specific account.

This comes in the wake of Visual Studio no longer being pre-pidded (when a product has a license key included in the installation media) when you obtain a copy from MSDN – for MSDN subscription holders, of course.  I assume this also will apply to retail copies as well.

I discovered by scrolling through MSDN license keys that it is possible to unlock Visual Studio without needing to use a Microsoft account.  Let’s see how.

Get a Product Key

You’ll need to have an MSDN Subscription which matches the version of Visual Studio you are using.  Authenticate to MSDN Subscriptions and go to the Subscriber Downloads section.

Here you’ll see a tab for “My Product Keys”.  In the list of keys there should be static activation keys for your account.  Find and copy out the product key for your version of Visual Studio 2013 (e.g. Premium, Ultimate etc).

MSDN Product Keys

Update: Here’s the relevant section which specifies the static activation key:


If you don’t have an MSDN subscription, but have instead purchased a retail copy of Visual Studio 2013, there should be a Product Key with the product.  A boxed product should have a Product Key on the media (or box) and a soft copy should have a key associated with it somehow (maybe it is mailed to you?).

Install Visual Studio 2013

..and then launch the program.  You’ll be prompted after the initial configuration to authenticate using a Microsoft Account – click on the second option in the smaller font, right below the “Sign In” button.  This skips the sign in process:

  VS 2013  VS 2013 Authenticate 

There’s some additional configuration collected:

VS 2013 Configure Visual Studio 2013

Once that is finished, the main Visual Studio IDE should load with the Welcome Page™.  From here, go to the HELP menu and select “Register Product”:

Visual Studio 2013 Register Product Key

This brings you to a substantial looking dialog, again this is a bit counter-intuitive.  Much like Windows, what your aim here is to give the product a new Product Key (a random one is used when installed new).  The option (or link) you want is “Change my product license”:

Visual Studio 2013 Change Product Key

This presents you with a smaller modal dialog where you can now paste in the key you obtained from MSDN earlier, note this requires elevated permissions for some reason:

Visual Studio 2013 Enter Product Key

Assuming your new Product Key is valid, the key should validate and you should ideally restart Visual Studio.  Before you fire up Visual Studio again, there’s some minor housekeeping which I’d recommend.


The next logical step is to fire up the registry editor (regedit) and add the following key:

REG_DWORD value: 1

Visual Studio 2013 Lower Case Menu
Much nicer!

\This key forces Visual Studio to revert to normalized menu naming, because we all dislike those menu items shouting at us in UPPER CASE, don’t we?


That’s it.  Visual Studio is now licensed and ready to go.

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