What happens if Microsoft Office is not activated?

By Emmanuel Dairo | April 24, 2019 |

greater than 5 minutes

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For those who routinely use text documents, spreadsheets or presentation slides at work or study, Microsoft Office is nigh on indispensable. You can as well say it is in a league of its own when it comes to the total package for creating, managing and forwarding documents in any common format. Even though pretenders to the Office throne have sprung up in recent times, it remains a fact that no other application bundle comes close to the ease, sheer versatility and plain old familiarity we get with Microsoft Office.

Most computers not called a MacBook ship with some version of Microsoft Office already installed. Usually, it is not the complete package of legacy apps — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, Publisher, along with OneDrive and Skype services — but Microsoft Word, and perhaps Excel and PowerPoint too. Moreover, it is not the full version of these applications but a limited period version that becomes unlicensed after the stipulated time expires.

So, the bundled productivity apps that make up Microsoft Office on a new Windows computer are there on a trial basis, unless the activation has been paid for by the OEM (unlikely). The trial period usually lasts for 30 days, after which Windows tells you to activate Office. Sure, you’d like to do that, but there’s just one little problem: Office is very expensive. The Home and Student edition of Office 2019 contains just Word, Excel and PowerPoint yet costs $119.99 as a one-time purchase, while Office 365 Home will set you back $79.99 a year (or $7.99/m).

With the exorbitant costs, it is understandable if you aren’t in a hurry to fork out money to fully activate Office. But what happens if the trial period finishes and Office remains unlicensed? Read on to find out.

What if my Microsoft Office is not activated?

Common sense says that if you’re using an unlicensed version of Office, you should get reduced functionality, and this is precisely what happens. The features affected in each application depend on the version of Office on your computer, but in general, you lose editing and creating functionalities. This means that during the period your Office is unlicensed, you cannot create new documents or edit existing ones. Your Office apps will become more of viewers than anything else.

Before the advent of Office 365, PC users activated Office through product keys that either came with the Office installation disc or were purchased online. The current method uses your Microsoft account details stored in the cloud. Since Office now adopts a subscription model, aside from special versions like the Home and Student edition that are bought through a one-time payment, you now have to pay subscription fees at specified intervals to keep using Office.

Back to the question at hand, how your Office behaves after the 30-day free trial ends depends on your sign-up method. Those who got Office shipped with their new computers will get a flashing prompt asking them to pay for a version of Office. On the other hand, if you downloaded Office through the Office 365 website, you will get no such message. Instead, if you have enabled recurrent billing, you are automatically migrated from trial mode to full mode at the expiration of the free trial. Your account is also billed with the amount of the version of Office you have chosen for the specified duration. Therefore, if you intend to use Office on a trial basis only, it is important you do not activate this feature; you can still manually pay for Office activation after receiving a prompt.

In the actual applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Publisher, you get one of several types of action messages informing you that your Office has been deactivated and you should make a purchase. In Microsoft Word, you get one of these messages:

  1. PRODUCT DEACTIVATED To keep using Word without interruption, please reactivate now:
    If you cannot resolve the
    problem yourself, you can
    ask our certified PC technicians for immediate assistance in the chat right on this page.
    This is a rectangular orange strip between the toolbar and the page, containing a white Reactivate button next to the message
  2. We’re sorry, something went wrong and we can’t do this for you right now. Please try again later error message: This shows up as an error bar; at which point one is unable to make use of the application
  3. Unlicensed Product/Product Activation Failed: Both of these show up on the title bar next to the title of the opened document. If the latter message shows up instead of the former, it is still possible to use the full functionalities of Word for an indeterminate period
  4. Microsoft Office Activation Wizard: Pops up the minute a Word document is opened. It tells you your copy of the application isn’t activated and contains options for (re)activation

Effects of deactivation on Office apps for Windows

If your Office trial period expired and you are yet to reactivate it, a lot of things can happen when you want to use any of the applications. One of these happens if Microsoft Office is not activated or licensed:

  • Constant Product Activation Failed messages
  • Error messages telling you your copy of Word, Excel, might be counterfeit
  • Disabled features, increasing in severity as time goes by
  • In some versions of Office, you get a dialog to enter your product key
  • In Office 2019, you get a sign-in prompt
  • If you signed up through Office 365, your account is disabled 31-120 days after deactivation
  • Your account is decommissioned and closed, permanently erasing you from the Office program

How to unlock unlicensed Office 2016/2019

If you don’t want your Office disabled, you can just pay for activation and renew your Office license. That way, you keep enjoying the awesome features of Word, Excel and other Office apps on your Windows computer. There are two methods to use for Office activation:

  • Purchase a license online

By buying a license direct from Microsoft online, you don’t have to leave the comforts of your home. Just go to office.com/renew and choose the version of Office you want to purchase.

  1. Select the Renew now option to pay a yearly subscription
  2. Select the Renew with a monthly subscription option to pay monthly rentals for Office

If you want your Office automatically renewed, enable recurring billing, otherwise turn it off.

  • Renew with a product key

If you buy a physical Microsoft Office disc that comes in a physical box or card, you should see the 25-character product key somewhere on the inside. Alternatively, the seller might send it in an email. Go to Office.com/setup and log into your Microsoft account. Then enter your product key to activate your copy of Office.

With activation completed, you should be able to enjoy the full features of Office. Beware though, your Office apps can be a target for phishing and malware attacks, especially if you use the internet often. To safeguard your applications and ensure that no problems develop when using Office, we recommend Auslogics Anti-Malware for the total obliteration of dangerous and harmful items on your computer. Just download and install it and let it scan your computer for potential sources of damage. It will quarantine them. It will also automatically block any phishing attempts or bogus messages and documents that might compromise your computer’s safety.

If you learned something about Office from this article, please let us know in the comments.

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