Fixing extra licence problems in Office

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It’s possible to have more than one Office licence installed on a computer but that can lead to problems.  Here’s how to remove the unnecessary licences and get Office working properly.

Office Watch was presented with an interesting problem by a client.  A working install of Office 365 desktop for Windows but none of the ‘365’ extras like Dynamic Arrays or Dictation are available. The software worked, documents could be edited and software updates were installed.  No obvious error messages to indicate the problem, just missing features.

The clue was on the File | Account pane which showed the product licence was for Office Professional Plus 2016!  That wasn’t right because the build and version numbers are for Office 365 software.

Clicking ‘Show additional licencing information’ revealed the problem.  The Office 365 licence was there but would not verify.

The licence is definitely valid, as confirmed on the Office web account for the customer. The computer is listed as a user of that Office 365 licence. 

Office 365 isn’t running in View Only mode either, despite the warning.  It seems to be using the 2016 licence.

Removing unnecessary Office licences

How to remove the Office 2016 licence and, hopefully, force Office 365 to work properly?

There’s no direct way to edit the Office licences installed on a computer.  Customers should not need to bother if the software worked properly.  But sometimes it’s necessary.

To see full details of the Office licences installed, you need a Command Prompt window with Administrator access.  Tap Win then type Cmd to show Command Prompt, right-click and choose ‘Run as Administrator’.

Switch to the Office 2016 program folder:

For 64-bit Office

cd C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office16  

For 32-bit Office

cd C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office16.

Then run this command to see what licences are installed.

cscript ospp.vbs /dstatus

That shows lots of detail about the Office licences, for a full breakdown see our guide to the Office 365 Grace period. It can be a little hard to parse because the Office 365 licence is labelled ‘Office 16’ as is the real Office 2016 licence.   Read the Licence Name line carefully to tell them apart. 

In this example the first licence is the Office 365 one, see “O365HomePrem” . The second is really Office 2016 see “Office16ProPlus”.

To remove a licence, first note the last 5 characters of the installed product key.

BEFORE you remove the licence. Make sure you have a copy of the full product key so you can reinstall the software and licence in the future.

Close down all Office programs (might not be necessary but probably a good idea).

Here’s the command to remove a licence. Replace xxxxx with the last 5 characters of the licence key,.

cscript ospp.vbs /unpkey:xxxxx

If all goes well, you’ll see a message <Product key uninstall successful>

Start one of the Office 365 programs and go to File | Account.  Most likely you’ll have to reactivate the software, just follow the prompts then restart Office (yet again).  Now you should see a Microsoft 365 licence only and all the ‘365’ goodies are available to you.


Let’s pause for a moment to consider how difficult Microsoft has made this.  The ‘red’ licencing error doesn’t show on the Account pane, there’s no indication of the serious problem.

Why is the older Office 2016 licence being used at all when there’s a newer, superior Office 365 licence available.

Why has the problem started happening recently?  The two licences have been on the computer for some time, so something has changed in the way Office 365 handles licences.

Removing a licence should not take spelunking around with obscure commands.

Check your Microsoft 365 licence ‘grace’ or offline period
Restart or renew Microsoft 365 licence before going offline
How to get Microsoft 365 extended offline time
Does an Office licence work for two users on a computer
Microsoft 365 licences, are you paying too much and for too many?
The new Office 365 licence system starts today

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