My SBS CALS Have Disappeared


So here I ask, is there anything more intensely irritating than a boy dragging his nails across a dry dusty chalkboard? Probably not, but I must admit, every time I open up a licence manager on a SBS Server and look at CALS, I get that same feeling of impending rage.

Let’s just say it; SBS 2003 CALS were a total pain and completely useless.  Yes, I understand that Microsoft wanted to protect their best interests and needed to make sure that the SBS package wasn’t used inappropriately, but surely it did not warrant a system so maddening.

So, with my thoughts on this known, you can imagine how I felt when one of my client’s SBS Servers for whatever reason decided to drop its licence database.

This shouldn’t be such a big deal, except for the fact that nobody could find any records regarding these CALS and even calling Microsoft was futile. The previous IT firm did not document anything and it was not completely clear how they even purchased the CALS in the first place.

After discussing it with Microsoft and being told that they were “escalating” the issue, I set out to see if there was a technical solution to my problem.  I poked around and found that the licence database itself is implemented in two tiny files. These are: and

Apparently, there is an automatic backup created of the which is the main licence database.  The easiest way of fixing this is to copy these two files out of the C:\windows\system32 directory, use NTbackup and back them up to a file and then use the restore wizard in SBS licence manager to recover them from the file.

If you get an error message that the CALS are no longer useable, simply write down the keys that are shown in the licence manager, re-enter them and phone Microsoft to re-validate. Naturally, you should take the time to properly document the CALS and back them up using the backup licence function in the licence manager, so that you will never have to deal with this again.

This little trick sure made my day, and I hope it helps some of you as well!


Copyright © 2010 Paul Guenette and Matthew Sleno.