With the latest version of Office, Microsoft has introduced a requirement to "activate" the software, which ties your copy to your computer. Unfortunately, upgrading your Mac can break that association, requiring a long, complicated reinstallation and reactivation procedure that can grind your business to a halt.I got my copy of Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 back in October, when Microsoft kindly gave me one for a review I was writing. I installed the software from the DVD with no problem, entered my product key on first launch, and was off and running. The product worked fine -- I actually liked it quite a bit, better than Office 2008, and I gave it a good review. The activation requirement was no more an issue than entering a product key ever is -- whatever was going on behind the scenes stayed invisible.
Until, that is, I decided to replace my hard disk. (The one I had was getting full, and I got a good Black Friday deal on one twice as big.) I used Carbon Copy Cloner to transfer the contents of my old disk to the new one and swapped the two without a hitch. But the next time I tried to run Word, it asked me for my product key again.
No problem, I figured, and just typed it in. No dice, the program told me -- I'd already used that key the allotted number of times. (I have the Home and Business Edition that permits installation on one, count it "one," computer.) I did some googling and learned that I was hardly the only person with this problem: apparently replacing my hard disk made it appear to the activation gods as though I were trying to run the program on an entirely different computer -- which, of course, my license wouldn't let me do. I did find references to "reassigning" your product key to a new computer, including in the license agreement itself. But I couldn't find anywhere, on the Microsoft support forums or elsewhere, that said how to do that.
When an attempt to activate online fails, you get the option to activate by phone. So I tried that. The phone number was answered by a pleasant-sounding recorded woman's voice, which asked me to enter my "installation ID" -- a 54-digit number that's displayed on screen when you click on the Activate by Phone option. After I punched all the numbers in, the voice asked me how many computers I'd installed the software on. "Counting this one the first time?" I asked myself, and told the voice, "One." Apparently that's the wrong answer: it replied, "We can't help you at this time, please call back later, goodbye," and disconnected. No hint as to what the problem was, no suggestion as to when "later" might be, no useful information at all. It did strike me that if the answer to the number of computers was that important, she could have asked *before* I punched in the 54 digits -- but whatever.
Next I tried calling customer service, who transferred me to the activation support department. (One positive note: they answered fairly quickly.) There I spoke to Steve, who told me all I had to do was reinstall the software. "Really?" I asked dubiously -- it seemed to me that if the problem was that I'd already used the activation key once, reinstalling the software wasn't going to change that. But Steve said it would definitely work, so I said I'd try it and wrote down my tech support case number.
As you can guess, Steve's suggestion didn't work. Thus concludes part I of the great reactivation adventure. Come back for the second round of my attempts to keep using my legally acquired copy of Office for Mac 2011 after a simple computer upgrade, when you'll meet Shelley and Suntosh.