Getting the right Office 2010 at the lowest price

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Today I went to the local computer store, which is in Canada, and acquired as to its cost. Since I use Access I have no choice but to purchase the Professional version. The retailer sells a Product Key for $499 and a CD for $699.

I purchased a new computer in January, and am on my THIRD hard drive. According to the retailer if I purchase a Product Key I am permitted to install Office once and only once. If this is true I risk purchasing multiple licences, and would be better off purchasing the CD for $699. I have read the entire licensing agreement but no where did I read about a limitation of the number of times I may download the software. Does any such limit exist? ” – Martin from Canada.

Martin’s experience is similar to other emails we’ve received and gives us a chance to overview some of the issues and misunderstanding in buying Office 2010.

There are several differences between the ‘normal’ version of Office 2010 with a CD and the ‘Product Key Card’ (PKC) version. We’ve talked about this before at and how it’s usually bad value.

The three main points about the Product Key Card version:

  • it ONLY works for people who have an Office 2010 trial or starter edition on a newly purchased computer. There’s no media available to download – all the PKC version does is give you the Product Key that will convert the already installed Office 2010 into a fully functioning set of programs

  • there is only ONE Office 2010 software licence sold with the PKC version – compare that to the 2 or 3 licences sold with retail Office 2010 bundles.

  • the single licence is NOT transferable to another computer. Retail Office licences let you uninstall from one computer and reinstall the software on another. PKC, like OEM licenses for Office purchased with a new computer, are locked to a single machine.

Those limits certainly are in the Office 2010 license, though that document is so dense and complex you’re forgiven for not seeing it.

While the PKC version is limited to one non-transferable installation of Office 2010, if you had a computer failure and needed to reinstall Office on the same machine there should not be a problem. You might need to call Microsoft for the second activation but a short explanation that it’s the same machine after repairs should be enough to satisfy.

If you are absolutely sure that you only want one copy of Office 2010 for a specific computer that already has Office pre-installed then the Product Key Card is an option. However most people will get another computer in the future and want to move their Office 2010, or they’ll get a second computer – in which case the retail version of Office 2010 with two transferable licenses is a better long-term deal.

The Home and Student bundle has three transferable licences – however that doesn’t apply to Martin since he needs Access.

Time to find a lower price

Whichever version of Office 2010 you choose (retail or PKC) there’s no hurry. You can download a trial Office 2010 Professional from for a 30 day test of a fully functioning Office 2010.

Microsoft intends the trial version as a sales tool to encourage people to buy Office 2010, but you can use it as a way to give yourself ‘breathing space’ to hunt around and get the best price possible.

Lower Price options

The prices Martin has quoted are very high for Office 2010 Pro in Canada. There are lower prices available for the same product so it’s very worthwhile to shop around.

For example has prices at least CDN$100 cheaper than at Martin’s local store.

Assuming you already have a copy of Office, you can buy a copy of Office 2007 version upgrade ‘Small Business’ , ‘Professional’ or ‘Ultimate’ (whichever is cheapest) then apply for the Technology Upgrade to Office 2010. This can often be cheaper than buying Office 2010 directly but only applies until the end of September 2010. Details here.

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