What Is Office Starter 2010 On My New Computer?

What is Office Starter 2010 on a new computer? Manufacturers often ship new Windows 7 computers with the free Microsoft Office Starter 2010 preinstalled. But retailers then try to ‘upsell’ customers into buying a full version of Office – usually the Home & Student edition costing about $120.

Obviously this represents a big increase to the cost of a new $500 computer so why do so many people fall for the marketing spiel? One clue is in Microsoft’s own advice to manufacturers: “The emphasis of any end user advertising should never be on Office Starter 2010. Research shows that advertising or promoting Office Starter 2010 will distract your customers and deter them from purchasing a full Office suite“.

Distract your customers??? No, the idea of not mentioning it at all is to hope that customers won’t even notice that it is included free with their new computer purchase… Microsoft go on to suggest an actual phrase that manufacturers should use to describe computers preloaded with it: “Purchase an Office 2010 Product Key Card or Traditional Disc to activate preloaded software on this PC”.

Again, not a hint that this ‘preloaded software’ actually includes Starter for free – just more emphasis on buying the full Office suite. With marketing practices like this it’s no surprise that many users are suckered into buying the full product 2010 – without considering whether the free Starter edition would meet their needs, or even being told it exists…

But now you know better – so what exactly is it?

If you need an Office product (even if only for the occasional Word document) you have several options which include: Use Office Starter 2010 (if available) or buy one of the full Microsoft Office 2010 suites or install a free MS Office compatible program like the excellent LibreOffice (see my review here) – a free office suite that includes Word Processor, Spreadsheet and Presentation programs that can read and write documents used by MS Office.

Whilst LibreOffice is far superior to Office Starter in terms of features, it does have a learning curve – if you use MS Office at work and have Starter pre-installed on your new computer then you may as well consider giving it a try.

Work your way down the differences of Starter below – if you come across a deal breaker then either opt for a better alternative like LibreOffice or buy MS Office. But if you reach the end of the list then Office Starter most likely meets your needs i.e. you won’t have to buy the full version (although you could do later on if your needs changed).

Office Starter 2010 Differences

Compared to the $120 Office Home & Student 2010 edition:

1. Starter is free but only available preinstalled on a new Windows 7 computer (you can’t download it or buy it) – if it isn’t preinstalled on your computer then you’re out of luck

2. It includes Starter versions of Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel

3. It does not include Powerpoint but it does include Powerpoint Viewer 2010 – so you can view any Powerpoint presentations/slideshows that you come across but you can’t create your own new ones

4. It does not include OneNote (planning/notetaking software)

5. Starter editions of Word and Excel include adverts in a side panel – typically these are Microsoft adverts for their own software and aren’t too intrusive (no flashing animations)

6. Word and Excel Starter 2010 are simplified versions of the full products – although the format and layout is basically the same, some ‘business’ and ‘advanced’ features are missing.

– People who only use Word to create a CV or write a few letters etc almost certainly wouldn’t have used such features anyway – and even a ‘missing’ feature means that you can still view, edit and copy that feature if it appears in a document someone sends to you – you just can’t create it yourself in a new document.

– E.g. in Word Starter it is not possible to create a Table Of Contents but, if you open an existing document that contains a table of contents, you can still use it, refresh the data, copy and paste items, format the text or delete the table of contents.

– The full list of features different in Word Starter is here and in Excel Starter is here

7. Home & Student can be installed on up to 3 computers but Starter is preinstalled on a single new computer. However, one lesser known feature of Office Starter 2010 is that you can create a portable copy of it.

– i.e. you can easily copy it onto a USB flash drive – plug that flash drive into another Windows 7/Vista computer and you can run your Office Starter programs on that computer as well, regardless of whether it had any form of MS Office already installed. When you unplug the flash drive, Starter is removed from that computer.


If you need specific advanced features then you may have to buy Microsoft Office but many home users would be served perfectly well by the free Office Starter 2010 pre-installed on most new computers – or by a free alternative like LibreOffice if they require more features.

It is a shame that Microsoft’s advice to manufacturers appears to treat end users (that’s us) as too dumb to understand the concept of a free, albeit limited, version of Office – in favor of pushing an expensive product that may well be overkill for the basic requirements of many users.

What do you think? Have you tried it? Let us know in the comments below.

36 thoughts on “What Is Office Starter 2010 On My New Computer?”

  1. Maybe you can help :-)

    Word 2010 is running veeeery slow: lagging in typing, copying-pasting, scrolling. It’s so frustrating. I have removed programs, changed printer defaults, turned off bluetooth and repaired Word. What do I need to do to have a functional program?!

      • Thank you for your quick response. I did and have again used the word fixit. No change is speed is noticable.

      • One big problem with Starter is you can’t reinstall it – if you have tried repair and fixits and other possible solutions from Microsoft’s own forums then I can’t suggest much else except maybe system restore – only if it ever worked well?

        You could also buy full Office (e.g. Home and Student) or use free LibreOffice instead – it has more features than Starter (and no ads) but not as many as full Office

  2. If I use the Microsoft Starter, can I later install the full Microsoft 2010 edition or will they interfere with eachother?

    • if you have Starter then you already have the full version (probably home and student edition) installed, it just needs to be activated if you want to use it.

      yes, you can use Starter until you buy a license to activate the full version, shouldn’t be a problem

      Worst case, you could always uninstall Starter later before installing the full 2010 version anyway (eg if you bought a different version like office home & business) so feel free to use Starter now

  3. I have MS starter 2010 but can’t seem to save documents to a flash drive. If I download the whole thing will it allow me to save stuff?

    • Starter can save to flash drive or to computer – save a doc to the desktop then try copying it to flash drive. if it stills fails then the flash drive may be corrupt/faulty – try a different one or try copying a non-office file – if that fails too it’s your flash drive thats the problem

  4. I upgraded from XP to windows 7 a little over a year ago. I do quite a bit of writing and while the office starter that came already loaded on my computer was somewhat different that the old word program I nonetheless was soon whizzing along on my writings. However, I now need several hundred pages of data stored on cds saved in the old XP word format. What must I do to get office starter to display the documents properly, or will it?

    • Word Starter should have no problem opening old .doc files if they were originally created in Word 2003/XP etc – unless they include ‘business’ or ‘advanced’ features/layout which it can’t display.

  5. Roy,
    Is there a way I can do incremental backups after I have done a full backup using Windows 7? My backup drive is 250 gig and the free space really shrinks after each backup.
    Thanks for your reply and help.

    • Hi Dave, sorry but I can’t give personalized advice on things unrelated to articles – or I’d be answering questions from hundreds of people 24/7 ;-)

      I will say that W7 backup is basic and not easy to configure – it kind of has a mind of its own as to whether it does full or incremental…

      Personally I’d prefer a full backup package like EaseUS Todo or Macrium Reflect (both free) or one of the Acronis suite…

  6. Thanks for your Roy, but is increasing/decreasing the height/width of cells and the fact that you cannot, eg, use Avery’s system of printing labels/addresses etc, regarded as advanced features?

    • If they don’t work then presumably Microsoft regard either them (or features they rely on) as advanced.

      Starter is for basic use – something like Avery goes well beyond that. You may be better served by the full Office – you could try a free suite but check with Avery first to see if it’s compatible

  7. I have MS Excel Starter 2010 on my PC, which has the facility to increase/decrease the height/width of cells under the Format Cells heading. However this facility is not available when I import an Excel doc from an attachment in an email. Is there anything else I am unable to do in situations like this, and is there a way round this problem?

  8. Hi Dave, a system restore may cure it else see the following links to repair it (or reinstall if necessary)



    Note if you do uninstall it you may not be able to reinstall it again – depends how corrupt things got.

    PS registry cleaner and ‘tune up’ programs like this can be very risky – see https://techlogon.com/do-i-need-a-registry-cleaner/ for my opinion on them

    • Roy,
      I dont know what happened but later in the morning I found an email from Microsoft and it was the full complete Office 2010 for download. It was a no charge download. I downloaded it and had a problem installing it so I called Microsoft and the tech said it was under warranty and there would be no charge and he helped me thru it. It works great. Office Starter had to be removed first. I got rid of System Mechanic fast. System Mechanic even messed up my Event Viewer so I couldn’t view errors etc. The next day I received an email from Microsoft explaining how to repair my Event Viewer and after the repair it works now.
      System Mechanic sent me an email telling me that the problem with its interaction of Word Starter has been solved and all version 10 will be automatically upgraded to version 11 free of charge. That didn’t solve my problem because they wouldn’t help me fix the trial version I was using. I agree with you, Roy, that registry programs can mess things up. I really bugged System Mechanic for help and all I got for help was that my problem was elevated to the next level. I am not impressed with their tech help. Maybe they got the free Office program for me. If not then it was a miracle. I would not use System Mechanic because it does wierd things to the Registry when doing a boot after the computer has been shut off.

  9. I installed iolo System Mechanic Professional and now I can’t open Word Starter 2010. Please help.

  10. i just bought a new toshiba and it had microsoft office 2010 preloaded. I cant for the life of me find the 25 digit code that it is asking for. PLEASE HELP!!!

  11. I have just loaded my files from my old XP laptop onto my new Windows 7 machine with Office Starter 2010 installed. . I find I can’t open a Word file, ext .DOC, by double clicking it. That just brings up a window telling me the MS product necessary is not installed and inviting me to activate Office 2010 or buy it. On loading Word starter and using the ‘file-open’ commands the file can be selected and opened.

    Can the inability to open a file by clicking it before opening Word be corrected without purchasing a full Word program and if so what do I have to do to correct it. I assume the same can be said of Excel.

    • Office Starter usually associates itself with office files (.doc and .xls) so they open up in Word/Excel Starter by default but yours obviously hasn’t. You can create this file association by:

      Browse to a word .doc file then right click the .doc file and choose ‘Open With’ then ‘Choose Default Program’ – the Open With window appears. Make sure that the ‘Always use the selected program to open…’ tickbox is ticked then click on Word Starter from the list of recommended programs and press OK to associate .doc with Word Starter. Follow the same process for a .xls file and associate with Excel Starter.

      [If Word didn’t appear in the Recommended Programs list you would have to click the Browse button and select the Word Starter .exe program from within program files]

      • word starter is somehow hidden. I can’t seem to find location of exe file to use as defult associated program to open .doc files

      • Are you sure you have Word Starter installed and working?

        If yes, the Word Starter exe file should be at C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office14\WINWORD.EXE assuming C: is your Windows partition.

        If you can’t find it, go to Control Panel then Programs and Features then click on Office Starter then select Repair (or Change and then Repair, NOT Uninstall) – after the Repair check the association is ok – if not you should now be able to find the Word Starter exe file to associate manually

    • Just had the EXACT problem C Mead reported. Basically, 2010 Starter would not open any Word/Excel documents in a prior version already on my computer by clicking on them. It would only go into ‘compability mode’ if you opened Word/Excel first and searched for the file there. This method, however, does not work if you receive a Word/Excel document from someone else via email. So … 1) Tried ‘open with’ on the program file – did not work (my Starter shows up as cvh.exe??). 2) Tried the ‘change’ (or repair) of Starter and THAT WORKED. Thought I’d post my resolution in hopes it helps someone else.

  12. I use Office Starter as it was on a laptop i bought last year, ignored the hard sell of Office as i was going to install open office anyway but then found that Starter was already on so gave it a try – does everything I need and i never create powerpoint stuff anyway.

    Don’t notice the ads, maybe i’ve got used to them? How do you create a portable copy of it though and could i use that on an old xp netbook?

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