For retail customers there are two different types of Microsoft Office you can buy and that difference makes hundreds of dollars difference to your cost of buying Office.
There are ‘OEM’ licenses for Office which come with a new computer. Or you can get a retail package also known as ‘Full Package Product’ or FPP.
Both OEM and FPP come in all the various editions of Office with their combinations of software. Home and Student, Home and Business, Professional etc.
At first glance an OEM copy of Office looks cheaper than any retail edition you buy in a store but you’re not comparing the same products. OEM copies of Office give you much less than a retail edition with the same name.
Even worse, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between an OEM copy and a retail package. In this article we’ll try to help you work it out.
Any copy of Office sold pre-installed on a new computer with an ‘OEM’ certificate of authenticity. This includes the Home and Student edition.
Licences: one only
Transferable to another computer: No
With an OEM copy of Office you only get the right to install the software on the computer you purchased with it. You can’t transfer the software to another computer.
OEM copies of Office come supplied with new computers only. You might have bought it when you ordered the computer.
However, as with many things about buying Microsoft Office, things aren’t as simple as they seem or Microsoft pretends they are. Not all pre-installed copies of Office are necessarily ‘OEM’ copies with the more restricted use and non-transfer rules.
While the large computer makers (Dell, HP etc) supply OEM licenses with their pre-installed copies of Office, many smaller stores do not. Smaller outlets can get a standard retail copy of Office and install it for you. If you buy a copy of Office from a large computer maker but separately from a computer purchase, it will be a retail licence.
You should be able to tell the difference by looking at the ‘Certificate of Authenticity’ (COA) that comes with OEM or retail packages. Microsoft has a web page showing the various authenticity stickers. Most apply to Windows but under “Pre-installed Non-Windows Software COAs” you can see the sticker that accompanies OEM versions of Office, it is clearly marked ‘OEM software’.
Example of current Microsoft Office Certificate of Authenticity for OEM software since June 2009. Source: Microsoft.
If you COA doesn’t have that ‘OEM’ phrase on it, then it’ll be a retail copy of Microsoft Office with the more liberal transfer and multi-use rights.
Retail or Full Package Product
(any retail purchased copy of Microsoft Office except the Home and Student edition)
Licences: two – one for a desktop computer and another for a portable computer. For use by the same person.
Transferable to another computer: Yes, you can uninstall from one computer and reinstall the same software on another computer.
Home and Student edition
The Home and Student edition has different rules than other retail offerings. The OEM version of the Home and Student edition is limited to a single computer, as noted above.
Licences: three – can be installed on any three computers (desktop or portable) in the same household for non-commercial use by members of that household.
Transferable to another computer: Yes, you can uninstall from one computer and reinstall the same software on another computer in the same household.
We have the full Office licence terms on our web site. There are separate sections for retail and OEM purchases.
Office 2010: the real startup guide goes into a lot of detail on buying Office 2010 including the many ways you can use to get the software for less than retail price.
The best thing to do is keep a good record of your software licences. What exactly you bought, when, the important licence terms (number of installs & transferability) and especially the all-important Product Key. With that information you’ll know in months or years ahead if you’re allowed to move a copy of Office to a new computer and save yourself some money.
Article posted: Monday, 14 March 2011
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