To ensure its duplication, chromosomal DNA must be precisely duplicated in each cell cycle, with no sections left unreplicated, and no sections replicated more than once. Eukaryotic cells achieve this by dividing replication into two non-overlapping phases. During late mitosis and G1, replication origins are 'licensed' for replication by loading the minichromosome maintenance (Mcm) 2-7 proteins to form a pre-replicative complex. Mcm2-7 proteins are then essential for initiating and elongating replication forks during S phase. Recent data have provided biochemical and structural insight into the process of replication licensing and the mechanisms that regulate it during the cell cycle.