Copy Office 2011 into Parallels for continued 32-bit use?

I hope that someone might have experience in moving MS Office 2011 (32-bit) for Mac into OS X 12 in Parallels so it continues to run under OS X 15 and later (64-bit only) and would be willing to share their knowledge.

My work relies heavily on MS Word 2011. Over the years, I have extensively adapted it to my workflows and have developed about 30 macros and several toolbars that make my work doable. I have previously tried upgrading to Word 2016 and Word 2019 and have been dismayed to find that many of the functions on which my tools and macros are based have been removed, to the extent that I can’t do what I need. (My work is highly specialised, and my reputation with my clients relies in part on my fast turnaround times and in part on my skills with MS Word.)

So upgrading MS Office is not an option.

I’ve investigated moving to LibreOffice, but rewriting the macros is beyond me, and paying a consultant to rewrite them is prohibitively expensive.

So LibreOffice is not an option.

I recently bought Parallels with the intention that it would allow me to continue to run MS Office 2011 in a Sierra environment when eventually I need to upgrade my Mac. (I use a Mac Pro 5,1 that is maxed out on processor and GPU and has gobs of RAM, but I have my sights set on a Mac Pro 7,1. But even before that, it’s likely I’ll have to upgrade to a later OS to maintain security.)

Parallels would allow me to run Office for Windows, but I will not install or use Windows. That is not negotiable.

MS Office 2011 is a 32-bit application, which Catalina and later won’t run.

The obvious solution is to continue to run Office 2011 under Sierra in Parallels. I have installed Sierra in Parallels and copied MS Office into it. But this is where I run into Microsoft’s inflexibility.

In the past, when I’ve upgraded computers or had to replace the HDD or SSD, almost all of my software continued to run seamlessly on the cloned volume. The big standout exception is MS Office, which behaves as though it’s a new installation and requires reregistering. In the past, reregistering has been doable, if annoying. But since Microsoft has abandoned Office 2011, the option of reregistering has been removed. The last two times I’ve replaced the HDD/SSD, I’ve had to resort to calling Microsoft and ended up talking with support bods who follow scripts that try to encourage the caller to upgrade. On each occasion, with persistence, I’ve managed to get my query escalated to someone who knows how to reauthorise an existing installation, which has involved multiple transfers, multiple holds, repeated explanations of what I’m trying to do and recitation of strings of letters and numbers. Both times the exercise has left me close to tears and emotionally exhausted, just for the right to continue to use software (the licence to which) I legally own.

I don’t want to do this again.

So to my question: Is there a way I can transfer the current, functional, legal installation of MS Office 2011 from my current Sierra environment into Parallels that will avoid MS Office demanding that I reauthorise it while preventing me from doing so? (The computer and SSD are the same, although I suspect that MS Office will regard the Parallels environment as a new computer.)

If there’s no workaround, then I plan to engage an IT consultant to do it for me.

I am almost certain there is not, unfortunately. Microsoft has employed all manner of techniques to prevent you from being able to copy one installation to make it work somewhere else.

As I feared.

Use Carbon Copy Cloner to make a full bootable clone of your current Sierra installation (onto an external drive). Attach this clone to the Parallels Virtual Machine (running any current version of MacOS). In the VM, select System Preferences -> Startup Disk and select your clone as the startup disk. Restart the VM. This will be not a new installation of Office, so no reregistering required.

Thanks for responding. However, this is the procedure I use each time (not many, for which I am thankful) I need to replace the HDD/SSD, and the identical copy of Microsoft Office on the bootable clone is treated as a new installation and demands a new authorisation code. So I am confident that this won’t work. Unfortunately.

Did you try to set back your TimeMachine copy?

CCC points to this site to link the old TM-backup to a new HDD

Thanks. I’ll try that.

I finally got Office 2011 installed within Sierra in Parallels under Catalina. To cut a long story short, via the remote access software the level 2 tech left me with the old registration screen that used to appear and no longer does, and I was then able to phone Microsoft support again and enter a string of 54 digits over the phone in exchange for another 42 digits that I then typed in. The net result is that Office 2011 now works in a Sierra image under Parallels on my new iMac with Catalina. I have saved the image to memory cards to avoid having to reinstall Office 2011 ever again.


Hi - I am resurrecting this as I am preparing to upgrade to High Sierra. I remember reading that it may have an issue with Office 2011, but searching now finds plenty of people using it successfully.

I have an external drive that I updated to HS over the summer, but it’s an older drive that didn’t have Office 2011 installed on it. I ran through the installer last night, and got an error saying the activation servers were down when I tried to activate it. It gave me options to try later or call by phone. Again, google suggests this does happen and I can just wait a day or so (waiting overnight gave me the same error). I had been able to install it on my new machine well after the initial purchase with no problems.

My first issue is I don’t know if the servers are indeed down because it’s 2011 and MS ceased support in October, or if it’s a legitimate error.

My plan had been to do a fresh install of HS on a new hard drive and just bring over/install what I actively used, keeping the old internal as a backup for awhile.

Now I wonder if that’s such a smart idea, if I will forever lose Office 2011. I am guessing an upgrade to HS will not wreck the random files MS scatters around?

Also I’d considered installing 2011 on my iMac which will likely stay at Sierra for quite awhile, and wonder if trying to install on two machines will cause more troubles than it’s worth at this point. If I had it over there I could at least remote over and use it while on my network.

It looks like I’d call the phone number and be provided with a string of different numbers to install but I don’t know if it’s an automated process and if it would let me squeak by with two machines.

I am not opposed to buying Office 2016 if it doesn’t lock me into that horrid ribbon bar, but it looks like I’ll have to throw the dart at eBay for that.

I’ve used Pages, Numbers, Libra Office and Open Office at the very least, and they just don’t work for some of my projects so they are not a viable option. I’ve been using Excel since it came out, Word in a necessary evil when I exchange files with some people.

Thanks so much,