There are a number of mechanisms that may be used to activate systems, and broadly speaking these fall into two categories, namely permanent activation via a one-time operation, or an activation lease which is automatically renewed as required.
The preferred mechanism for University IT support staff (ITSS) to activate Microsoft operating systems obtained under the Microsoft Campus and Select Agreements is via a lease obtained from a central server. This uses a service provided by Microsoft called the Key Management Service (KMS). It may be used for volume licence versions of Microsoft software downloaded from the ITSS Site Licensed Software site (restricted access), and all versions of Windows Server and other Microsoft software purchased from the IT Services Shop.
For personally owned Microsoft operating systems or software, you will need to use your supplied activation key or contact your software vendor for guidance.