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Activate GitLab EE with a license file or key

If you receive a license file from GitLab (for example, for a trial), you can upload it to your instance or add it during installation. The license file is a base64-encoded ASCII text file with a .gitlab-license extension.

The first time you sign in to your GitLab instance, a note with a link to the Add license page should be displayed.

Otherwise, to add your license:

  1. Sign in to GitLab as an administrator.
  2. On the left sidebar, at the bottom, select Admin Area.
  3. Select Settings > General.
  4. In the Add License area, add a license by either uploading the file or entering the key.
  5. Select the Terms of Service checkbox.
  6. Select Add license.

Activate subscription during installation

To activate your subscription during installation, set the GITLAB_ACTIVATION_CODE environment variable with the activation code:

export GITLAB_ACTIVATION_CODE=your_activation_code

Add license file during installation

If you have a license, you can also import it when you install GitLab.

  • For self-compiled installations:

    • Place the Gitlab.gitlab-license file in the config/ directory.

    • To specify a custom location and filename for the license, set the GITLAB_LICENSE_FILE environment variable with the path to the file:

      export GITLAB_LICENSE_FILE="/path/to/license/file"
  • For Linux package installations:

    • Place the Gitlab.gitlab-license file in the /etc/gitlab/ directory.

    • To specify a custom location and filename for the license, add this entry to gitlab.rb:

      gitlab_rails['initial_license_file'] = "/path/to/license/file"

WARNING: These methods only add a license at the time of installation. To renew or upgrade a license, add the license in the Admin Area in the web user interface.

Submit license usage data

If you use a license file or key to activate your instance in an offline environment, you must submit your license usage data monthly. To submit the data, export your license usage and send it by email to the renewals service, You must not open the license usage file before you send it. Otherwise, the file's content could be manipulated by the used program (for example, timestamps could be converted to another format) and cause failures when the file is being processed.

If you don't submit your data each month after your subscription start date, an email is sent to the address associated with your subscription and a banner displays to remind you to submit your data. The banner displays in the Admin Area on the Dashboard and on the Subscription pages. You can only dismiss it until the following month after you submit your license usage data.

What happens when your license expires

Fifteen days before the license expires, a notification banner with the upcoming expiration date displays to GitLab administrators.

When your license expires, GitLab locks features, like Git pushes and issue creation. Your instance becomes read-only and an expiration message displays to all administrators. You have a 14-day grace period before this occurs.

For example, if a license has a start date of January 1, 2024 and an end date of January 1, 2025:

  • It expires at 11:59:59 PM UTC December 31, 2024.
  • It is considered expired from 12:00:00 AM UTC January 1, 2025.
  • The grace period of 14 days starts at 12:00:00 AM UTC January 1, 2025 and ends at 11:59:59 PM UTC January 14, 2025.
  • Your instance becomes read-only at 12:00:00 AM UTC January 15, 2025.

To resume functionality, renew your subscription.

If the license has been expired for more than 30 days, you must purchase a new subscription to resume functionality.

To go back to Free features, delete all expired licenses.

Remove a license

To remove a license from a self-managed instance:

  1. On the left sidebar, at the bottom, select Admin Area.
  2. Select Subscription.
  3. Select Remove license.

Repeat these steps to remove all licenses, including those applied in the past.

View license details and history

To view your license details:

  1. On the left sidebar, at the bottom, select Admin Area.
  2. Select Subscription.

You can add and view more than one license, but only the latest license in the current date range is the active license.

When you add a future-dated license, it doesn't take effect until its applicable date. You can view all active subscriptions in the Subscription history table.

You can also export your license usage information to a CSV file.

License commands in the Rails console

The following commands can be run in the Rails console.

WARNING: Any command that changes data directly could be damaging if not run correctly, or under the right conditions. We highly recommend running them in a test environment with a backup of the instance ready to be restored, just in case.

See current license information

# License information (name, company, email address)

# Plan:

# Uploaded:

# Started:

# Expires at:

# Is this a trial license?

# License ID for lookup on CustomersDot

# License data in Base64-encoded ASCII format

# Confirm the current billable seat count excluding guest users. This is useful for customers who use an Ultimate subscription tier where Guest seats are not counted.

Interaction with licenses that start in the future

# Future license data follows the same format as current license data it just uses a different modifier for the License prefix

Check if a project feature is available on the instance

Features listed in features.rb.


Check if a project feature is available in a project

Features listed in features.rb.

p = Project.find_by_full_path('<group>/<project>')

Add a license through the console

Using a key variable

key = "<key>"
license = key)
License.current # check to make sure it applied

Using a license file

license_file ="/tmp/Gitlab.license")

key ="\r\n", "\n").gsub(/\n+$/, '') + "\n"

license = key)
License.current # check to make sure it applied

These snippets can be saved to a file and executed using the Rails Runner so the license can be applied via shell automation scripts.

This is needed for example in a known edge-case with expired license and multiple LDAP servers.

Remove licenses

To clean up the License History table:

TYPE = :trial?
# or :expired?!)

# or even License.all.each(&:destroy!)


No Subscription area in the Admin Area

You cannot add your license because there is no Subscription area. This issue might occur if:

Users exceed license limit upon renewal

GitLab displays a message prompting you to purchase additional users. This issue occurs if you add a license that does not have enough users to cover the number of users in your instance.

To fix this issue, purchase additional seats to cover those users. For more information, read the licensing FAQ.

In GitLab 14.2 and later, for instances that use a license file, the following rules apply:

  • If the users over license are less than or equal to 10% of the users in the license file, the license is applied and you pay the overage in the next renewal.
  • If the users over license are more than 10% of the users in the license file, you cannot apply the license without purchasing more users.

For example, if you purchase a license for 100 users, you can have 110 users when you add your license. However, if you have 111 users, you must purchase more users before you can add the license.

Start GitLab Ultimate trial still displays after adding license

To fix this issue, restart Puma or your entire GitLab instance.