Buying old versions of Microsoft Office

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How can you buy an older version of Microsoft Office to fit in with your other computers?

Fran, a loyal Office-Watch.com reader has that problem getting Office 2013.

“ I have Office 2013 on two computers now.  Is there a way to get another copy for the new Microsoft Surface I just bought for less than the price of a new single PC copy? Office 365 is not needed for what I do. “

As usual, when it comes to Microsoft Office licensing, there’s no simple answer.  Here’s a few things to try …

You might have an Office license already

Depending on how you bought your original Office 2013 either retail or with a new computer (aka OEM).

OEM purchases of Office (single payment, not annual subscription) are always for that PC only and non-transferable.

Retail Office 2013 is transferable (after Microsoft bowed to pressure).  Unlike previous retail versions of Office, the retail license is for just one computer, not two.

Most people don’t know or remember if their Office was an OEM or retail purchase (the Help | About screen might say).

Install the Office you have

Our, entirely unofficial, advice is to try installing Office version ytou have on the new computer using your existing product key. There’s no risk in trying.

You’ll need the Office product key. Retail purchases had a sticker with the 25 character code. Office 2013 and later don’t save the product key in the registry so it’s not possible to recover the key from there.

Hopefully, you’ll have your original Office DVD or a copy to install from.  Otherwise there are online downloads you can try but make sure the source is reliable AND it’s exactly the same Office release (i.e. Home and Student, Home and Student, Home and Business, Standard, Professional).

If the install and activation is permitted by Microsoft’s online licensing system, you’re good to go.

If the product activation does not work, there’s no harm done.  The Microsoft police aren’t going to coming knocking at your door.

Buy older Office versions

Microsoft doesn’t sell old versions of Office but some retailers might have some old copies still available for sale.

Ebay and, to a lesser extent, Amazon host merchants selling Office 2013 licenses.

It’s hard to tell whether these offers are legal licenses or not.  Many readers seem to feel that the low priced offers are worth a try.

Protect yourself buying Microsoft Office from Amazon or Ebay

More Office 2019 buying scams on Amazon and Ebay

Ask around friends and family, maybe one of them has an old Office retail pack gathering dust?

Failing all that …

If you can’t get a copy of Office 2013, then Office 2016 licenses are more likely to be available.  Or get a new Office 2019.

There’s not a lot of difference between Office 2013 and Office 2016. Certainly no compatibility issues to worry about.


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