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Home Use Program myths debunked

We clear up some of the misunderstandings about the MS Office Home Use Program, one of the cheapest ways to buy Microsoft Office.

In our article Get Office 2007 from your boss for $30 we explained how many companies can let their staff buy Office Professional for much less than retail.

Some readers reported trouble in getting their bosses to let them access the Home Use Program. Managers can be reluctant to make Microsoft Office available cheaply to staff.

It seems there’s a lot of misunderstanding about the costs and responsibilities involved. We’ve compiled a list of questions for Microsoft, based on the emails we’ve received from our readers (which often included copies of refusal messages from managers).

Here are some clarifications about the Home Use Program (HUP). Thanks to Microsoft reps for working through the long list of queries, we have quoted the reply from Microsoft verbatim (in italics).

Organizations are responsible for HUP misuse


A company is not liable for their staff’s use of Office under the Home Use Program (HUP). All a volume license buyer has to do is:

  • Only make HUP available to current employees
  • Inform employees who leave the organization that they should stop using the HUP license of Office.

The important point is that a company only has to inform departing staff to stop using the special copy of Office. If former staff continue to use an HUP licensed Office that is an issue between Microsoft and the now illegal user of Office. It might be prudent for a company to include some discontinuation notice in the standard documents / procedures for departing staff.

It’s not required that a company ensure that the Office install disks are returned (which would be pointless anyway) or somehow check that the HUP Office has been uninstalled by the former staff member.

If Software Assurance stops, all home use has to stop.


If a company decides not to continue their Software Assurance License with Microsoft then the rights to use existing HUP licenses or issue HUP licenses also stops.

The real trap of the Home Use Program is that it further locks an organization into the Software Assurance renewal cycle.

However if a company decides to stop their Software Assurance arrangements, all they have to do is notify staff that they must uninstall their HUP licensed Office. This would disappoint many employees, I’m sure.

As when someone leaves the company, the responsibility for enforcement of HUP licenses is with Microsoft once the organization has notified staff as required.

“Volume licensing customers are not responsible for their individual employees’ compliance with the Home Use Program software license terms. Those terms are between Microsoft and the individual employees. Microsoft does require that you limit Home Use Program access to eligible employees and inform employees when they should discontinue use of the software in connection with a lapse in Software Assurance coverage or employment termination.”

The volume license product key is shared.


A common concern goes like this “We won’t share the corporate software licensing key to staff for personal use.“.

If a staff member buys an HUP licence for Office they are issued a separate and unique Product Key for Office. It is entirely separate from any Product Keys issued to the organization to activate in-house copies of Microsoft software.

In addition, the online activation of Office is done between the employees personal computer and Microsoft directly (just like any retail version of Office). Access to any licensing proxy server is not required and probably would not work anyway.

HUP license keys are separate from the licenses employees use at work and each one is unique.

If we upgrade Office all the home use staff have to upgrade too


When a staff member gets an HUP license for Office they can continue to use that version of Office for as long as they are eligible.

If the company decides to switch to a newer version of Office, that does not affect what the HUP staff use at all. They might eventually decide to upgrade to a newer version of Office so their software matches what they use at work, but that’s the choice of the employee.

Office Watch suspects this particular myth came about because programs similar to the current Home Use Program existed last century. In those days there was no ‘Software Assurance’ and companies bought licenses for a particular version of Office. If the company bought licenses for a new version of Office it might have believed that home use staff also had to switch.

“Microsoft doesn’t force users of HUP software licenses to upgrade. It is the HUP user’s choice.”

We have to provide support for Office


All support for HUP users is supplied by Microsoft, under the same arrangements that apply to retail purchase customers.

The IT support desk of an organization does NOT have to provide support.

“Employees purchasing Home Use Program software are entitled to the same support options as other Microsoft customers purchasing software for home use, including free access to resources and newsgroups on the Web site, and pay-per-use e-mail and telephone support. See for details. “

We have to get signed agreements from staff


According to Microsoft, an employee agrees to the HUP terms when they purchase. Those terms (formerly known as the EULA) are available for download from Microsoft but Office Watch has published the Office 2007 license in full.

A company might decide that they need extra legal coverage by having staff sign a separate acknowledgement of the HUP terms, however that’s not a requirement of the program.

“During installation, HUP users agree to the license terms. A copy of the license terms is also located here.

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