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 Issue #884: Jun 30 – Jul 6, 2024

Q: I have hesitated to ask this question because it is so simple I would seem like a computer illiterate (which I don’t think I am). I have legitimately purchased for several years a highly discounted authorization to download a popular office suite. It cannot be automatically renewed. Should I uninstall the current version before downloading and installing the new or is that unnecessary? And, if I don’t buy the new version should the current one continue to work other than not getting updates?

 – Doug B.
Niceville, Florida

A: Well, Doug, I’m glad you finally stopped hesitating and finally asked.  The question is probably not as simple as you think, and it certainly doesn’t reflect on your level of computer literacy.  If anything, it speaks to how difficult it is – even for computer literate people – to understand how modern software licensing works, and in this case, how it specifically applies to the product in question.

While I can appreciate your attempts to mask the name of the “popular office suite” to which you’re referring, I don’t see any easy way to talk about specific license instances without citing the product itself.  Besides there are only a few products these days that meet the criteria you set out, the most logical choice being Microsoft Office, specifically, Office 365, now known as Microsoft 365.

From there on down, I have a conundrum.  Except for the Microsoft 365 family or products, I’m unfamiliar with any Office license that lasts a year, and then needs to be repurchased (as opposed to renewed).  In fact, the “normal” way to purchase and install Office 365 is wholly online, that is to say, without having to go to a brick-and-mortar store and purchase a box with one or more disks inside.  Beyond that, renewal at the end of a year is pretty much a standard for the modern versions of Office 365.  It helps guarantee a continuing revenue stream for Microsoft.  Perhaps your description of it as a “highly discounted authorization” is the key.  It sounds like this is a specialized version of the software.  These are typically offered to specialty groups, such as students, educators, the military, or through a Home Use Program, or HUP through one’s employer.

In order to fully answer all your questions, I suppose I really need more information about just exactly what software, and more important, what software version you’re dealing with.  On the other hand, I can answer what are probably the most important aspects of your question with the information you provided. So, let’s do that.

It probably doesn’t make any difference whether you de-install the previous version before installing a new one, although doing so won’t hurt anything.  If the software needs a clean machine to start, you can bet that its installer has the ability to uninstall previous versions.  More likely though, it will simply do an in-place update.  The exception to this is if you’re having problems with the version you have now.  Rather than update the problematic version, in this case you would be better off uninstalling it in the hope that the fresh installation of the new product will alleviate whatever the problem is.  This is the same net effect as uninstalling and re-installing a product in an attempt to fix a problem.

As for the last issue of whether it will continue to work if you do nothing, I’d say that’s a good question, the answer to which will lie in either the license agreement that came with the software, or a simple experiment in trying it to see what happens.

If it makes any difference to you, I personally use Office products in my work, including writing this column.  I have chosen not to purchase the online versions, because I don’t want to pay the annual cost.  There are a number of outlets online that sell versions that I would describe using the same words you did: “highly discounted” at least when compared to the suggested retail price, which is usually multiple hundreds of dollars for the full Office suite.  However, unlike the online versions you only pay once, and the software continues to work in perpetuity (if there is such a thing where software is concerned).

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July 2024

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