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How many copies of Office can you install?

When you buy Office 2007, how many computers can you install it on?

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When you buy Microsoft Office 2007, how many computers can you install the software on?

The long and complex license for Office can be confusing and, from the messages we receive, there’s even more confusion now there’s different rules depending on which Office 2007 bundle you buy and even who you buy it from.

Then there’s the difference between what you’re permitted under the license and what Microsoft can effectively control you doing with Office 2007.

Here’s an effort to explain the differences between the most popular Office bundles on sale.

There will be exceptions, for example licenses for schools and colleges can be quite different, check with your institution for info on who is covered by the software license – sometimes students are included in the license.

All Retail Office 2007 bundles

(except Home and Student edition & Military Appreciation Edition).

This means anything you buy ‘in a box’.

Office 2007 bundles: Standard, Small Business, Professional, and Ultimate suite.

Office 2007 individual products: Access, Excel, Groove, InfoPath, OneNote, Outlook, Outlook with Business Contact Manager, PowerPoint, Project, Publisher, SharePoint Designer, Visio, and Word

You can install Office 2007 on two computers:

1. The ‘licensed device’ which is intended to be a desktop computer AND

2. A portable device for use by the single primary user of the ‘licenced device’.

All that means that you can install Office 2007 on two computers (one of them portable) provided both computers are used by one person.

In practice Microsoft can’t control which two computers you install to; there’s no way for the activation process to distinguish between a portable and non-portable computer.

In addition, Microsoft talks about a ‘single user’ however Windows allows multiple logins/users to a computer. Each user can run Office for their own documents as long as it is on the same computer either using a single login or different logins. For example a couple could share a computer at home.

The license conditions are here.

Home and Student edition

Military Appreciation edition

The Home and Student edition and Military Appreciation edition have more generous rules even though the Office 2007 software is the same.

These bundles can be installed on THREE computers in a household for use by the people who live there.

There is no provision for a portable computer and by a strict reading of the rules you can’t install these two bundles on any laptop or netbook computer. But again, in practice there’s no way for Microsoft to know what computer Office 2007 is installed on or where that computer is.

Unlike the standard license (above) there’s no reference to a ‘single primary user’ and therefore apparently no restriction on how many people can use Office on the three permitted computers.

The full license conditions are here.

Home Use Program

Each Office, Sharepoint Designer, Visio or Project license that a company pays for (as part of Volume Licensing and Software Assurance) is really two licenses – one for the company and an equivalent Home Use Program (HUP) license.

Staff can buy an Office 2007 HUP license for a fraction of the usual price – normally only paying for shipping of an install DVD if they need it.

See Get Office 2007 from your boss for $30 and other articles at Office Watch about the HUP.

Home Use Program licenses are the same as the standard retail license – ie you can install on TWO computers, one of them a portable device. The main ‘licensed device’ must be at the home of the employee.

As with the retail license there is no practical way for Microsoft to enforce the location or portability of the computer you install Office 2007 upon.

OEM purchases

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) licenses are those sold by computer makers with the software install files supplied on the hard drive or Office 2007 is pre-installed on the computer delivered to you.

This may include a purchase made online after a trial period – that depends on what product you chose and who you bought from (the computer maker’s site or Microsoft).

Office 2007 Basic bundle is (supposedly) only sold by OEM’s and the OEM license always applies. The Standard, Small Business, Professional and Ultimate bundles can be sold by OEM’s as well as retail.

OEM bundles are often (but not always) cheaper for a good reason – the license is limited to ONE specific computer.

You can only install Office 2007 on one computer and that should be the one you bought from that OEM.

An OEM licensed Office 2007 is not allowed to be moved to another computer (this is the same rule that usually applies to Windows). However it’s not clear if that rule is imposed in practice.

Home and Student rules via OEM?

Sharp eyed readers will have noticed a conflict. The Home and Student bundle is supposed to be licensed for three computers but buying from an OEM is limited to one computer. Which rule applies when you buy the Home & Student bundle from an OEM?

We’re not sure, Microsoft hasn’t published the explicit OEM license rules and the comments on the H&S bundle do seem to conflict with the statements on OEM licenses. We’re inclined to the view that Home & Student bundles bought from an OEM have the three computer license however you should check before buying.

‘Ultimate Steal’

The ‘Ultimate Steal’ offer for students is for a copy of Office 2007 Ultimate Edition at a very good price.

The license is a standard Office 2007 Ultimate edition license as detailed above ie install on two computers (one portable) for use by one person.

See ‘Stealing’ Office 2007 – with Microsoft’s permission

Moving to a new computer

There is often no need to buy another copy of Microsoft Office for a new computer as long as you remove the software from the old machine.

With the exception of OEM licenses, you can move your Office 2007 installation from one computer to another. As long as you uninstall Office from the old computer and keep the use of Office within the total limit (ie 2 or 3 computers, depending on the license).

While you must link the install of Office 2007 to a particular computer via the activation process, there’s no ‘deactivation’ process when you uninstall (a limitation in the current activation process in our view).

Microsoft says you can move Office to another machine only once every 90 days however that is not a strict provision of the licence and seems to be an expression of Microsoft's discretion.

All that means the fast internet activation might not work and you’ll have to call Microsoft, explain you have moved Office 2007 to a new computer and request an activation code. That code should be given quickly and with little fuss, assuming there’s nothing in Microsoft’s records to suggest that the Office 2007 license has been over-used.

See Can you only install Office twice?

The software is the same

Regardless of which license you buy, the software is the same. We’ve heard all sorts of stories over the years about ‘academic’ or ‘corporate’ software having special features or limits – nonsense. It would be a support and development nightmare for Microsoft to have different behaviors in Office programs.

The only difference is access to Information Rights Management – only the Office 2007 Professional, Professional Plus and Ultimate suites can create IRM locked documents or apply policy statements to email. The software in other Office bundles can read IRM documents assuming they are given the necessary rights.

Article posted: Monday, 11 May 2009

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