Install old Office on new computers

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Save money putting old copies of Microsoft Office on new computers.

Jack C. from Colorado writes:

I’m buying 5 new computers to replace the old ones in my office. The salesman is quoting me for 5 new copies of Microsoft Office but I have Office 2003 running on my current machines. Is there any way to move those copies of Office to the new machines and save money?

Generally speaking Microsoft Office licenses are transferable – that means you can uninstall Office from an old computer and install it on a new computer. This is permitted by the Microsoft license to use Office.

The big exception is ‘OEM’ sales of Microsoft Office. ‘Original Equipment Manufacturer’ sales of Office with a new computer have a different license that allows Office to be installed on only one computer (the new one you purchased with the software) and there is no transfer permission.

(Compare that to the standard ‘Full Package Product’ license for Office that allows you to install on two computers, one desktop and one portable. These installations can be moved to replacement computers).

If your Office purchases were standard licenses (not OEM) then you can uninstall the software from the old computers and install them on the new machines.

If your old copies of Office were bought under the OEM license then, according to the Microsoft rules, you need to buy new copies of Office for the new computers. Then you have a choice of buying OEM licenses again (maybe cheaper but more restrictive licenses) or buying standard copies of Office (slightly more expensive but more flexible license).

Some additional comments that might be helpful …

Disks and Updates

To install Office on new computers you’ll need the install disk plus the product keys.

The install CD/s can be a backup copy on another disk or the contents saved to some external storage. At worst you might be able to borrow someone else’s disks, as long as they are exactly the same version and type of Office.

The Product Keys are vital and unique to you. If you lose the Product Keys then you can’t install Office on another computer. Thankfully there’s a way to get the product keys off existing computers.

After installation, make sure you get the latest service packs and updates for that version of Microsoft Office. This will ensure you have the bug fixes and security patches that came out in the years since your install CD was made. Only get download updates from

File compatibility

Office 2003 and previous versions of Office didn’t come with support for the new Office 2007 documents formats (.docx .xlsx etc) because the formats didn’t exist yet!

Microsoft has a free Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint File Formats which will let you read and save to the new formats.

The Compatibility Pack should be installed on any copy of Office 2003, Office XP or Office 2000 after the service packs have been applied.

Volume License

Finally, since you’re buying five copies of Windows and, perhaps, five copies of Office you might want to consider a Microsoft volume license. It could be a cheaper option than buying separate retail copies of Windows and Office.

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