I'm using the free Wolfram Engine for developers, but somehow I cannot activate it.

> wolframscript
The Wolfram Engine requires one-time activation on this computer.

Visit https://wolfram.com/developer-license to get your free license.

Wolfram ID: someuser@somedomain.com
The Wolfram Kernel must be activated for WolframScript to use it.

I have claimed a developer license with my account.

enter image description here

What does "the Wolfram Kernel" mean, and how do I activate it?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The "Wolfram Kernel" is basically the core executable behind Mathematica. If it's failing to activate even with the correct password I'm not sure what we'll be able to do here. I'd try Wolfram Support. $\endgroup$ – b3m2a1 May 22 '19 at 0:39
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    $\begingroup$ Great! Also welcome to the Mathematica StackExchange. If you're new to Mathematica I'd let me recommend checking out this and maybe this (full disclosure I wrote the latter and it might be a bit disjoint). It's often a rough transition for programmers fluent in more standard languages like python, Java, and C (it was for me). $\endgroup$ – b3m2a1 May 22 '19 at 0:44
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    $\begingroup$ Hmmm. Have you paid all of your traffic tickets? $\endgroup$ – JimB May 22 '19 at 1:05
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry. It was my poor attempt at localized humor. (In the US one sometimes gets turned down for a loan, won't be hired for a job, can't get a driver's license renewed, etc. if one has outstanding tickets or warrants. And as all-knowing as Wolfram-Alpha is, I don't think it has such information readily available.) $\endgroup$ – JimB May 22 '19 at 1:14
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    $\begingroup$ @vsht Does your password contain any special character? If YES, choose a new password that contains only letters and activate the license with the new password. $\endgroup$ – bnuhero May 24 '19 at 1:49

I had the same issue. Here is my solution with the free Wolfram Engine for developers on Mac.

There are two relative apps in the launchpad after the engine was installed successfully. One is Wolfram Engine, the other is WolframScript.

Wolfram Engine WolframScript

Run the Wolfram Engine app instead of the WolframScript to activate your free license. This should fix the issue.

Note: Choose a password that doesn't contain any special character for your wolfram ID. Otherwise you always got the error message: 'Incorrect username or password' even if you provided the correct ID and password.

  • $\begingroup$ Can you expand your response? It is unclear what Wolfram Engine is and how you ran it. $\endgroup$ – gire May 24 '19 at 9:28
  • $\begingroup$ Wolfram Engine is what reads your input and computes the outputs. The rest are interfaces $\endgroup$ – Fortsaint May 25 '19 at 2:02
  • $\begingroup$ after your clarification I can confirm this solves the issue $\endgroup$ – gire May 26 '19 at 4:30
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, this post was very helpful! (The wolfram.com site does say -- at the time I write this -- to use wolframscript to register the license...) $\endgroup$ – Anton Antonov May 27 '19 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ This doesn't work for me. $\endgroup$ – Adrian Keister May 29 '19 at 0:35

I am not sure whether they did this on purpose but to enable the walfram engine was quite implicit. (Yes WolframScript is different from Wolfram Kernel.)

Following method should work cross-platform.

First Step

Let's run WolframScript from the command line with argument -v, which is to ask WolframScript to output verbose log. Take Linux as an example,

$ wolframscript -v

Here we will be able to see an url:


Quite self-explanatory this url gives us the activation_key that's associated with our machine/wolfram id. Let's copy paste it into an editor for now.

Second Step

we need to locate the actual WolframKernel in our installation folder. (the .exe for Windows.) Typically it should be under /your_path_to_wolfram_installation/Executables/. Bear in mind this is not the directory where you installed wolframscript (default would be /usr/local/bin in Linux).

In Linux run:

$ ./WolframKernel

It would then prompt you to enter activation_key here (the key we pasted into an text editor earlier on). Press enter to ignore it and then it'd go on to ask you for activation_key again (explicitly in format of XXXX-XXXX-XXXXXX) and an extra password. it also gave you your machine id and math_id. write down this math_id.

The password would be what we need to generate for ourselves. On the command line it'd give you an url again for generating this password:


Leave the terminal window as is and move our focus to a browser.

Register our product using the activation_key. Once done, on the product page let's click on the product here:

enter image description here

In there we choose to manually activate:

enter image description here

Enter your activation_key and your math_id for this precious password. As usual, we write it down.

Third Step

Now go back to terminal window and enter the activation_key and password. This marks the completion of wolfram kernel activation.

Fourth Step

We can now just type wolframscript at command line and enter our usual wolfram_id details. i.e. registration email and password for wolfram online account.

Wolfram should be good to go now.


  1. I am not convinced this is how it's supposed to be activated; it just complicates matters and it has gone muted if this is actually part of official activation process for developer's version.
  2. You should see that your activation key expires in 1 month time (this apparently goes against the announcement for a free developer version.)
  3. Potentially you could also use your activation key to activate a mathematica copy; but that apparently is valid for a month, as explained in #1.
  4. I'll try to get in touch with wolfram support for a clarification on this and update this answer accordingly.
  5. Any command line application typically comes with --help argument as default and using this argument we'd normally find something constructive; among the small bits, -v --verbose is one that we'd notice very often as well.
  • $\begingroup$ Their customer service team is surpisingly unhelpful given wolfram/mathematica is probably one of the most advanced technical programming language in the world. $\endgroup$ – stucash Sep 4 '20 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ The activation key (that it gave me!) is invalid, for some reason. $\endgroup$ – Julia Dec 28 '20 at 1:59

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