How do I License for Developing, Testing, Designing and Demonstration? – MSDN and Visual Studio


Thanks to Wictor who brought to my attention the need for some basic/simplified info on how to license for a Development/Test environment

You will be glad to hear you do NOT need to buy full production licenses for testing, developing, demonstration or design

MSDN or Visual studio should cover all your development needs, some info below and HERE

We license developing on a per unique individual basis, so if Joe is my developer or tester, I buy 1 MSDN or VS license for him, he can use this license on any number of devices and any number of copies of the software, provided that its solely for his testing, developing, demonstration or design, checking email or playing games doesn’t constitute testing, developing or demonstration, so would need to be fully licensed…..

Its an “all you can eat”, but the licenses only cover designing, developing, testing, and demonstrating your software product or products, so it cannot cover staging or live/production environments

License rules from the Product Use Rights document, which covers Volume Licensing purchases of MSDN/VS

I) Installation and Use Rights.

  • a) General. One user may install and use copies of the software to design, develop, test and demonstrate your programs. You may not use the software in a production environment, including staging on a server in a production environment.
  • b) Included Microsoft Software Programs. This section of these product use rights applies to all Microsoft programs included with the software. If another section covers a program and gives you other rights that do not conflict with this section, you also have those rights.

II) Additional Licensing Requirements and/or Use Rights.

  • a) User Testing. Your end users may access the software to perform acceptance tests on your programs.
  • b) Distributable Code. You may use Distributable Code as described in the Universal License Terms.
  • c) Downgrade. The licensed user may run a prior version in place of the licensed version for any copy run. This right to run a prior version is in addition to the right to run the product version you licensed. The licensed user may run both versions at the same time.

And MSDN Retail EULA regarding Server Software

Server Software. For purposes of designing, developing, testing, and demonstrating your software product(s) that run in conjunction with the Server Software (any such software product, “Licensee Server Software”), Microsoft grants you a limited, nonexclusive, royalty-free license to make, use, and install the Server Software for any individual Server Software on any number of Servers. All portions of any one copy of Server Software, however, must be installed and used on one and the same Server.

Any number of end users (i.e., in addition to licensed MSDN end users) may access and use the Server Software via Devices without the necessity of acquiring additional licenses for the Software, provided that such access is solely for purposes of end-user testing of Licensee Server Software created using MSDN. By way of example and not limitation, the foregoing access rights do not extend to routine internal quality assurance testing by employees or contractors whose primary function is the testing of software.

And Application Software

For each MSDN license acquired that includes Desktop Applications, you may make and use one additional copy of any of the Desktop Applications provided with your subscription level for business purposes, provided that such business purposes relate specifically to your design, development, testing, and demonstration of your software product(s).

“Desktop Application” shall include Microsoft Project, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Visio, Microsoft FrontPage, and any other products that Microsoft may provide through MSDN from time to time.

Microsoft Office. In addition to, but solely with respect to the Microsoft Office Component, for each MSDN license acquired that includes Desktop Applications, you may make, use, and install one additional copy of Microsoft Office on a single computer for general business purposes provided that he or she is the only individual using such copy of Microsoft Office.

What about Testers?

MSDN licenses are required for testers who do progressive test, configuration testing, debugging and maintenance programming.
MSDN licenses are not required for user acceptance testing or stress testing, provided that that the testers will not be doing any debugging, configuration, or maintenance.    

Note: You can buy MSDN/VS via any Volume Licensing Program, its sold as License + Software Assurance so that you are always up to date with the latest versions

Note: Subscription licenses can be transferred between team members at most once every 90 days, such as for staff changes or employees taking on new roles.

Media Fulfillment?

The number of complimentary media kits you will receive is based on the number of licenses ordered, the licensing program, and the subscription level.

  • For example, Select and Enterprise Agreement customers receive 1 media kit for every MSDN Subscription level (e.g., Visual Studio Professional with MSDN Premium is one level) in the agreement.
  • Open License customers receive 1 media kit for every 5 MSDN Subscription licenses of the same level.
  • You can purchase additional media kits from your reseller if necessary.

When purchasing additional media, there are Comprehensive Kits and Subscription Kits.  The Comprehensive Kit is a one-time shipment of a complete media "welcome kit" for a given MSDN Subscription level; it is intended for new subscribers and does not include subsequent media updates. Subscription Kits are for regular media updates and are billed according to the number of months remaining on your agreement.

You can also download all the MSDN offerings on VLSC and through the MSDN Portal

Can I transfer MSDN?

The initial user of the Software may make a one-time permanent transfer of this EULA and Software to another end user, provided the initial user retains no copies of the Software. This transfer must include all of the Software (including all component parts, the media and printed materials, any upgrades, this EULA, and, if applicable, the Certificate of Authenticity). The transfer may not be an indirect transfer, such as a consignment. Prior to the transfer, the end user receiving the Software must agree to all the EULA terms.

What happens at MSDN end or termination?

In the event of cancellation or non-renewal of MSDN, you retain all rights to use the Software in your possession at the time of such cancellation of non-renewal, provided that you remain in compliance with the terms of this EULA. Termination. Without prejudice to any other rights, Microsoft may terminate this EULA if you fail to comply with the terms and conditions of this EULA. In such event, you must destroy all copies of the Software and all of its component parts.

Note: MSDN cannot be used for any type of 3rd party service, hosting or leasing



  1. Emma,Thanks for your review of the non-production licensing of MSDN and VS. I have worked at companies that use this approach, so it was familiar to me.I have a similar but somewhat different situation under consideration. The site has a smaller number of developers, and uses traditional developer tool licenses such as Visual Studio 2005 / 2008 Professional Edition (instead of MSDN licenses). They have a number of SQL Server database environments (using a mix of Standard and Enterprise Edition; 2000 and 2005) that are licensed using traditional per server or per processor licenses – some production, some non-production (test, development, user acceptance test, demo, etc.). I have read up on SQL Server Developer Edition, which has all the capabilities of Enterprise Edition but is limited to non-production use (much like the server licenses in MSDN). The license model also sounds like an MSDN license – per developer with unlimited non-production use.The big difference that attracted me to possible use of SQL Server Developer Edition is the cost: $50 per license (one developer / user, unlimited non-production DB server instances). In contrast, I believe that MSDN licenses are hundreds to thousands of dollars per developer per year (my recollection of MSDN costs may be dated and imprecise, but I recall the costs to be significant).Have you explored the licensing models and implications of SQL Server Developer Edition? Do I understand these licensing models correctly?Building on the production versus non-production use, many environments are clear in understanding which is which. But what about something like a user acceptance test environment. Sme business unit users (not all) will access the system to confirm that specific functions are working as expected (hence the name for the environment), but it is not a true “production” environment in the sense of running the business from that environment. What is your take on fuzzy environments such as user acceptance testing regarding production or non-production use? Have you encountered similar examples elsewhere, and under what environment names? If user acceptance test is a non-production environment, would each business user “tester” also need a SQL Server Developer Edition licenses as developers would? Or is this considered differently and not require such additional licenses?I appreciate any feedback you can give on these related topics.Thanks,Scott R.

  2. Hi ScottThanks for you mail on MSDN and SQL DevYes they are both licensed under the same model, Per UserI think your comments move us into the functionality piece, if you simply want to test and develop only SQL, then of course SQL Developer is the correct choice for you, if you want to cover Server OS, Desktop OS, Server and Desktop Applications in a test, development, demonstration environment then VS or MSDN will be the better and more cost effective option, as opposed to buying full production licensesOverview by offering Developer is part of MSDN alsoSQL Developer End User License Agreement below1. OVERVIEW.a. Software. The software includes development tools, software programs and documentation.b. License Model. The software is licensed on a per user basis.2. INSTALLATION AND USE RIGHTS.a. General. One user may install and use copies of the software to design, develop, test and demonstrate your programs. Testing does not include staging on a server in a production environment, such as loading content prior to production use.b. Included Microsoft Programs. These license terms apply to all Microsoft programs included with the software. If the license terms with any of those programs give you other rights that do not expressly conflict with these license terms, you also have those rights.3. ADDITIONAL LICENSING REQUIREMENTS AND/OR USE RIGHTS.a. User Testing. Your end users may access the software to perform acceptance tests on your programs.b. Demonstration. Any person that has access to your internal network may install and use copies of the software to demonstrate use of your programs with the software. Those copies may not be used for any other purpose.c. Distributable Code. The software contains code that you are permitted to distribute in programs you develop if you comply with the terms below.To be clear on “Testing”MSDN licenses are required for testers who do progressive test, configuration testing, debugging and maintenance programming.MSDN licenses are not required for user acceptance testing or stress testing, provided that that the testers will not be doing any debugging, configuration, or maintenance. Were you read “MSDN” above under Tester, this would be the same for “SQL Developer”Hope this helpsEmma

  3. Great info! I have a question and I know the answer but in my organization licensing is always questioned. So, if you have any additional information on where I can find this fact I\’d be more interested in this. If you have a consultant building your lab environment and he has his own MSDN account from his own company , that its ok to have him use that account to build your environment? Isn\’t that just wrong. Shouldn\’t that consultant have a MSDN account from your company so the keys are tied to your organization? Or am I just making this harder then it actually is?

  4. This is a very helpful thread. I have a similar question that I wonder if you can help with. I produce a software product that has a SQL Enterprise database on the back end. When deployed in customer production environments the end customer buys the appropriate per CPU SQL Enterprise licences across all the servers on which the solution is deployed.What I would like to do is to be able to put a demonstration system in our partner’s labs that uses a SQL Developer Edition license instead. This will be so they can demonstrate and hopeully sell our (and by association, Microsoft\’s) software to their end customers. This will NOT be in a production or live environment and will only be used to demonstrate the product.We would install the system using one of our own SQL Developer licenses, the partner will buy a SQL Developer license (this will be a retail boxed copy sourced in the country where there lab is located or under their own global Volume licensing agreement) and we will relicense the system using their license key so that it is correctly licensed and then ship it to them.Does this count as \’demo\’? If not – what would you suggest as a low cost licensing option for this scenario?Thanks for your help.

  5. Lady Licensing, I found your information to 100% in line with what memory tells me, but I just wanted to check a couple things before I make recommendations to my boss. 1) Can you confirm that the same policies apply currently, and 2) Do you work for Microsoft / How do know all this wonderful info?

    Thank you,


  6. Hopefully someone can point me in the right direction – I need some clarification for my boss… I have worked for past firms where each developer was assigned an MSDN account. We would then each use Visual Studio downloaded from our MSDN to develop our applications (web/desktop). Once the application were signed off we would then compile a release and copy/publish to the production web server or provide the install to the client.

    My new position has Volume Licensing with software assurrance… when I log in I can see and full access to a wide variety of software products including VS 2012 Pro. Though I’m unclear with the licensing. Can I download VS2012 Pro and use it to develop applications and then publish to our production web server as I have with the MSDN model? Or do I need MSDN to do that?

  7. Emma, this information is interesting and confirms everything I read.
    We have various teams of developers working on many projects. Each developer is individually licensed with their own MSDN subscription. If we have colaborative projects on the go where we are working with other partners (such as integration projects), can we “host” the MSDN based environments for the client we are doing the work for (provided the partner team connecting is all individually MSDN licensed)? If we are looking after dozens of Linux environments for a client, We would normally attempt to recover some of our devleopment hosting charges (to cover hardware/power etc) from the client as part of our consulting fee.
    If we do this in the case of Microsoft MSDN based environments, do this make us into a 3rd party hosting provider? If so then how do we stay within the MSDN rules (we are talking large scale development projects here using substantial resources and we do not wish to use Azure for some of these long term projects)?
    How does any commercial hosting provider offer hosting services where MSDN based VMs can run (excluding Azure)?

  8. Dear Emma,
    thank you so much for this great clarification, also most things have been still somewhere on my mind.

    There is one question left – if we provide a test system to our lab, is it necessary to use downloaded ISO out of the MSDN Portal or is it allowed to use the ISO from the VLSC ?

    I am asking as we have the following situation quite often: A system starts as a sandbox and is transfered to a production system, so we just buy e.g. a CRM Server license and assign it to the system which has been used by the developer with a MSDN license before going life.
    I just wonder if there is a license issue when installing Systems for developers used under MSDN license with VLSC media and vice versa.

    Your Support on this is highly appreciated.

  9. Hi Emma,

    I have a few licensing questions I need some help with please.

    Is it possible to mix and match Developer Edition CALs and MSDN subscribers on the same MS SQL servers in dev / test environments? In our organisation we have a large number of developers who’ll have active MSDN subscriptions; however we’ll have a large number of testers who won’t and a subset of developers without MSDN.

    Can we just buy developer edition CALs for the people without MSDN, assuming the MSDN subscribers are licensed to work on the same Developer Edition SQL server.

    If we install the Developer Edition SQL server from volume license media (not MSDN media) does it stop MSDN subscribers from using it (without buying a Developer CAL)?

    If the MSDN subscription expires, would they still be licensed to access the version of SQL they had at the point of expiry or would they have to buy a developer edition CAL?

    Any information on this would be appreciated.



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