Which Microsoft Office did you buy? OEM or retail FPP?

There are two different types of Microsoft Office you can buy retail and that difference makes hundreds of dollars difference you buying Office 2021 back to at least Office 2007.

It can be hard to know which type of Microsoft Office you purchased – and it really matters to what you pay and what you get.

These details are important for anyone using older versions of Office and want to move it to another computer.

If you have Microsoft 365 Personal/Home/Family, then you can skip to something else because this doesn’t apply to you. Check out Six simple steps for saving on renewals or first purchase of Microsoft 365.

OEM gives you less than FPP

There are ‘OEM‘ licenses for Office which come with a new computer.

Or you can get a retail package also known as ‘Full Package Product’ or FPP.

Both OEM and FPP come in all the various editions of Office with their combinations of software. Home and Student, Home and Business, Professional etc.

The software and features you get are exactly the same for FPP vs OEM .. the difference is whether you can move Office to another computer.

At first glance an OEM copy of Office looks cheaper than any retail edition you buy in a store but you’re not comparing the same products.

OEM copies of Office give you much less than a retail edition with the same name.

Even worse, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between an OEM copy and a retail package. In this article we’ll try to help you work it out.

The crucial difference with an OEM licence can only arise years later when you try to move that copy of Office to another computer. That’s not allowed for OEM versions of Office,


Any copy of Office sold pre-installed on a new computer with an ‘OEM’ certificate of authenticity.

Licences: one only

Transferable to another computer: No

With an OEM copy of Office you only get the right to install the software on the computer you purchased with it. You can’t transfer the software to another computer.

OEM copies of Office come supplied with new computers only. You might have bought it when you ordered the computer.

However, as with many things about buying Microsoft Office, things aren’t as simple as they seem or Microsoft pretends they are. Not all pre-installed copies of Office are necessarily ‘OEM’ copies with the more restricted use and non-transfer rules.

While the large computer makers (Dell, HP etc) supply OEM licenses with their pre-installed copies of Office, many smaller stores do not. Smaller outlets can get a standard retail copy of Office and install it for you.

If you buy a copy of Office from a large computer maker but separately from a computer purchase, it will be a retail licence.

You should be able to tell the difference by looking at the ‘Certificate of Authenticity’ (COA) that comes with OEM or retail packages. Microsoft had a web page (now removed) showing the various authenticity stickers. Most apply to Windows but under “Pre-installed Non-Windows Software COAs” you can see the sticker that accompanies OEM versions of Office, it is clearly marked ‘OEM software’.

coa_oem_5_lg.jpg image from Which Office did you buy? OEM or FPP? at Office-Watch.com
Example of current Microsoft Office Certificate of Authenticity for OEM software since June 2009. Source: Microsoft.

If you COA doesn’t have that ‘OEM’ phrase on it, then it’ll be a retail copy of Microsoft Office with the more liberal transfer and multi-use rights.

Retail or Full Package Product

(any retail purchased copy of Microsoft Office except the Office 2010 Home and Student edition)

Up to Office 2013

Licences: two – one for a desktop computer and another for a portable computer. For use by the same person.

Microsoft had no enforceable way to distinguish between desktop or portable computer so, in practice, the licence is for two computers of any type.

Transferable to another computer: Yes, you can uninstall from one computer and reinstall the same software on another computer.

Office 2016, 2019 and Office 2021

Licences: ONE only – the price didn’t change much but Microsoft halved what customers got for their money.

Transferable to another computer: Yes, you can uninstall from one computer and reinstall the same software on another computer.

Home and Student edition

The Office 2010 Home and Student edition has different rules than other retail offerings. The OEM version of the Home and Student edition is limited to a single computer, as noted above.

Licences: three – can be installed on any three computers (desktop or portable) in the same household for non-commercial use by members of that household.

Transferable to another computer: Yes, you can uninstall from one computer and reinstall the same software on another computer in the same household.


We have the full Office 2010 licence terms on our web site, if you’re having trouble sleeping There are separate sections for retail and OEM purchases.

The best thing to do is keep a good record of your software licences. What exactly you bought, when, the important licence terms (number of installs & transferability) and especially the all-important Product Key. With that information you’ll know in months or years ahead if you’re allowed to move a copy of Office to a new computer and save yourself some money.