The Case Against Microsoft Office Upgrades

Microsoft would love for you to upgrade your copy of Microsoft Office every single time there’s an update. And frankly, being the geek I am, I usually agree.

But there are situations in which even I admit moving to the latest version of Office (or any other software, for that matter) doesn’t make sense. While you never want to be too far behind the current version, here are a few situations it’s better not to upgrade.

You’re using Office on more than one computer

If you’ve looked at upgrading to Microsoft Office 2013, you should’ve seen, buried in the fine print of the End User License Agreement (otherwise known as “EULA”), that unlike earlier versions of Office, you can only install the software on one PC, whether desktop or laptop. Previous versions allowed users to install the software on one “primary computer” (usually your desktop) and one “portable” (like your laptop). This is always been really handy for people who take work home or on the road.

No more. The 2013 version of Office is just as pricey as ever but can only be installed on one computer. (At one point, the license terms were fuzzy on whether users could reinstall the software in case of hardware failure or the purchase of a replacement PC. That policy has apparently been relaxed somewhat, although some users have reported that re-activating the software requires a lengthy phone call to Microsoft customer support.)

Office 365 is considerably more lenient. For an annual fee that’s less than a single copy of Office 2013 (can you say “software as a service”?), you can license up to five PCs simultaneously. It’s, frankly, the platform Microsoft would prefer all of us move to, because you have to renew every year.

You’re still using Windows XP

If you’re still hanging onto Windows XP, you’ll want to look very carefully at the hardware and operating system requirements of any new software you buy, not just Office. The older and more out-of-date your operating system is, the more limited your upgrade possibilities. Even if you (barely!) meet the hardware and OS requirements, it’s probably best to hold off on that Office upgrade until you buy (or build) a new PC.

Your current copy of Office is still supported

As new Office versions are introduced, support like updates, free online training, etc., are withdrawn for much older versions. If you’re still using version 2003, you need to think about upgrading within the next several months. Using an old version isn’t merely an inconvenience. It could be a genuine security risk. If you’re using version 2007 or later and you got Microsoft Updates configured correctly, you should be fine for a while.

You’re comfortable with your current version

Unless you’ve heard about some “gotta have it” feature in either 2013 or 365, you should consider upgrading completely optional. Given how time-consuming it can be to adapt current work practices to a new interface, skipping an upgrade to be a genuine timesaver. And not many software users realize that even popular features can be “deprecated” (that’s “discontinued” to you and me) in an upgrade, so that nice little shortcut you spent years perfecting could get blown away if you’re not careful.

Give yourself–and your wallet–a break

Skipping a software upgrade does not make you a Luddite. It makes you a savvy, self-aware software consumer. Read the online reviews, study the feature list, consult your budget, and do what’s best for you, not Microsoft.



  1. Deborah, great post, as always.
    Folks should keep in mind that Microsoft is saying that they will stop supporting Windows XP and Word 2003 next year. I read recently that 30+ percent of Americans with Windows at home are still using XP.

    • The 30+% figure does not surprise me. Windows upgrades are normally pains in the butt, and with the XP-to-7 move, there was no direct upgrade path. I suspect a lot of people won’t move until they buy a new computer.

  2. Avatar Thomas says:

    That really sucks for people that they are no longer able to have Microsoft on more then one computer. I have a home computer and laptop so having upgrade on one and not the other wouldn’t make much sense. Eventually though they force you to upgrade. I do like what I hear about 365 sounds like something I could use.

  3. Avatar Bobby Salvin says:

    But what is the advantage to using Word when there are totally competent free software that does the same things? I’ve used Openoffice and not LibreOffice for years and years. How does Word even stay relevant? Is if just out of ignorance?

  4. Personally, I am a big fan of Office 365. I was able to pick up my first year for $70.00, and with five licenses (assuming I could buy separate licenses outright for $100/each) I’m actually saving money until year five.

    I think the best thing MS could do is offer a package in the middle. $70/yr for three licenses?

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