Microsoft Office makes me (re)activate Office. Why?

I have a recent version of MS Office, believe it’s the 2021 Suite, which I’ve been using for at least a year. It has been working fine except for the nag banner about upgrading (I cannot because I cannot upgrade Catalina on this iMac). However, today, there was another nag banner under the upgrade banner. This one said I should “Activate or Buy” Office. Wait, what? At first I dismissed the nag banner and started working on a document only to discover that I couldn’t edit it. This was very concerning since I use Office apps for my work. So, I quite Word and started again. This time I politely selected Activate. I then was presented with a login screen and had to provide my email, then some waiting while Redmond thought about it, then another screen, and finally they acknowledged my authenticity and I was able to use the applications. Now, AFAIK, this is not a subscription package, it’s MY software. I paid for it. How can MS lock me out of a suite I have paid for already and why? What sort of madness is this?

Microsoft has a strict rule of “one device to one application”. Periodically this “Activate” or "Buy is a soft check of your credentials, i.e. are you still using this product on this device? Mike

1 Like

You should be able to tell what version of MS Office you have by clicking on “About Microsoft Word” I am running Catalina and when I checked, I found I have “Retail License 2019” (not a subscription). Check to see what Microsoft thinks you have. I have been updating my 2019 MS Office regularly and haven’t seen anything like the “activate or buy”

I have “Office Home and Business 2021.”

Didn’t know that. It’s still the same application on the same device though. The query would not be so bad but they lock the application remotely until you reply. Is this a new tactic from Microsoft? My old version never did this.

According to Activate Office for Mac - Microsoft Support you need a Microsoft account to activate Office, regardless if it’s subscription or non-subscription. You also need to register your license key with Microsoft (again with a Microsoft account) before activating Office - I suspect you’ll need to do that if you didn’t purchase your license from the Microsoft Store.

This may be different behavior than older versions.

Believe I already did that when I purchased it. I have (had) a Microsoft account already. This time I only had to enter my email address. Still, locking an application I have paid for is not a good way to do business in my book. Thanks for the info.

Unfortunately, you don’t actually own the software. You own a license to use the software under certain conditions. Regrettably, this has been the case for nearly all programs for quite a while.

I wouldn’t worry much about the activation message unless it occurs repeatedly after re-activation.

It is an issue that is starting to bite people concerned with using vintage systems or archiving working systems, potentially leading to loss of access to historic data. For example, barring exceptional effort, it no longer is possible to activate very old versions of Adobe CS and other software, even if you contact the vendor.

Yes, I’m familiar with the licensing restrictions. Nonetheless, I did purchase the package assuming I could use it as needed. I have to say, I’ve been using MS Office products for almost as long as they’ve been around and this is by far the most intrusive aspect of their control, It’s actually the first time I’ve seen the activation message. I usually get the nag message to update MS Office. First time I’m seeing this since I bought this version of Office. Yes, the inability to access old software and old documents is a serious one.

My recent experience with Microsoft products is similar with intrusive, disruptive messages that prevent my workflow.
I haven’t had an Office issue so far but Microsoft Teams has been a nightmare - on several occasions I have not been been able to join a business meeting due to Teams misbehaving, with no apparent changes at my end.