Posted on Mon 30 July 2012 in entries

Pace iLok 2This brief article intends to clear up any misunderstandings relating to software and software licenses and explains why it is always important to keep your licenses or license keys in a safe place.


With the vast majority of software, the fee that you pay is not for the software itself - it is for the license to use it. Different software requires different methods for activation, but the two most common methods are:

Online/soft license activation: This will often involve having an online account with the software manufacturer. To activate your software, you will be prompted to enter your serial number/activation code into a specific field on your computer at the activation stage and once this has completed, your computer will download the relevant license, allowing you to use that software.

USB license activation: Using this method, you download your license(s) to a USB license key/dongle, where they are permanently stored. Examples of license keys include the Steinberg Key and the Pace iLok. As the license has been download to the key and not your computer, you will need to have the key plugged into your computer to be able to use the software.


As previously mentioned, the money that you pay when you buy 'software' is not for the software itself. In fact, you can download many expensive pieces of software from the internet for free! However, you won't be able to use it without a license.

Conversely, you can purchase licenses for many pieces of software online, but having the license on its own does not allow you to use the software as you also need to have the software installed on your computer to use it.

Hopefully this illustrates that software and licenses are completely different things, but they are both dependent on each other to deliver a full package.


This means that you need to take extra care of your licenses my son! If you've got printed licenses, don't grate them up and serve them on-top of a delicious Caesar Salad. If you've got licenses stored on USB keys don't sellotape them to a horses ankle and forget about them. If you have been e-mailed licenses, don't put wallpaper over the screens of all your accessible computers, even if it does look so nice that it makes a kitten fall out of a nearby rainbow.

Keep all your printed and USB licenses in a safe place and preferably keep all your e-mail licenses in a special folder in your inbox. You could even print them out to be doubly sure that you don't delete them, and you could copy your printed licenses into a text document or spreadsheet on your computer. Basically, just look after them all!

Why? Because losing your licenses is like losing your software. Even if you still have the original installation disks? Yes, because you need the license to run the software - pay attention or pay again!


Software manufacturers understand that you will often need to be able to use a particular piece of software on more than one computer. Maybe you have a desktop computer and a laptop and you want to transfer projects between each and work on them?

If you're using a USB Key, this won't be a problem - all your licenses are stored on there, so you can just transfer your USB stick from computer to computer to use the software (although remember that the software will also need to be installed on each computer). The only limit is that you will only be able to run the software on one computer at once - if you need to run the software on two computers at the same time, you will usually need to purchase another license.

If you're using software that stores licenses to a computer, manufacturers will usually give you a set number of licenses to use. For example, the manufacturer may allow you to activate your software 3 times. If you need to activate it more than this then you can usually contact the manufacturer and request more, although most require an explanation of why you have used up your license allocation and they are perfectly within their rights to refuse! Each manufacturer does it differently so it's well worth checking the license terms before you get trigger happy with activating it on multiple different computers!

In some cases you can also transfer 'soft' licenses (licenses that are stored on your computer) to a USB license key, but this is not always the case. If you're unsure then it's best to contact the software manufacturer.


Unfortunately, in many cases, if you lose your license, it's game over. Just because it's software and not a physical product doesn't mean that there is always a way to recover it.

If you do lose your license (due to theft, a failed hard drive, left it on the bus, spontaneous combustion, etc.) and you need to reinstall a piece of software, you should contact your manufacturer as they may be able to issue you with another (although don't bank on this!)

If your licenses were stored on a license key, there are procedures that you can follow that may be able to salvage your licenses (although in most cases, it will cost you).

Click here for information on lost, defective or broken Steinberg USB eLicenser keys.

Click here for information on lost, defective or broken Pace iLok license keys.

It is also advisable to register your product with the manufacturer when you buy it as this will give you a much better chance of recovering your licenses if the unthinkable should happen!


... look after your licenses. Stroke them. Nurture them. Whisper sweet nothings to them. Wrap them in cotton wool and bubble-wrap, vacuum seal them in a pickle jar, put the pickle jar in a treasure chest, padlock the treasure chest, wrap it in chains, padlock it again, put it in a combination safe, bury the safe under an Anderson shelter and don't tell anyone where it is. Also, don't tell anyone that you stroked and spoke to them. This will just make you sound weird.

For more information on the Steinberg Key, the Pace iLok, or any software that we stock, click the links below or give us a call on 01202 597180.

Steinberg License Key/Dongle - More Info/Buy

Pace iLok 2 - More Info/Buy

View our range of computer software