Office for Mac: Install, Activate and Register

It’s all in the numbers. What you need to know to activate, de-activate, register, reset, replace, install, update and upgrade past and current versions of Office for Mac.

CD Key:  The Product Key also called CD Key is on a yellow or bright orange sticker on the CD package. The CD Key contains 25 characters.  If you purchased online, this will be in an email you received. It’s your responsibility to keep your CD Key in a safe place.

Office for Mac has always had a CD Key that was used when installing, but this key was not specifically tied to the drive. Starting with Office 2011, this key also activates your copy of Office. The activation process ties your key to the drive ID number.

Product ID:  The Product ID (PIN) is given during the Setup Assistant process. The Product ID will look like this: 11111-130-0001111-12345.  The product ID contains 27 characters.  The Product ID  is used to register and get Microsoft Support.  Write this Product ID down or take a screen snap. Starting with Office 2011, the Product ID can also be used to get a new CD Key.

Visit the following website, and use the 27-character PIN to obtain a new CD Key:

Registration:  Registration has nothing to do with the operation of the software – unlike the Activation required for Office for Mac 2011. It’s little more than a marketing tool. It will put you on a Microsoft email list. You can sign up for the newsletter without registering.

Activation:  Activation is required for Office 2011. Activation is tied to the drive not to your name, email or ID. Each license has a limited number of activations. Moving to a new computer or replacing a drive is allowed but not constant re-activations (see exception for Academic version). If you exceed the limit, you can call Microsoft to get help. Usually, the activation process will happen automatically, but if you have repeatedly activated, you might need to call in to complete the activation process.

Office Installation and Activation Support (800) 936-5700 or Office activation (U.S. only): (888) 652-2342

If you are an International customer, visit the following Microsoft Web site:

More info:  MS KB: Activation and registration information of a Microsoft product

 If all else fails…. Re-run the activation wizard and choose the option for Telephone activation just as you have done and call the displayed phone number.  But, this time, when the automated system answers, do not enter or say anything into the system.  This is supposed to transfer you to a live activation representative. If you call during normal business hours for your country or region, you have the best chance of speaking with a call center whose employees speak your language natively.

De-Activation:  There is no de-activation process. Some companies such as Adobe require users to “transfer” activation when moving a product from one computer to another, when replacing hardware in an existing computer, or when reformatting a system hard drive, but Microsoft does not require de-activation. You can use the steps below to Reset CD Key to remove your licensing info.

  1. What if my drive dies and I can’t de-activate? Can I re-use my key?
    1. De-Activation is not required. Simply enter your CD Key to activate after installing Office on your new drive. You might need to use phone activation to complete the process. The exception is the Academic version cannot be activated a second time. More info.
  2. What if I sell my computer? Do I need to de-activate?
    1. If you sell your computer with Microsoft Office installed, you need to completely remove Office or remove all files associated with activation if you plan to continue using your CD Key. See Reset CD Key below. If someone else is using your activation key, you will no longer be able to use it on your new computer.

CD Keys Needed for Installs

When you purchase Microsoft Office 2011, you might have a one install key where it only installs on one computer. Past version of Office for Mac allowed you to use a key to install on one desktop and one laptop, but you could not use both at the same time. Starting with Office 2011, the number of installs has changed. If you need to install on both your laptop and desktop, you need to purchase a one user – two installs. The Home & Student comes with one key that will allow for installs on three computers. See this link for more info on installs on older versions of Office for Mac.

Multiple Users:  If you have multiple Users on one computer, you do not have to use multiple activation keys. Microsoft Office is installed in the main Applications folder and can be used by any User. However, if you have multiple computers, each device will have to have it’s own CD Key.

Problems entering CD Key?

If you received your CD Key in an email, you can simply copy/paste the key into the activation window. However if you are entering by hand, it’s easy to confuse numbers.

The following characters are frequently mistaken for one another:

B and number 8
G and number 6
U and V
VV and W
Q and O
The letter O and the number 0 (zero)
The letter L and the number 1

Invalid Product Key

  • Verify language: One user reported:  “This was resolved after I was instructed to change my Primary Language setting to English.Mine was set to Welsh.This is done by going to System Preferences/Language&Text.Drag English to the top of the list and restart.”
  • Reset CD Key (how to) if you are sure you entered correctly, restart then try again.
  • See Invalid product key errors in Office for Mac 2011 for additional help.

Academic version

The Academic version can only be installed once. Even if your drive dies or you get a new computer, you can not re-use your CD Key.

Still can’t activate?

If none of the above resolved the issue, you have two options:

  1. Click on the following link and continue troubleshooting to ensure the issue isn’t caused by your machine:  Invalid product key errors in Office for Mac 2011
  2. Call the following phone number for Microsoft’s Installation and Activation Support:  (800) 936-5700

Install Basics

Installing Microsoft Office 2011 requires activation. Previous version of Office Mac did not require activation, but both require you to enter the CD Key. Registration at the end of the install is not required.

The Trial version of Microsoft Office 2011  does not require Activation. Choose “Try Free for 30 days” option. Enter the same email address you registered with when prompted. Start your 30 day trial period. You will need to do this each time you launch Office during the trial period. You can purchase via the Microsoft Store, but you can also purchase a retail copy (often at a lower price) and use the CD Key to activate the trial. No need to remove and re-install Office as we had to do in the past.

There are no trial versions available for download for older versions of Microsoft Office for Mac. If you found one, the trial has to be removed if you decide to purchase. After removing trial, install from the retail CD then enter your CD Key found on the CD sleeve.

Upgrade v.s. Update

Upgrade…move from one version to a newer version: e.g. Office X, Office 2004, Office 2008 to Office 2011. You cannot upgrade any version of Office for Mac to a newer version through a free downloadable software updater. You need to purchase Office for Mac. See this link for additional help.

Update…You can update for free any version of Office. An update includes improvements for that version. For example, you purchased Office 2011. Since it’s release, Microsoft has released several free updates. Currently there are two combo updaters available for Office 2011 12.1.0 (SP1) and 12.2.0(SP2). Updaters must be applied in order. There is no need to apply the incremental updaters that have been rolled into an combo updater. Example, 14.0.1 is included in 14.1.0 (SP1).

Home & Student does not contain Outlook and cannot be used for business purposes. If you decide you wanted to add Outlook you would need to buy a key for each computer. It would be much cheaper to buy Home & Business than to add Outlook later. Microsoft does have a 30 day return. For more information on how to return the product, refer to:

 Compare Office 2011 to Office 2008 for Exchange Users

Office 2011 requires

  • Activation
  • Intel computer
  • Exchange 2007 or higher
  • Leopard or higher

Office 2008

  • Does not require activation
  • Installs on Intel and PPC computer
  • Supports Exchange 2003 [upgrade to Entourage EWS v13 (free) to get Exchange 2007 or higher support.]
  • Installs on Tiger

Need Entourage for Exchange 2003, but want the new version of Word, Excel and PowerPoint?

  • Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint are the same in H&S, H&B and Academic.
  • You can run both Office 2008 and Office 2011 at the same time
  • You can run Entourage with Office 2011 Word, Excel & PowerPoint


Always keep your CD key, install CD or install .dmg handy. If you ever lose your CD, it can be difficult to get replacement media without proof. I currently use 1Password to store my CD Keys, but if you have older software you might want to check out  WebConfidential (supports Leopard- Mountain Lion).  You can also search MacUpdate for other password applications.

Office 2011:  If you have your CD Key you can always download the trial and use it to install (trial activates with your CD Key).

Office 2008 and earlier will have to have a CD to install. There are no download installers for Office 2008, Office 2004 or Office X. If you are running Office 2004 or Office X, I highly suggest upgrading to Office 2008 rather than trying to purchase a replacement CD. It’s very reasonably priced and runs on both Lion and Mountain Lion.

Microsoft KB:  How to locate your product key or obtain a new product key for Office for Mac

Reset CD Key

Office 2011:

  1. Close all Microsoft Office applications
  2. Open YOUR User’s/Library/ (Starting in Lion, this folder is now hidden.How to make visible.)
  3. Delete “” in User’s/Library/Preferences.
  4. Open folder “Microsoft” in YOUR User’s/Library/Application Support folder.
    1. Delete “Office Registration Cache” and “OLE Registration Database” in Office 2011 folder.
  5. Open your main Library/Library/Preferences folder and delete /
  6. Restart Mac. After restart open any Microsoft application and enter correct CD Key. You will be allowed to use the old key on a new computer. Each license has a limited number of activations. If you exceed the limit, you can call Microsoft to get help. Moving to a new computer or replacing a drive is allowed but not constant reactivations.

Office 2008

If for any reason you need to reset your Office 2008 CD key or if you accidentally entered the same key twice, you can change in Office 2008 using these steps.

Delete these two files. Restart. When you start any Office app, you’ll be asked for a CD Key.

  1. ~Library/Preferences/Microsoft/Office 2008/Microsoft Office 2008 Settings.plist
  2. HD/Applications/Microsoft Office 2008/Office/OfficePID.plist

 If the above fails, please try the following:


  • Microsoft Office 2008 folder in Applications
  • Your User Folder\Library \Preferences\Microsoft\Office 2008
  • Reinstall Office How to

Office 2004 and Office X:

You can use “Remove Office” to reset your CD Key. More info

“Remove Office” can be found in these locations:

  • Microsoft Office 2004/Additional Tools folder/ Remove Office
  • Microsoft Office X/Additional Tools folder/ Remove Office
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