Office 13 Retail May Be Bound to One PC Forever

TheAge reports that Microsoft is trying to push consumers into subscribing to Office 365 by "rejigging" the licensing conditions of the retail version, Office 2013.

According to the fine print, all versions of Office 2013, including Office Home & Student 2013, are single-license only, meaning the customer can install the software only on one computer. If that computer happens to crash, then the Office 2013 license dies with it, thus customers are not only forced to purchase a new rig, but a new copy of Office 2013 in the process.

That's a big change from the older version, Office 2010. Previously Microsoft limited installation to the licensed device and an additional portable device (laptop), the latter of which must be used by the single primary user of the licensed device. For the pre-installed OEM version, Microsoft wasn't as lenient, permanently assigning the license to the store-bought desktop or laptop.

For Office 2013, Microsoft has the same OEM-like restrictions for both the retail and OEM versions of the software suite. Thus, customers cannot transfer Office 2013 to another PC for any reason… at least, that's what the terminology indicates. The new wording for both retail and OEM doesn't say that the license is permanently bonded to the hardware like the original OEM license.

Still, this licensing could be a problem for the consumer who wants to upgrade their desktop or notebook, or need to replace the hard drive and reinstall everything. A dead computer is seemingly a dead copy of Office Home & Student 2013, Office Home & Business 2013 or Professional 2013.

The Age reportedly called up Microsoft to clarify the new license. "First I asked Microsoft's PR team to look into it and I was told retail copies of Office 2013 have a 'non-transferable license' -- not exactly making the situation clearer," said Adam Turner of TheAge. "So I asked for clarification and was told; 'Each retail copy of Office 2013 carries a one-device license. Once users install the software on a single PC, it can only ever be used on that one device.'"

A call to tech support provided different answers. After Turner was bounced around for 30 minutes, one said that Office 2013 could be reinstalled on a new computer. Another Microsoft tech support guru said no, it can't be reinstalled. Another said the suite can be installed on both the desktop and laptop simultaneously, repeating Office 2010's licensing allowance. It was clear that Microsoft's tech support had no clue, he said.

"A perpetual license of Office 2013 can only be installed on one personal computer," another Microsoft techie said. "This means that the customer can only install it on one device, either a desktop or laptop, but not both. If the customer has a system crash, they are allowed to reinstall Office on that same computer. If there are problems with this process, customers can contact Microsoft technical support."

It sounds like the licensing key may be tied to a computer's MAC address, as another Microsoft rep said that Office 2013 cannot be transferred from one PC to another PC. Customers can't even deactivate one PC, uninstall the software, install the software on a new rig, and then reactivate it. Is that surprising coming from Microsoft?

As Turner points out, all this questioning may seem like "splitting hairs", but consumers need to know if the hundreds of dollars they spent on software will go up in smoke along with their burned up dead computer.

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  • meluvcookies
    Goodbye forever MS Office. I quite like MS Office 2010, and I'm happy to hang onto it. I'd NEVER buy a piece of software under that kind of restriction.
  • sliem
    I'll use google doc or libre office.
  • ingtar33
    i'm still using 2003.

    never see the need to update it frankly.
  • SteelCity1981
    wow if this is the case microsoft is going to lose a lot of costumers for their office suite. Can you imagine spending 300 dollars on a office 2013 suite and your hard drive crashed and you had to go buy a new hard drive, just to find out you also had to buy another 300 dollar copy office 2013 suite again!
  • southernshark
    I hope Google puts some work into Google Doc because with this restriction I won't be buying Office anymore, at least not unless the price drops drastically.
  • freggo
    Simple solution.. Do not buy it.
    I use Office 2000 and just 'upgraded' to 2003 simply because I got a good deal on a -still sealed- upgrade pack.
    Only noticeable difference? Yeah, the screen layout, buttons etc are in different places.
    But let's face it, most of use use it to do some spreadsheets, basic database stuff ( heavy duty web DB work goes to MySQL anyway) and some Word documents.
    Different font sizes, bold, italic... include a photo, graph or some such.
    I bet that's what 90++ % of the users do with it. So what do I give about M$ trying to fudge me over on Office 2013; a product who's main reason for existence is to cover a boat load of paychecks for M$.
  • DRosencraft
    This absolutely stinks. Absolutely. Loved to use office in the past. I got it cheap, usually on sales, used it forever, transferring it all over the place if the system up and died, or I simply upgraded. How will this affect upgrading hardware? Does that mean if I change motherboards I have to worry about my license suddenly not working? Microsoft, the gaming industry, all these companies trying to kill off the ability to use easily or reuse software, is really getting on my nerves.
  • Someone Somewhere
    MAC Address? So if I change the WiFi card I have to buy a new copy of Office?

    I'll stick with 2010, thanks
  • mrmez
    People wonder why iOS et at. is so commercially successful. While there are many factors, ease of installation and transfer is a significant factor.

    Make software stupidly easy to buy, install, use and transfer.
    Buy an app for my iPhone, transfer it to my iPad. New phone, everything transfers over with a few clicks. Same with Apple computers. Get a new one, click restore. Done.

    I wouldn't say goodbye to Office 2013, just hello to a pirated copy.
  • dimar
    Don't waste your money. Just use LibreOffice.