Understanding Microsoft Office Licensing

Dec 02 2015

There has been some confusion surrounding what you can and cannot do when it comes to your Microsoft Office licenses. I will try to clarify what you are legally entitled to for the various licenses.


First of all, Microsoft Office 2016 was released in September of 2015, and became available to volume licensing clients on October 1 2015.

Unlike other versions of Office, 2013 is authorized to be installed 1 time only. In the past, you would be able to install Office on a computer and 1 mobile device, but that has since changed. Also you can only transfer Office 2013 licenses once every 90 days.

Here’s an example: say you installed Office 2013 on a computer, and that hard drive failed 2 weeks after you first started using it. Under Microsoft’s licensing regulations, you would have to purchase another copy of Office before being able to install it on your new hard drive. The license is only transferrable once every 90 days. This is for the boxed version of Office 2013, not Office 365 (which is Office 2013), or the volume license version. The new “phone home” technology registers each install so the only way to effectively regain the license is to uninstall the current copy of Office before reinstalling.

Office 2010 was not as strict and was fully transferable between systems. You could install Office 2010 on 1 computer and 1 mobile device. The activation process would work in the background, and the only time you would see an activation screen, was if the activation had a problem. The telephone activation is still in existence and is used mostly by IT professionals who do multiple installations on many machines.

Office 2010 licenses, and older, are also visible through a small free 3rd party software called Belarc.  But starting with Office 2013, the program only displays the last 5 digits of the serial key. This was very helpful if you had planned to reinstall Office, but did not have the serial key at hand; all you would need is an installation CD or file.

Office 2007 & 2003 are still out there in the business world, however, their use is rapidly declining as the hardware gets upgraded, and so does the software. The new document extensions first began with Office 2007, but continued backward compatibility straight through to the current versions of Office, meaning you could read the older Office file versions.

On a side note, I am sure by now that most everyone has discovered a very cool feature that started back with Office 2007. You can save a file to PDF, thus creating a PDF document. You still can’t edit the PDF document, but being able to turn your confidential Word and Excel documents into a PDF was a nice add to the Office features.

There are a couple of challenges in Office 2016 that are known. If you upgrade from Office 365 (2013) and you have Visio and/or InfoPath 2013 installed, Office 2016 will uninstall these 2 programs and you will need to purchase a new 2016 license. They CANNOT coexist with Office 2016. In fact, any standalone Office 2013 product will not be usable with Office 2016. You will also be restricted to 1 install per license like with Office 2013.

Office 2016 will be sent out by Microsoft to Office 365 users through Microsoft Updates in February 2016, which may be an issue for CRM users as there is no compatibility fix as yet so be warned.

Keep your licenses compliant and play by the rules and your products will always work for you.

Need help in understanding what your Microsoft licenses can do for you?  Call us and we’d be happy to help!  We also offer licensing review services to ensure that any software audits you encounter go smooth!

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