What happens if Microsoft Office is not activated or unlicensed?

Microsoft Office has been the gold standard of office applications. While there are plenty of amazing free Microsoft Office alternatives available, none come close to this real deal. Now many users have these questions – What happens when the trial ends, and Microsoft Office is not activated? Can you use an unlicensed Office copy forever? How long can you use it? This post has all the answers.

Microsoft Office is not activated

Owning a copy of this Office Suite could cost you a deep hole in your pocket. Currently, the full version of Microsoft Office 2019 Home & Business retails for $249 for a single PC license – The price is quite high. And then there’s a Microsoft Office free trial which lets you download and experience all of Microsoft Office for free for 30-Days.

Have you installed the trial version or trying your luck with an unlicensed copy of Microsoft Office 2019 or Office 365 on your system? This guide will tell you exactly how long you can use Microsoft Office without activation and what happens if Microsoft Office is not activated.

Microsoft Office Free Trial

The Microsoft Office trial is free for one single month, with no strings attached. But the user is required to pay for a recurring monthly subscription after the trial period ends, which costs $9.99 /month+ applicable taxes. Because the user must provide the payment details to get the trial version, the information is linked to their Microsoft account. But the user isn’t charged a single penny for the entire month when Microsoft Office is not activated.

What happens if Microsoft Office is not activated?

A free trial of Microsoft Office gives you all the components of the Office suite for 30-days— Access, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Word. But beyond that it demands activation.

For Microsoft Windows software product keys are typically 25-character codes that activate the product you purchased. To the digital kingdom, these keys verify that a user owns the product in question, providing a digital license to use it. But now, in the Office 365 era, the age-old product keys have largely been seized by account systems.

Now, coming back to what happens when the trial for Microsoft office ends and Microsoft Office is not activated. Again, it depends on how the user has signed up for the trial:

  • If the user signed up via the Office website, and if recurring billing is permitted on the Microsoft Account site, then service will continue uninterrupted, and their payment method will be automatically charged at the end of the trial. Note, here reinstallation of Office is not needed.
  • If the user signed up by clicking an icon on their system, then trial ends automatically after 30-days; it isn’t necessary to cancel it. As soon as the trial period ends, the user will be prompted to choose which version of Office they intend to purchase.

When the trial period ends, deactivation transpires for all Office products, like Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, Publisher, OneNote, Outlook, InfoPath or Lync. Furthermore, the below error messages would display on your screen:

1] Office Product Deactivated

Microsoft Office is not activated

2] Office Unlicensed Product

What happens if Microsoft Office is not activated?

3] We’re sorry, something went wrong, and we can’t do this for you right now. Please try again later

Microsoft Office is not activated

If you have installed the 30-day trial copy of Microsoft Office, you will be able to use Office for 30 days without any issues. Post that, most of the features of Office will be disabled.

How long can you use unlicensed Office copy?

After 30 days, the Office programs will work in a reduced-functionality mode which means that they will work like Viewers only. When a program runs in reduced-functionality mode, many commands are unavailable. Therefore, cannot create new documents nor can you cannot edit them. You can print documents, but you cannot save them.

Upon launching the unlicensed Microsoft Office users will encounter the following:

  1. Sign In/Set Up Dialog
  2. Enter Product Key Dialog
  3. Alert! “PRODUCT NOTICE”
  4. Alert! “Unlicensed Product”/ “Product Deactivated”
  5. Features Disabled
  6. Open/View Supported Docs

Here is the detailed description of the above messages:

1] Sign In/Set Up Dialog

A user will either get the “Sign in” to set up Office dialog which demands the user to sign into their Microsoft account (which he/her used to subscribe to Office).

2] Enter Product Key Dialog

The other case can be the request to “Enter the product key” dialog; here the users will be requested to enter the 25-character product key received during the time of purchasing the product.


On the expiry of the 30-day trial version, all editing functionalities of Office are disabled on an unlicensed copy of Microsoft Office. When a user attempts to open a New/blank document, they would see “PRODUCT NOTICE” with a message – “Most of the features of Word/Excel/PowerPoint have been disabled because it hasn’t been activated.”

This notice has an “Activate” button right next to it. Furthermore, if the user ignores the same and attempts to type in something, Office doesn’t allow and display this message in the status bar – “You can’t make this change because the selection is locked”.

4] Alert! Unlicensed Product/ Product Deactivated

Microsoft Office will also display “Product Deactivated” and “Unlicensed Product” alerts below the toolbar and next to the document name in the title bar respectively.

5] Features Disabled

Unlike in Windows 10 where most features remain to work even on an unlicensed install for an unlimited number of days, in Windows Office most functionalities are instantly disabled.

6] Open/View Supported Docs

Microsoft allows the users to open and view the supported documents in Office without activation, but editing is strictly not allowed.

What happens when an Office 365 subscription expires

This is what happens:

  1. 30 days after the subscription ends, you will see an Expired notice. You will have access to all Office 365 applications and services
  2. Between 31-120 days after the subscription expires, you will see a Disabled notice. Administrators can continue to access the portal and you can still backup your data. Users will not be able to log into their Office 365 accounts, however.
  3. After 121 days it is Deprovisioned and closed.

Concluding thoughts

If you are using Office without activation, things might not work smoothly for long. Also, if you feel you cannot afford Microsoft Office or Microsoft Office too expensive for what you intend to use it for, use Office Online or other free Office alternative software which not only looks like Microsoft Office but supports Microsoft Office formats. There are some ways you can use Office legally however.

Now read: What happens when Windows 10 expires?

Posted by on , in Category Office with Tags
Ankit Gupta is a writer by profession and has more than 7 years of global writing experience on technology and other areas. He follows technological developments and likes to write about Windows & IT security. He has a deep liking for wild life and has written a book on Top Tiger Parks of India.