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Q: What should every LISTSERV site administrator know about License Activation Keys or LAKs?

Issues with license files are a common root cause of many tickets that L-Soft support receives. This tech tip will cover frequently asked questions regarding the implementation and relevance of your LISTSERV licenses or LAKs. If you are experiencing issues with LISTSERV and have recently added a new LAK or see an error in your logs that a license is not installed even though you have one, this tech tip may be of assistance. If you are considering upgrading to version 16.5, it is very important to verify that your LAKs are current and up to date. L-Soft strongly recommends applying license files immediately upon receipt, even if you're not considering upgrading presently.

What is a LAK?

LAK stands for License Activation Key. A complete LAK consists of a header line, several information lines, and a cryptographic hash that L-Soft generates based on the LAK contents. A LAK may be either a Product LAK (which validates the software itself), or a maintenance LAK, which tells LISTSERV whether you are entitled to maintenance services (such as upgrades, F-Secure Anti-Virus service and technical support).

When should I apply a LAK?

We recommend that you apply a LAK as soon as you receive it, even if your current LAK has not yet expired and even if you do not intend to upgrade. All LAKs are fully backwards-compatible; a LAK issued for version 16.5 will still enable version 14.5 to run, for example.

The only reason not to apply a LAK you receive is if you believe that it contains an error. If this is the case, please report the issue to your sales representative.

If you are considering an upgrade, we recommend that you view your license information to verify that your license contains both a product expiration date and a "maintenance until" date in the future.

How does LISTSERV store its license information?

During its start process, LISTSERV will read the contents of \LISTSERV\MAIN\LICENSE.FILE and verify that the license information contained in LICENSE.FILE is valid. If LICENSE.FILE is missing or contains invalid information, LISTSERV will not start.

How can I view my current license information?

You may view your current license while logged in as a site administrator by clicking the "Server Administration" menu in the top-left corner of the screen, then selecting "Site Configuration > Site Configuration." Click the "License" tab (on the top right by default).

Alternatively, you may view your license file by issuing the SHOW LICENSE command or by viewing the contents of LICENSE.FILE in a text editor.

How do I apply a LAK?

L-Soft recommends that new LAKs be applied using the LISTSERV web interface. Navigate to the "License" tab of your Site Configuration options as described above. Then simply copy and paste the new license information into the box provided and click "Update" and let LISTSERV reload.

The main advantage of using this method over other methods you may have used in the past is that the web interface has a built-in feature to handle input errors. If there are any errors that cause LISTSERV to reject the license information you provide, your instance will simply revert your installation back to the last working license and inform you of the error.

I have old LAKs in my LICENSE.FILE. Is that a problem?

This is not a problem. This occurs as new LAKs are added because LISTSERV never removes an old LAK from LICENSE.FILE. LISTSERV simply parses the file and chooses the "best" license it finds and ignores expired or evaluation LAKs.

You may remove an expired or unwanted LAK with a text editor and restart LISTSERV, but there is no technical or operational reason to do so. In fact, this is not recommended since editing the file directly could cause it to become unreadable by LISTSERV and make your LISTSERV instance non-operational as a result.

I am running LISTSERV without the web interface. Is there another method to apply a new LAK?

Yes. You can create a text file containing the LAK named LICENSE.MERGE in LISTSERV's main directory and then re-start LISTSERV, following the steps documented here:

However, it is very important to understand that this method includes no way to "pre-check" for a possible issue with the license. Any extraneous characters will throw off LISTSERV's validation – as will any encoding other than straight ASCII. For example, Unicode files with embedded formatting, such as those generated by WordPad or MS Word, will not work as LICENSE.MERGE files.

Furthermore, LISTSERV will read the information in LICENSE.MERGE and write it to a new LICENSE.FILE before it verifies the information in LICENSE.FILE. If you have not backed up the information in LICENSE.FILE, the old license information cannot be retrieved. This is why L-Soft recommends using the web interface to apply license files if possible.

It is, therefore, critical that you make a backup copy of your working LICENSE.FILE in case your new LAK contains any errors.

How can I request another copy of my LAK?

You may request an emailed copy of your latest LAK from your sales representative. If you do not know who your sales representative is, you may reach L-Soft's sales team at The L-Soft support team is not authorized to generate LAKs, so this must be done via the sales department.

I'd like to upgrade to LISTSERV 16.5. Do I need a 16.5 product LAK?

Yes. You will need to get a corresponding 16.5 product LAK before you upgrade to LISTSERV 16.5. If you have current maintenance, your sales representative can provide this new LAK for you at no additional cost. You may click the following link for more information about what's new in LISTSERV Version 16.5:

I have been a customer for a long time and have previously used SITE.EXE to apply my LAKs. Can I keep using this method?

No. The use of SITE.EXE has been deprecated starting with LISTSERV 15.0 and is no longer supported. Any changes that SITE.EXE makes could be overridden by SITECFG.FILE (which contains changes applied via the web interface). Furthermore, SITE.CFG will not reflect changes and features in newer versions. For this reason, future versions of the LISTSERV Windows installer will ensure that old instances of SITE.EXE are deleted.

Does LISTSERV connect to a licensing server to verify licenses?

No. LISTSERV evaluates the hash contained in the LAK to verify that the information contained in the license is valid and has not been modified after the LAK was issued by L-Soft.

I am migrating servers. Will I need a new LAK?

This is not necessary if (A) you are migrating to another server on the same operating system and architecture, and (B) you do not have both LISTSERV instances in production simultaneously. You may use your existing LAK to install a new LISTSERV instance on your new server. Once you have migrated your configuration, lists and license files to the new instance, simply pull the old instance out of production. For more information on migrating your LISTSERV instance to a new server, please consult our fast migration guide:

If you intend to run two production mailing servers simultaneously, you will indeed need a second LAK, which can be arranged through your sales representative.

My License file has "Points". What does this mean and how do the points work?

This question applies only to sites that have graduated LAKs. If your LAK has "UNITS=0" then it is non-graduated (i.e., unlimited capacity). Details on the point structure can be found at:

As your LISTSERV use expands, you may eventually wish to switch from points to an unlimited license. Your sales representative can help you with this.

My license expiration date is coming up. What should I do?

Contact your sales representative or

What do the various lines on my license file mean?

License files require two LAKs: a production LAK and a maintenance LAK. The graphic below provides an example of what a plain text LICENSE.FILE, or LICENSE.MERGE file should look like, with added explanatory detail.

You can click on the graphic to open a larger version.

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