Make sure your MS Office is legal

Question: I have Microsoft Office on my other computer. How can I get it on my new computer? – B.C.

Answer: People have asked this question many times, and the answer depends on individual circumstances. First and foremost, do you still have the original license and installation software CD? If the answer is no, you have no option but to purchase another copy.

If you do have the original installation CD and the license, you may install the software on the new computer – provided that you uninstall it from the old computer.

With Microsoft licensing, you are purchasing a single copy of the software for a single computer. Installing the software on more than one computer will violate your software licensing agreement. It is also not uncommon to be limited to the computer that the software is installed on. This is the case when you purchase an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) computer such as a IBM or a DELL, which included Microsoft Office. In that purchase, you bought an OEM version of Microsoft Office and that license is locked to that machine.

The primary reason is that retail versions of software cost quite a bit more than OEM versions. Retail versions have full packaging, user manuals, warranty registration, and usually some additional software included in the box.

OEM versions are basic bare-bone versions, that include the installation CD and a license, nothing else. Hence the lower cost.

Typically, an OEM version of Microsoft Office may cost $150 (Canadian, slightly less in the U.S.), compared to $300 for a retail-boxed version from the superstores. The software is the same, other than the extra user manuals and so on.

If you uninstall the software from the old PC and install it on the new PC, make sure you have a retail version, or a copy that will allow you to do so. In the worst-case scenario, contact Microsoft and inquire about the license that you have. Be warned – it may take a while to get through their technical support maze of telephone prompts.

In some cases, your employer may have purchased a special license that permits you to install a copy of Microsoft Office on your work computer, and on your home computer, as well. Check with your IT department for details.