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Cheap Visio or Project, if you dare

Microsoft Project and Visio are expensive extras to Microsoft Office so it’s tempting to buy cheap versions from sites like Ebay but there are traps for the unwary.

Visio software plans start at $15 a month up to a one-time price of $530 for Visio Professional.  Visio Online only can be had for $5 a month or $60 a year,

Project is even more expensive with software plans from $30 a month or Project Professional for $1,280!  Project Online is $7 a month.

At those prices, it’s little wonder that occasional users will start looking for cheaper alternatives? has noted before how even well-known sites like Facebook, Amazon and Ebay will offer blatantly illegal Office software.  None those companies nor Microsoft seem much interested in stopping the illegal sales, they are numerous and obvious.

Still, when someone is offering $500 plus of software for under $20 it’s tempting and buyers think it’s worth the risk.

$530 worth of Visio for under a fiver!

There are some little-known risks involved in these shady transactions.  Misunderstandings about how modern Office is licenced and activated.

Here’s what to look out for and how to protect yourself.

Only download from Microsoft

This is vital!  If the install instructions say to download from a non-Microsoft site, DON’T.

Only download Office software from  .

Other sites might have legitimate install downloads but there’s a real risk that ‘extras’ have been added like malware, viruses etc.

Similarly, don’t buy something that requires you to login using a separate email/password.

It works! For now …

Many cheap Office offers come with reviews from people saying they have successfully installed and activated Office, Project, Visio etc.  Assuming these reviews are real (many are fake), it doesn’t mean much.

Modern Office software, since at least Office 2010, has a ‘Kill Switch’. Microsoft can disable Office, Visio, Project etc at any time, not just at installation.

Occasionally, the software will ‘phone home’ to Microsoft’s system to verify that the licence is still OK.  This happens in the background without you noticing.

If the licence has expired or now considered illegal or invalid, the software will stop working or switch to a ‘Reduced Functionality’ or ‘Read Only’ mode.

Lifetime Product Key … yeah right

Merchants offer a ‘Lifetime Product Key’ but, as we’ve explained, that’s not something they can guarantee with Microsoft holding a ‘Kill Switch’.

If you reinstall the software (on a different computer or switching from 32 to 64-bit), the product key will definitely be checked again.

Office, Visio, Project 2019 or 2016 perpetual licence only.

Product Keys for one-time or perpetual licence software can work for many years (assuming Microsoft doesn’t stop it) however the ‘Lifetime’ promise definitely does NOT apply to Office 365 plans.

Illegal Licence linked to you

Use of an illegal product key is linked to your Microsoft account.  While it’s unlikely there will be any consequences beyond software disabling, it means there’s a direct link from the stolen product key to you personally.

Email delivery only

If you must try these illegal suppliers, only accept email or electronic delivery of the product key. That means you should get the product key quickly and can complain right away if it doesn’t work.

Mail delivery is slower and gives the merchant more time to skip off with your hard earned moola.

Credit Card only

Always buy via credit card. Credit cards have an established ‘Chargeback’ mechanism for disputing transactions that aren’t properly completed.

Single transaction only

Credit Card disputes are on a ‘per transaction’ basis. You can’t dispute part of a credit card payment.

So, it’s important to buy the software as a separate transaction, not bundled up with other items.  If there’s a problem, you can open a credit card dispute for that purchase only.

See Protect yourself buying Microsoft Office from Amazon or Ebay

Protect yourself from Microsoft Office phone scams


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