Retail copies of Office 2013 are tied to a single computer forever

Microsoft Office 2013 logo

With the launch of Office 2013 Microsoft has seen fit to upgrade the terms of the license agreement, and it’s not in favor of the end user. It seems installing a copy of the latest version of Microsoft’s Office suite of apps ties it to a single machine. For life.

What does that mean in real terms? It means if your machine dies or you upgrade to a new computer you cannot take a copy of Office 2013 with you to new hardware. You will need to purchase another copy, which again will be tied to the machine it is installed upon forever.

This license change has been confirmed by The Age’s reporter Adam Turner after several frustrating calls to Microsoft’s tech support and PR departments. It effectively turns Office 2013 into the equivalent on the Windows OEM license where you get one chance to use it on a single piece of hardware.

Microsoft Office 2013 apps

On previous versions of Office it was a different story. The suite was associated with a “Licensed Device” and could only be used on a single device. But there was nothing to stop you uninstalling Office and installing it on another machine perfectly legally. With that option removed, Office 2013 effectively becomes a much more expensive proposition for many. As a reminder, Office 2013 costs anywhere from $140 to $400 depending on the version chosen (Office Home & Student, Office Home & Business, or Office Professional), all of which carry the new license agreement.

Of course, Microsoft has a solution to this in the form of Office 365. Instead of buying a retail copy tied to a single machine, you could instead subscribe to Office 365, which is tied to the user not the hardware, and can be used across 5 PCs or 4 Macs at any one time. But subscriptions aren’t for everyone, and eventually you end up paying more for the software.

It’s more likely these new license terms will push users to choose an alternative to Office 2013 or Office 365. Both OpenOffice and LibreOffice are free and good enough for the consumer market. Google is also continuing to push its free-to-use Google Docs as an alternative to Office.