Pitfall: Free Office 365 Personal or University subscription

Do you use a Office 365 Home subscription? It grants you, to use Office on multiple computers. Glad, you bought a new Windows 8.1 machine with a free one years Office 365 Personal (or University) subcription? Take care, what you do. It seems, there is an ugly pitfall for Office 365 Home users.


My MVP collegue Martin Geuß has discovered the the issue and noticed it at his German site Dr. Windows. Because it's even worse for international users, I will try to sort things out. Just have a look at an ordinary situation, users may be facing sooner or later:

  • The user has bought and activated an Office 365 Home subscription.
  • And there is a new Windows 8.1 machine that comes with a "one year free subscription" of Office 365 Personal (or University).

Great deal, you can use your Office 365 Home subscription on up to 5 PCs and/or Macs and on 5 tablet computers (even with Android or iOS). Ok, if you have a big family – or too many machines – the number 5 is a "bit to less". So it's even greater, that the vendor of your new machine adds another Office 365 Personal subscription. That entitles you to run this Office either on a PC or Mac and also on 2 tablet computers (your iPad and your Nexus 7 2013 for instance). Right? Right, but …

… I suggest a "hold on" and read my next words. If you intend to activate your Office 365 Personal subscription, don't use your ordinary Microsoft account! Just use a new one. Why?

The details are buried deep in Microsoft's Office 365 frequently asked questions – and to make it even worser, the English version doesn't give you any clue about the pitfall luring around the corner. Here is, what they are you telling, if you read the English FAQ:


Well, you get informed, that your Microsoft account allows only one subscription, so you "can either convert" your Office 365 Home subscription to a Office 365 Personal subscription … or you can wait until your current subscription expires …

Seems pretty harmless – but wait, lets have a look at the German version of the same FAQ, which is shown here:

Even, if you are not fluent in German, or even if you can't understand anything, our explanation is much longer as the English version. And trust me, it's not a "penalty" payed to the "terrible" German wording. The beef is buried within the additional text.

Here in brief, what Microsoft tell us in Germany: Your Office 365 Home subcription entitles you to use it on up to 5 PCs and/or Macs and on 5 slates! If you follow Microsoft's suggestion "You can either convert your Office 365 Home subscription to a Office 365 Personal subscription" you will have shot you into your own foot. Because, you loose the ability to run Office 365 on five PCs/Macs and 5 tablet machines, because Office 365 Personal is limited on one PC/Mac and 2 slates.

What you can do: Use a separate (new) Microsoft account – or wait with activation of your Office 365 Personal subscription until your Office 365 Home subscription expires. Or did I misunderstood something?

BTW: I contacted Paul Thurrot about this issue – his answer: "Yeah, I've run into this as well. (And just used the Office 365 Personal subscription on a secondary account.)"

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