Do I have to Rebuy MS Office When replacing a computer?
January 17, 2009 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Do I need to rebuy MS office if I'm replacing a computer?

I bought a Dell computer about two years ago and added the include MS office option. That computer died and I'm ordering a new Dell. Do I also need to include office on this one? Or when I bought the last one was I buying the office software which I can now use on this new one?
posted by GregX3 to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have the disks? If so, then you can install it on the new computer. Dell should have given you the disks.
posted by desjardins at 11:41 AM on January 17, 2009

If you still have the installation materials and license key -- no. Just install the old copy.
posted by SirStan at 11:55 AM on January 17, 2009 can get the key out
posted by TimeDoctor at 12:34 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

And if you do not have the install disks, contact Dell and they may send them to you -- I bought some Dell computers a few years ago and they did NOT include the OS or any other software disks, they put one of those horses ass partitions on the machine, I called them and barked a little bit and they sent me ALL the disks. Over-nighted them, too, which I thought wa pretty impressive...
posted by dancestoblue at 12:42 PM on January 17, 2009

Unless you bought some weird version of the software, no you don't need to buy another license for it.

The basics of software licensing agreements are this: they are like buying a book. You don't own the author's words, you own ONE copy of them to read and use. The author still owns the copyright on her words, and whether you own a copy of the book or not, you can't change what that copyright covers. And, like a book, you are buying ONE instance of that information. You can't Xerox the whole thing and give/sell it to someone. You can certainly sell that one instance of the book (normally). You can certainly move it from one bookshelf to another. What you can't do is pay for one copy of the book and then create more copies of the book that will also be used.

So, yes, you can install the old Office on the new computer. What you do have to do is uninstall it from the old computer if you intend to do anything with the old computer besides throw it on a shelf. If you give the old computer to someone else with Office still installed, you've got two "instances" of the software out there when you only paid for one.

(While technically I believe MS demands you uninstall the software, what you certainly can do is keep it on the old laptop, if that laptop is going to sit on a shelf as a backup computer.)
posted by gjc at 12:59 PM on January 17, 2009

The paid bill of the old office installation is your proof of ownership and the license key is the means to install it again.
Form my (European, specifically German) standpoint you could even grab some key from the internet. As long as you have your paid bill as proof of ownership, you own a copy of that version of MS Office. But maybe that is too much common sense ;-).
posted by mmkhd at 1:02 PM on January 17, 2009

This is from the perspective of a US resident and US laws.

Legally: Yes, I would bet you lunch[1] that you have to purchase a new copy of Office with the new system.

Can you get away with not: Yes, most likely. If you have installation media and the cd-key from the version of Office on your dead machine you will probably be able to reinstall it with no troubles.

Morally/Ethically: Depends on your views of intellectual property, licensing agreements, and how law affects morals/ethics.

You almost certainly have an OEM copy (in this instance, this describes a copy sold as part of a system, like what Dell does normally) of Office on that system. I have yet to see Office installed by a major computer maker that includes transfer rights. Transfer rights is the term usually used to refer to what your rights are to transfer the software to another system or person. The reason that Dell sells Office at a substantial discount from what Best Buy sells it for [2] is because you are have fewer rights in regards to how you use that software.

Some further Reading on transfer rights for Microsoft products [1] Redeemable near San Jose, CA at a mutually agreed upon location and time.
[2] Note, that the hundredish dollar Office Home and Student version is cheap because it also has substantially reduced rights associated with it. The license states that it may not be used for commercial or business purposes.
posted by fief at 1:29 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

In regards to gjc's comments about you "owning" one instance of the software. In the US, it is no where near this simple or clear. You may believe that morally/ethically, but it is not the case legally. When you purchase/open/install a piece of software these days you almost certainly "agree" to a license. That license is intended to be an agreement between the software maker/publisher/rights holder and you the consumer/user/purchaser. It will almost likely limit you in what you can and can not do with that software.

The uncertainty here comes from whether or not these type of licenses (2, 3)
are legal, and whether or not it is possible for the license to eliminate rights you are granted by other law.

An example; AutoCAD's license said you couldn't resell the software. A court case decided against AutoCAD and said AutoCAD's license could not remove the rights granted by the first sale doctrine.
posted by fief at 1:48 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you're really worried about this sort of thing, take a gander at openoffice, which is free and just about as good as MS Office.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:33 PM on January 17, 2009

If you bought MS Office with your old computer, the failure or replacement of the old computer does not negate the fact that you own a copy of MS Office and should be able to put it on the new computer. So you should have no qualms, moral or ethical, about putting it on there.

If you still have the installation materials and license key -- no. Just install the old copy.

When I replaced a computer, I found the disks but not the license key.

The installation process gives you a phone number you can call, to have a human being authorize your installation, and that person will give you a key.

As I recall, some person in India answered the phone, asked me why I needed an installation key, I told them I was replacing the computer, and they gave me the key. It was pretty painless.
posted by jayder at 3:15 PM on January 17, 2009

So you should have no qualms, moral or ethical, about putting it on there.

I meant to say, "moral or legal."
posted by jayder at 3:15 PM on January 17, 2009

fief is right.

Licensing is a strange beast. You do not own "Microsoft Office 2007." There is only one instance of "Microsoft Office 2007" in existence, and it is owned by Microsoft. What you have bought is a license to use Microsoft's property on their terms. If you own anything at all, it is a round circular piece of plastic, upon which Microsoft's property is encoded.

Anyway, for anyone considering buying a computer in the near future, at Dell, you can have an OEM license for "Office 2007 Home and Student" for $150, which lets you use it only on the computer that you bought it with.

Or, you could head to, and for $79.99 (at this time), buy a version that can be installed concurrently on any three computers that you own now or in the future. (Note that you are not allowed to use the "Home and Student" edition for business-- you are on your honor to follow this rule.)
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 4:34 PM on January 17, 2009

« Older Looking for the ultimate glove   |   Video baby monitor that works with handheld and... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.