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How to update your Microsoft 365 licence before going offline

Microsoft 365 does an online licence check at least every 30 days. If your device will be offline for weeks, how can you make sure you have a full 30 days licence before disconnecting from the Internet? Here’s how to update your Microsoft 365 licence before going offline.

Office 365 / Microsoft 365 software and apps check the validity of the linked plan at least every 30 days.  That happens regardless of how long before your Microsoft 365 plan expires.  It doesn’t matter if your plan has a year or more to run, the software checks at least every 30 days.

Normally you don’t need to think about it. Microsoft 365 apps will check your licence validity automatically when connected to the Internet.  Unless there’s a problem, you never know it happened.

See Check your Microsoft 365 licence ‘grace period’ for how to check your licence status in Windows.

Offline Woes

But, if you’re going to be offline for more than a few weeks, you’d like to ensure that Microsoft 365 has checked your licence and there’s no need to check for another 30 days.

People with laptops or devices on ships or other isolated locations need to know their Office software will keep working when offline. Who goes offline for days or weeks at a time?  On ships (sailing or cargo), remote outposts in forests, polar explorers etc.  Perhaps there’s a security requirement to keep a machine offline.  Not everyone has cheap and reliable Internet access.

Even if you’re only going offline for a week or two, it would be good to know that Office software will keep working.  You don’t want Office to stop working because you’ve been offline too long.

What happens after 30 days?

If Microsoft 365 can’t check the licence validity for 30 days, it will drop into Reduced Functionality mode. The dread ‘Product Deactivated’ message appears.

You can only view or print documents – no editing allowed.

To reactivate the software, go online and sign-in to your Microsoft 365 account.  That should give you another 30 days licence.

When do Microsoft 365 licence checks happen?

According to Microsoft, the Microsoft 365 licence checks happen:

  • After installation
  • ‘each day’
  • When the user logs into their computer
    • Note, the Microsoft docs says, computer, not the Office programs.

Our testing shows those check do NOT happen as Microsoft says they do.

We’ve seen computers that are online 24/7 yet show licence expiry dates of just 22 days. Restarting the computer doesn’t reset the ‘grace’ period to 30 days.  Nor does logging out then back into the Office apps.

In our experience, it seems Office checks it’s license status about every week or ten days. That’s because we’ve seen ‘remaining grace period’ values between 32 days (the usual maximum but we’ve seen 45 days) and 22 days on regularly connected devices.

See Check your Microsoft 365 licence ‘grace period’ for how to check your licence status in Windows.

Presumably similar licence checks apply for Mac computer, Apple and Android devices but there’s no documentation for them.

Reset the licence check

How can you reset the Microsoft licence check timer to give a full 30 days offline access?

We can suggest some strategies if you’re going offline for a few weeks, perhaps a month or more.

If you know a reliable way to force a Microsoft 365 licence check, please let us know so we can share.

Log out and log in again to ‘renew’ Microsoft 365?

Here’s our suggestion for getting Office software to check its licence and give you a full 30 days of offline access.  It’s a ‘belt and braces’ approach that’s possibly overkill but that’s what’s necessary because Microsoft doesn’t properly inform customers.

  • Open any Microsoft 365 program (Windows, Mac) or app (Apple or Android)
  • Sign out of your Microsoft 365 account.
  • Restart the computer (this is the ‘belt and braces’ bit)
  • Open an Office app and login again to the same Microsoft 365 account.

That should, hopefully, force a check of your licence and start a 30-day licence countdown.

Since Microsoft says a login to the computer (not Office) you should also logout and login to your computer/device.

Frankly, we suspect that Microsoft’s wording “each time the user logs on to their computer” is wrong because it only makes some sense for Windows with a Microsoft account login.

Long term offline

It’s a different story if you’re likely to be offline for more than 30 days.  There’s no way to extend Microsoft 365 without going online.

Switch to a perpetual licence Office

If possible, switch to a perpetual licence version of Office. Office 2019, Office 2016 etc.

Microsoft itself recommends Office 2021 for long-term offline use.

If your needs are modest and just Microsoft Word, remember that WordPad works with .docx documents.

Install an alternative to Office

As a fallback or emergency position, install (or at least download) an alternative to Microsoft Office. 

Maybe you have a old perpetual licence Office product key and install files?

Or use one of the free Office suite alternatives.

Must do better

Microsoft could reveal more details about licensing and licence checks.  Put all that customer licence info in one place rather than littered around various dialog boxes, web pages and command windows.

Paying customers are entitled to have a simple way to force a licence check and give themselves the full 30 days offline ‘grace’ they are supposed to get. That method should work for all Microsoft 365 platforms; Windows, Mac, Apple and Android.

The company should also check their own documentation because the daily licence update checks they promise are clearly NOT happening.

See Check your Microsoft 365 licence ‘grace period’

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