Licensing Microsoft Office

Word, Excel and PowerPoint are typically sold together as Microsoft Office. There are many options for buying it, which can be frustrating when you just want to get on with your work. So let’s review the facts without delay!

Computers don’t come with Office

Office is not included when you buy a computer. The apps are there, but won’t work without a license.

Office isn’t free

Someone might have offered you their ‘spare’ license, but this is usually not legal. You need your own.

It’s available on subscription

Office is available as either a one-off purchase or a subscription. Benefits of the subscription, known as Microsoft 365, are that:

Business licenses are different

The versions of Office advertised in shops are usually only for you or your family’s personal, non-commercial use — homework, recipes, posters for the school fete. If you’re self-employed or otherwise working commercially, you need a business license.

It works on Macs

I still hear people say ‘I can’t use a Mac because I need Office’, which hasn’t been true since 1989. Office works on Macs.

You might not need it

Alternative word processors, spreadsheets and presentation applications are available — for free. They can open files created with Office:

License options

Time to buy? Here are the popular options, with prices as of January 2021:

UsePay annuallyPay once
Home / student
1 person*
£59 (365 Personal)£119 (Home & Student 2019)
Home / student
6 people (family)
£79 (365 Family)
1 person*
From £113£249 (Home & Business 2019)

Buy your chosen edition as a download directly from Microsoft.

*A subtle complication is that the annual subscriptions for one person allow use by that person on multiple devices, while the one-off purchase options allow use on just a single PC or Mac.

A word of warning

There are many websites selling product keys for Office at suspiciously low prices. As you might imagine, these keys are typically counterfeit, stolen, or otherwise obtained in ways that mean they cannot legitimately be used. Be sure to buy Office either directly from Microsoft or from a reputable retailer like Argos or Currys PC World.