Thinking of buying Microsoft Office 2010 for a new computer? Avoid the great Product Key Card rip off… A Product Key Card is a different way to buy Office 2010 – it’s intended for use with a new computer. The traditional boxed retail Office package contains an installation DVD and the product key required to activate Office.
However, a Product Key Card is just that – a card with the product key written on it (although sometimes it only has a PIN – not the product key required to activate, more on that later). The crucial differences between the Product Key Card and boxed DVD package versions are:
1. Number of Licenses – The Product Key Card includes a license for 1 computer only. The DVD version includes a license for 3 computers (Home & Student) or 2 computers belonging to the same user (Home & Business).
2. Ability To Transfer License – The Product Key Card license cannot be transferred to another computer – if your computer dies (or is replaced under warranty!) you lose the license and have to buy Office again… The DVD version license can be transferred to another computer. If your computer dies you can use the license on another computer.
3. Included Software – The Product Key Card does not include any software – a new computer may come preloaded with Office 2010 which you can just activate. If not, you must download Office from Microsoft, install it and activate that.
The DVD version includes the Office 2010 software on DVD. If a new computer is preloaded with Office 2010 (and it’s the same version e.g. Home & Student) you can just activate that without needing to install anything. If not, you must install Office from DVD and activate that.
Hopefully it should be obvious by now that the Product Key Card license is extremely limited – especially the inability to transfer it to another computer. So why is it so often pushed upon consumers when buying a new PC?
‘Advantages’ Of Product Key Card – According to Microsoft there are several advantages of the Card – let’s consider how they hold up in practice:
1. Great value for one license only – At Amazon the Product Key Card and DVD versions of 2010 Home & Student are actually the same price ($99.99). The Product Key Card for the Home & Business edition is slightly more worthwhile – at Amazon the DVD version costs $186 compared to $150 for the Product key Card. However, self-employed or small business owners may think having the ability to install it on a PC and laptop and to transfer the license to a new computer is worth far more than $36…
2. Quick and easy to install, no discs needed – Whilst it’s true that no disc is needed if the new computer comes with the same version of Office preloaded, this is also true of the DVD version – you can just use the license that came with it to activate, no need to install from the DVD. What’s more, the DVD version comes with the 25 character Product Key used to activate.
However, the Product Key Card (despite the name) often doesn’t – if bought from a big box retailer it may only includes a 27 character PIN which you can use to obtain a Product Key from Microsoft. To do this you need a Windows Live account – if you don’t already have one that just adds another level of complexity and wasted time to the process.
If Office is not preloaded it is much quicker and easier to install from a DVD than have to download a 600MB+ installation file from Microsoft.
3. Eco-friendly – The Card version certainly appears greener than the DVD version. However, if Office was preloaded on your computer it would be advisable to download and burn a DVD backup copy of Office in case you ever need to reinstall or repair it.
If you follow that sensible advice, all the Card version is doing is passing on the environmental impact of burning a DVD from Microsoft to you… A more sensible eco-friendly route would be to cut down on the size of the DVD packaging – there’s no reason why it should be entombed in quite so much plastic.
Be aware of the potential pitfalls of the Product Key Card – especially if buying a new computer. Unless it is offered at a substantial discount (e.g. 50%) compared to the DVD version I find it hard to see any real benefits, just a lot of potentially major disadvantages.