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

Microsoft Office rules might let two users or more use the same copy of Office on a computer.  It depends on which type of Office you have on a Windows or Mac computer.

Office can work for multiple separate users on the one computer.  Most commonly, there are separate Windows or Mac logins for the computer with each user/login having their own folders for documents etc.

Windows 11 for Microsoft Office users and Windows 10 for Microsoft Office users both have a chapter devoted to multi-user setup and use including making a ‘Guest’ account (which Microsoft stopped providing but we show how to restore Guest to Windows 11 and 10).

Once you’ve installed Office on a computer it’s available to all regular users on that machine however the licencing rules matter.

Microsoft Office is licenced in two different ways:

  • Per user. This is the way Microsoft 365 / Office 365 works. It needs a Microsoft account login within the Office programs.
  • Per device or computer. Office 2021 and Office 2019 works on this basis and it’s the way all past Microsoft Office worked for many years.  Anyone using a computer can use the installed Microsoft Office.

Two logins – computer and Office

Two types of login are involved.

  • The Windows or Mac computer login when you start a computer.
Login screens: Windows (left) and Mac (right)
  • Microsoft account login within Microsoft 365 programs (Word 365, Excel 365, PowerPoint 365, Outlook 365 etc) at top right on the title bar. This is the crucial login for Microsoft 365 / Office 365 use.

Microsoft 365 / Office 365

Once Microsoft 365 is installed on a Windows or Mac computer, any login to that device can use the software.  However, each person using Microsoft 365 is supposed to have a separate license to use the software.  That’s enforced by the separate login within the Microsoft 365 programs.

Microsoft calls that ‘per user’ licencing.  It’s the way ‘subscription’ or annual fee Microsoft 365 works.  The software can be installed anywhere, what matters is the Microsoft account used to login to the Microsoft 365 / Office 365 apps.

Each person (Microsoft account login) should have a license to use Office.  Either directly from a Microsoft 365 Personal plan or shared from a Family plan or volume license arrangement (organizations, education etc).

That’s the official line. In practice, a second person can use Microsoft 365 software on Windows/Mac but the software should be logged in using a Microsoft account linked to Microsoft 365 plan.

Office 2021, Office 2019 and before

Office 2021, Office 2019 and earlier versions of Office (non-subscription, perpetual licence plans) work on a per device basis.  That includes Office 2016 (Windows or Mac), Office 2013, Office 2011 for Mac, Office 2010, Office 2007 and so on back in time.

Once Office 20nn is installed on a Windows or Mac computer, it’s available to anyone using that computer. All they have to do is login to the computer and start Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Outlook.

No separate login is necessary within the Office programs so anyone can used the installed software.

Microsoft 365 licences, are you paying too much and for too many?

Can you work offline with the new Office 365 licence system?

Office 2016 – switching from perpetual licence to Office 365 subscription

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