Installing a License on Cisco CSR1000v


Recently a client had an expiring license on a CSR1000v router which required renewal.

It was a happy coincidence that earlier I had installed a CSR1000V on my VMware Workstation to diagnose an unrelated fault. It was therefore handy to make use of the CSR to verify my change plan for the license renewal.

Before we get into the details – here’s some background on license activation for the current range of Cisco router platforms (ASRs, ISRs and CSRs). There are 2 methods to obtain a license, via:

  • Cisco Software Licensing
  • Cisco Smart Licensing

The first method called “Cisco Software Licensing” (CSL) is the traditional way to license a device. This method ties the license to the unique device identifier (udi). You activate a new license by obtaining a Product Authorisation Key (PAK) from Cisco. The PAK and the udi are used to generate a unique device bound license for your router.

CSL makes it difficult to transfer & reuse a license on a different device. In particular for CSRs when you try to “rehost” the same ‘router’ on a new VM, the new CSR will acquire a different uid preventing the existing license from being (re)activated.

Cisco Smart Licensing (notice the same acronym, CSL?) overcomes this limitation by making a license independent of the uid. Instead all licenses purchased by the customer are placed in a pool. The customer can apply the licenses in the pool to any compatible device until all available licenses are consumed.

Smart licensing is definitely the way to go as Cisco migrates it,s products away from CSL and Right to Use (RTU) license schemes. This re-alignment realises Cisco’s market strategy, which is to generate more software and subscription based revenues from it’s customers. However, there are still many device based licensed products out in the field. These will remain until they reach the end of their product lifecycle or are replaced by the customer.

In this write up, I am focusing on the standard device specific Cisco Software Licensing steps.

Obtaining the license file

To prepare for installing and activating your license, first grab the udi from your CSR1000v.

In this post, I am installing an evaluation license but the process is not too different for obtaining a regular license.

The license portal is at

Navigate to these screens and pick the correct selections from the drop down menu options.

For this exercise I am selecting CSR 1000v router

I have selected an EVAL license, and I am prompted to enter the udi for my device.

The next step is to “Submit” and then “Download your license file”. Click to download your license file. It will have a .lic extension.

Copying the license file to the CSR1000v

You can use the standard methods tftp, scp, ftp to download the license file to the CSR router.

In my example, I am using scp as this is my preferred protocol.

But before I can use scp – I will first have to enable scp server on the CSR1000v.

This process is straightforward, you have to configure aaa new-model and scp server enable on the CSR. Please refer to Cisco’s documentation for scp server configuration.

Here is a screenshot of my download using Windows pscp.exe.

Alternatively perform a tftp or ftp copy.

Verify that your license file has been downloaded to bootflash.

Then run the license install command and accept the EULA as depicted in the following screen captures.

Enabling the correct boot level

Now set the boot level to match the feature for your license. In my case, it is security.

Accepting the EULA then reload

I forgot to accept the EULA so I had to back track. But no harm done, the device detected the missed step and I was prompted to correct my mistake.

Check result

When the CSR1000v router comes up again, check that the license has been upgraded and confirm that udi is unchanged.

Cisco would send you an email with your PAK and license related details. With CSL you must keep this email in a safe place in case you need to regenerate a license file.