"Copy". "Move" or "Transfer" an Office installation to another computer.

Technical Level : Basic

Summary
Many people would like to know how to "move" an existing Office installation to a new computer when they buy one.

To do that you need to meet 3 conditions:
  1. have a license type that allows "transfers", ie for consumers that is a "Retail" or "FPP" type license
  2. your unique 25 character Product Key
  3. a generic installation disk or file for the Office bundle that matches the Product Key

Details

Note: This discussion does not apply to the new Office 365 "subscription" (aka keep-paying-for-it-forever) license type. It has a whole new and improved user controlled process for transferring licenses.

Note: This article does not apply to Office 2016.  Now for both Office 2016 and Office 365 the license is now primarily associated with the email account, no longer with the hardware it is installed on.  Licence "management" is through the MyAccount page/site.


Microsoft sells many types of licenses. The type of licenses have also varied over time.  These licenses have various different "license terms".  This discussion is primarily about Office 2010, and earlier, licenses but is partly relevant for Windows too.

Boiled down into simple "non-legalistic" language, there are a few key points in the license terms:

  • you are leasing the software, you are not "buying" it
  • How many computers do you have the "right" to install and "activate" this product using this license. For the consumer licenses we are considering this typically ranges between 1 to 3 computers at the same time
  • Do you have the right to move the software from one computer to another, aka "Transfer"
  • Where and "how" you are allowed to use the license: at home for "personal" use, in business, what countries

This wiki will focus on the 3 key points to transferring software to a new computer.

1. License type

Here is a PARTIAL list of license types MS has used for Office:

   FPP- Full Product Pack, AKA "big ugly yellow Plastic CD holder box", AKA "Retail Box", can also be bought online

   HUP - Home Use Program, variation of the FPP, Corporate discount (ABSOLUTE BEST DEAL if you can get it)

   PKC - Product Key Card (scam), discounted from Retail price, bought in stores in credit card size format or online, no CD

   OEM - installed by the manufacturer at the factory, no CD

   POSA (2010) point of sale activation includes a product key but no media, obtained from a retail or online store as applicable

   ESD (2010) electronic software download includes a product key but no media, obtained from a retail or online store as applicable

   NFR -  Not for Resale. Disks are not for Retail resale.  They are typically given away for promotional reasons (Conference prizes etc)
   ACADEMIC - for sale to specific post secondary education student (discontinued)

For consumers wanting to move a license, the only relevant license type is the "Retail" or "FPP" type license. It has 2 key license terms: number of concurrent installations allowed, and right to transfer



2. Number of Concurrent Installations Allowed
One term is the number of computers it can be installed on.  With many software licenses it is 1:1, 1 license allows install on 1 computer only. 

Office, being sold as a "bundle" of separate programs was a major marketing coup.  The key point was that it was much cheaper than buying individual competitor programs.  Another part of the original marketing deal that the Retail license included the right to install Office on a second computer. The original assumption was that Office was bought to install on a desktop computer at work. Very few people had home computers, but some businesses were starting to get into laptops for key workers, so the assumption was that the second install would be on a "portable" computer. 

In addition, only the Office "Home and Student" bundle allowed install and activation on up to 3 computers in the home.

In Office 2013, the number of concurrent installations was "improved" to allow only 1 concurrent install for all Retail bundles.

3. Right to Transfer the License
If you have used up your number of allowed concurrent installations, the "retail" license ALSO gives you the right to "transfer" the license from one computer to another.  For pretty much all other license types, the license is permanently tied to the hardware. If the computer dies, so does the license. This is a real issue for 2010 "Product Key Card" licenses. Many people were caught by surprise when they had to buy a new copy of Office when their new computer died and the hardware was replaced under warranty.  The PKC license died with the hardware.

The Office 2013 Retail license was initially "improved" to remove the transfer right. Due to consumer pressure this change was retroactively revoked to allow the installation to be transferred to new computers.  As well, the 2013 PKC license was amended to allow transfers when the Motherboard dies and is replaced under warranty.   See the links at the bottom of this entry for the terms specific to these 2 Office 2013 license term modifications.


Office License Control via "Activation"
Installing Office has 2 major steps.  The first one copies the program files to your computer and does all of the configuration setup required to run the programs.  The second step is to prove to MS you are a legitimate owner of the program. You have to provide a 25 character "Product Key" to "activate" it.  The activation process takes a "snapshot" of your computer hardware and some software. This snapshot is later checked at random intervals to confirm the program has not been moved to a different computer.



Keeping Track of Your Office Product Key

Without your Product Key, you no longer have the right to install Office. For Retail Product Keys, for the most part MS expects YOU to keep track of your own.  Unfortunately, most people learn this after they have done something unrecoverable.


On a retail purchase of Office the Product Key is found on a sticker inside the "big-ugly-yellow-plastic-box".  


Some of the people who bought online-downloads do have another option. The online purchase process sets up an online account that contains a record of your product key and a link to the installation file download.  However, most online purchases of Office are for the "Product Key Card" license which does not include the right to transfer Office.


There is one more option. There are a number of 3rd party freeware and cheap Utilities that can "extract" the Product Key from a computer that has Office installed and activated on it.



How to Transfer Office
MS did not provide any simple process for transferring a license. The resulting process is entirely manual:

  1. Uninstall from current computer
  2. Install on the new computer
  3. (Optional) uninstall the factory installed trial
  4. Activate on new computer using same Product Key

You have to uninstall from the current computer to "free up" an activation count.  If the old computer is completely "dead" or permanently retired you do not have to uninstall Office as long as you know it will not be used.


NOTE:  Many, most, new computers come with a time limited free trial copy of Office installed.  If you plan to install a purchased copy of Office, you should uninstall the trial BEFORE attempting to activate your purchased copy.  Unfortunately, the activation system gets "confused" when you try to activate Office on a computer that has 2 unactivated copies installed.  Ideally, you should uninstall the trial BEFORE installing the purchased copy.

The key feature / design defect of the MS activation system is that it does not bother to keep track of uninstalls.  Restated, the uninstall process does not contact the internet activation system!

Then you do a normal Office install on the new computer. Nothing special about how you do the install.

Finally you have to activate Office on the new computer using the same Product Key.  You can try to do an internet activation during the install process, but it will probably fail with a "too many installations" type error message (sorry, i don't have the exact words. If someone could provide a screen capture of the error dialog I would appreciate it.) 

If the internet activation fails you have to resort to a phone activation.  Before you phone in, you will require your 27 character "Product ID" from the "Help" dialog or "About" dialog (depending on Office version). The phone activation process will tell you where to look for it.  When you do phone in, do not reply to the initial prompts. They will just give you the same error message, verbally. Instead, wait a long time until you trigger the error routine and you are offered the option of talking to a live "service" representative.  Explain that you are transferring a license and have already uninstalled (or permanently retired) the old computer. They should then allow activation to complete.



2013 03 06- Office 2013 Retail License Terms change it is now transferable

http://blogs.office.com/b/office-news/archive/2013/03/06/office-2013-retail-license-agreement-now-transferable.aspx

Transfer Office 2013 from Dead Computer - Jevon Fark - Replace PKC

http://blogs.office.com/b/office-news/archive/2013/02/19/office-2013-and-office-365-installations-and-transferability.aspx



 

Forum Article Info


Last updated April 21, 2019 Views 444,180 Applies to:

* Please try a lower page number.

* Please enter only numbers.

* Please try a lower page number.

* Please enter only numbers.

The article references a "27 character "Product ID" ". I thought it was on 25 characters.

Peter

Yes, it is unfortunate they so similar in description.

The 27 character product ID is generated by the installation on your computer.  The product ID itself cannot be used to activate your installation.  When you are doing phone activation, they ask for the Product ID, then provide you with an even longer "confirmation ID" to complete the activation.

Basically, MS assumes every customer is a hacker until they are prove they are a real paying customer (guilty until YOU prove your innocence).

The 25 character Product key is how you prove to MS, through the activation system, that you have a valid license. They assume that no one can generate valid keys, but there is some evidence coming to light now that may no longer be true ... (some people buying Office from computer builders are reporting that when they activate the new license it is reported as being activated by some other email account).

*
¯\_(ツ)_/¯
.
“ If you can’t explain it simply,
you don’t understand it well enough.”
- Albert Einstein
I wish to transfer, in a couple of days time, the version of Office Buisness 2016 from this computer to another which I do not have yet. I understand that I must take the version off this computer, but I do not have the 25 character key necessary to load it onto the other computer

No problem, unlike earlier versions, Office 2016 does not require you to have the key to transfer to a new computer. You log in to the MyAccount page:

http://office.microsoft.com/myaccount - install and re-install Office 2016, Office 2013 and Office 365, or manage your Office 365 subscription, register Product Key

Short form: Office 2016 grants you the right to install it on only one machine at a time. So, on your new machine, log in to MyAccount with your email address, click on install tab. There you will see your current installation.  Click on the "deactivate" link to "free up" you license to install on the new machine.  On the same page, there is a link to install on the new machine. Office will still be on the old machine, but in limited function mode. You can read and print files, but no longer edit existing ones or create new ones.

*
¯\_(ツ)_/¯
.
“ If you can’t explain it simply,
you don’t understand it well enough.”
- Albert Einstein
will my files on my old computer be available when I uninstall Office Home and Student 2013 when I install Office Home and Student 2013 on a new computer?
Your personal data files are not touched when you do an Office install. The files will still be there.
*
¯\_(ツ)_/¯
.
“ If you can’t explain it simply,
you don’t understand it well enough.”
- Albert Einstein
I find all this especially unhelpful.  It is gobbldygook!  I have a new computer.  My old one is DEAD never to live again.  I am paying monthly for office 365.  I need to know how to get it transferred to my new computer.  

I apologize for coming late to the party...but;

My "big, honkin' desktop is in the process of dying and I'd really like to not have to re-purchase an Office license again. Now, I follow the description here on how to get my current license (for Office Home and Student 2016) transferred to the new PC, and it sounds nice and straightforward. However, when I get to my account page and view my current license, I do NOT have a link (or anything resembling one) to "de-activate" the license (I see everything else including the link to download a new copy and my product key).

So, what's up, here? What am I missing?

I apologize for coming late to the party...but;

My "big, honkin' desktop is in the process of dying and I'd really like to not have to re-purchase an Office license again. Now, I follow the description here on how to get my current license (for Office Home and Student 2016) transferred to the new PC, and it sounds nice and straightforward. However, when I get to my account page and view my current license, I do NOT have a link (or anything resembling one) to "de-activate" the license (I see everything else including the link to download a new copy and my product key).

So, what's up, here? What am I missing?

There's no way to deactivate a one-time install of Office (such as Office Home & Student). To transfer Office Home & Student, you need to install it on your new machine from My Account, and then use the phone activation option to activate Office.

JM

Yes, you are correct you cannot deactivate a one-time-payment of office 2016. However, Wes should see the Office 2016 install button when he accesses his Office Account page.  He is going to have to contact Microsoft.

* Please try a lower page number.

* Please enter only numbers.

* Please try a lower page number.

* Please enter only numbers.