New Office 2019 login troubles and how to fix them

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It seems that Microsoft has quietly changed how they enforce Office 2019 licences on a single computer.  Some people are discovering that they can’t use Office 2019 the way they did a few months ago.

Office 2019 is the perpetual licence, one-time payment version of Microsoft Office.  You buy the right to install and use on just one computer.  In Microsoft legalese, Office 2019 is a single ‘per device’ licence.  (Microsoft 365 is licenced by user, not device).

See Does an Office licence work for two users on a computer?

Until recently, more than one person could use Office 2019 on a single computer.  Commonly a couple might have separate Windows logins on the same computer.  Each could run Office 2019 as a separate user.

Now the Windows login may prevent Office 2019 from working fully.

None of this applies to Office 2019 for Mac for reasons that will become obvious in a moment.

Two logins – Windows and Office

A short pause to explain there are two logins at play with Microsoft, Windows and Office licencing.

There’s a login to a computer, in this case a Windows 10 computer.  Many Windows 10 logins use an online Microsoft account which is what most people have because Microsoft strongly encourages it.  A local (offline) is possible though that option is hidden.  The online/offline distinction will become important later.

Office 365/2010 software also has a login – it appears at top right of Office software like this:

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The Windows and Office logins don’t have to be the same account, though they often are with the same Microsoft account for both.  Multiple Office logins are possible (e.g. work and personal) with fast switching between them.

Office 2019 logins

Office 2019 is allowed on a single computer with any account login or none. 

The Office login didn’t have to be linked to the original Office 2019 purchaser.  The same applies to older perpetual licence releases like Office 2016 and Office 2013 – anyone could use it on the one computer.

We’ve tested this with a current Office 2019 release on one computer.  The software works fully with a variety of Microsoft account logins or no Office login at all.

Office 2019 linked to Windows online login

The Windows login is now somehow tied to use of Office 2019. 

That’s very strange – it’s not the Office login that’s affecting Office 2019 licencing but the Windows 10 / Microsoft account login.

Users are reporting that their Windows login (tied to a Microsoft online account) disables Office 2019 for everyone except the original Office 2019 purchaser.  By ‘disabled’ we mean Reduced Functionality mode where no editing of documents is allowed.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Is this accidental or another little Microsoft nudge to encourage a switch to Microsoft 365 annual ‘subscriptions’.

A Microsoft forum thread is an example of this licencing strangeness and the workaround suggested by ‘Rohn007’.

The workaround

Most Office 2019 users won’t strike this problem.  Only if you’re sharing a single computer with two or more people might the login problem arise.

The fix is to use a local Windows account instead of a Microsoft account/online login.  Start Windows with a local/offline login then Office 2019 works fully.

Make a Windows 10 local login

To add a local login Windows 10 user, go into Windows with an administrator account.

Settings | Accounts | Family and other users | Other Users | Add someone else to this PC.

Then Microsoft will try to force a Microsoft account login. Instead choose “I don’t have this persons sign-in information” then (at last) you’ll see the choice ‘Add a user without a Microsoft account’

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After that you can make a new local Windows account with a username and password.

More Office 2019, Microsoft 365 ‘latest version’ confusion
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