Licensing Overview

An important administrative role in a Tableau Server deployment is the Tableau portal administrator. The portal administrator manages licensing and the associated keys for the Tableau deployment. As the portal administrator, your first step is to purchase licences on the Tableau Customer Portal(Link opens in a new window). When you purchase licences, the portal will return corresponding product keys. To renew your licence, visit the Tableau renewal(Link opens in a new window) web page.

Tableau has a number of products (Desktop, Server, Prep Builder and more). Each of the Tableau products require that you activate licences by updating the Tableau software with the product keys that are purchased and stored on the Tableau Customer Portal. As the administrator who is tasked with activating Tableau licences, it important that you understand the relationship between licences and keys. See Understanding Licence Models and Product Keys.


Activation is the process of uploading and saving Tableau product keys to Tableau Server. This operation is done with Tableau Services Manager (TSM). TSM is a tool that makes changes to the local operating system and file system and therefore requires administrative access to the local computer. A TSM administrator requires different permissions and access than a Tableau Server administrator, which is the administrative role for day-to-day operation of Tableau Server tasks, such as adding users, sites, managing projects and permissions, etc. See Administrative roles for more information about various Tableau Server administrative roles.

The following topics describe how to connect to TSM:

Online activation

If your Tableau Server installation is able to communicate with the internet, then we recommend using the default online activation method.

Offline activation

If Tableau Server is running in an offline environment, where it is not possible to access the Tableau licence servers on the internet, then you must activate licences according to the Tableau offline activation process:

Lost activation

In some cases licence activations can fail after the licence has been activated. These failures can occur due to connection failures with local processes or when a change has occurred with the VM or hardware configuration. For example, proxy changes, port blocking, network changes or altering a machine hardware can cause the licensing activation to fail. If Tableau Server is unable to verify the licence, operation may be interrupted and the server will be in an “unlicensed” state.

To view the product keys and the Tableau Server licence state, run tsm licenses list and tsm status -v.

Depending on the product key that is unverified, Tableau Server may operate in a degraded state until the product key is in a valid state. See Troubleshoot Licensing.


You can activate the same Tableau Server product key on up to three environments. This allows you to test Tableau Server (in a sandbox or QA environments, for example), as well as use Tableau in production. To maximise your activations, you should deactivate your product key when you remove Tableau Server from a computer or close down a VM, unless you will be reinstalling Tableau on the same computer. Doing this gives you the opportunity to use the activation on a different computer. For example, if you move Tableau Server from one computer to another, deactivate the product key, then remove Tableau from the original computer. When you install Tableau on the new computer, you can activate the key there without any conflict. If you are removing Tableau Server to reinstall it on the same computer, you don't need to deactivate the key. Tableau will use the key when reinstalled unless an obliterate command was performed with the “-l” option

See Deactivate Product Key.

Tableau Server licensing and virtual machines (VMs)

If you run Tableau Server on VMs, either locally or in the cloud, be aware of the potential for complications related to licensing. If you are simply upgrading Tableau Server on the VM, you do not need to take any extra action related to licensing. If you plan to clone the VM to create either a new production or test environment to upgrade, you need to deactivate any Tableau Server licences before cloning. If you do not do this, the new VM environment will end up with untrusted licences, and any attempts to upgrade or start Tableau Server will fail. You may also end up hitting the maximum number of activations for the licences when trying to activate the product keys on the new VM.

To avoid issues with licensing on VMs, deactivate all Tableau licences before cloning a VM or allowing it to be permanently shut down.

Login-based Licence Management

Login-based licence management, helps you manage licensing for users with Creator roles on Tableau Server and Tableau Cloud. Users with Explorer or Viewer roles cannot use this feature. If you’re using Role-Based Subscriptions with Tableau Server or Tableau Cloud, you can simplify your licence management using login-based licence management to eliminate separate Tableau Desktop and Tableau Prep Builder product keys. You only need to manage one or more product keys for on-premises Tableau Server, or in the case of Tableau Cloud, you don’t need to manage any product keys at all.

See Login-based Licence Management.

Adding users

Each user who accesses resources on Tableau Server must be licensed.

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