Microsoft's Office 365 Home Premium: What happens when subscriptions expire?

Microsoft's Office 365 Home Premium: What happens when subscriptions expire?

Summary: Microsoft is encouraging users to subscribe to its new Office, rather than buy it outright. But what happens once users' subscriptions expire?


Ever since Microsoft first outlined its plans to make its new Office available for purchase on a subscription basis (back in July 2012), more than a few users have asked what will happen if and when users discontinue their subscriptions.


When I asked Microsoft officials this question in September 2012, here's what I was told:

In the case of Office 365 Home Premium and Small Business Premium, if you stop paying for those SKUs after a year, you'll have a grace period to figure out what to do with your stored information. In the case of Home Premium, users will be able to download their saved SkyDrive- and/or locally-saved data, open it with Office Web Apps and read/print it for some set period of time. (Microsoft isn't currently specifying how long that will be.) In the case of Small Business Premium, you'll have some kind of currently-unspecified grace period, as well, when you can access, read and print data stored in SharePoint Online.

As of today's Office 365 Home Premium/Office 2013 launch, we now know a bit more as to how this will work -- on the Home Premium side of things, at least. (Office 365 Small Business Premium isn't "launching" until February 27, Microsoft revealed on January 29.)

For users with an Office 365 Home Premium subscription, as the expiration date of that subscription approaches, users will receive notifications inside the Office applications and via e-mail to remind/nag users about the approaching expiration date.

Once the subscription expires, the Office apps will enter a "read-only reduced functionality mode." This means users will be able to view or print documents, but won't be able to create any new documents or edit existing documents.

Users who want to regain their full Office capabilities will be able to purchase a new subscription (via or a set of predesignated retailers. Users also will have the choice of simply using older, existing versions of Office or to just use the free Office Web Apps on SkyDrive for basic editing.

If a user has stored documents created/edited with Office 365 Home Premium in their SkyDrives, these documents will still be downloadable once subscriptions expire. Users can save SkyDrive documents to another computer or drive at any time, according to Microsoft. (With Office 365 Home Premium, users get an additional 20 GB of storage on top of their existing SkyDrive quotas.)

In other "read the fine print" news, check out my ZDNet colleague Ed Bott's post on what CIOs need to know about Office 365 Home Premium licensing.

Topics: Cloud, Collaboration, Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • I'm confused...

    Can you download your Office 365 documents in regular .docx format and read (and edit) them with other office apps? Do Office 365 documents exist only online in some proprietary non-exportable format?
    • Not Positive

      I believe they will be a standard file type, but will just have some sort of DRM on them as well. It mentions using them in other older Office suites as well as moving them around from Skydrive and stuff. It wouldn't make sense to be able to move them around but have no other way of accessing them.
      • no DRM

        They won't be DRM'd. They'll be .doc/.xlsx/.ppts/etc files as normal. You can download and do with them what you want - they're your files.
      • They wouldn't dare!! DRM

        Can you imagine the uproar if MS placed some sort of DRM on files generated by Office!! It would be outright warfare!! It would be the end of Microsoft Office. Office has always been able to export to various formats, and only a fool would save them in native format under this subscription version of Office unless he knew he could easily convert them into a useful format.
        Frankly I have never seen any compelling reason to use MS Office except that it has become the de facto standard. There is software that is equal to or better than each of the internal applications in Office....... at least for my purposes. It is an obscenely over featured abortion where most people don't even scratch the surface of it's capabilities.
        • Re:

          That's true of most things with computers. People use what they need to and learn what they don't as they need them. You can't please everyone and what features you don't use, I probably do. If MS put some DRM on it, you could still copy and paste into an other format in another word processor. Once someone comes out with a word processor that works as well as Office does in Windows and is used by businesses, I imagine some will move to that. Until that happens, you can still buy Office 2012 which won't expire......

          I love Office365 and will probably still use it, because I like being able to continue on one machine, jump to another, etc. It's convenient and it works for me.
          Lauren Glenn
    • Not Positive

      I believe they will be a standard file type, but will just have some sort of DRM on them as well. It mentions using them in other older Office suites as well as moving them around from Skydrive and stuff. It wouldn't make sense to be able to move them around but have no other way of accessing them.
    • Doc Formats

      Your Office365 documents are regular Office documents that can be edited by Microsoft Office. Obviously, the newer format (.docx, for instance) will not work with Word 2003 out of the box. They may not let you continue to edit them if you allow your subscription to expire, but if you download them, your local Office copy will be able to edit them as always.
  • Office 365 Home Premium is really just Office 2013

    Yes, the naming is very confusing. But what you get is downloadable, locally installable Office 2013 apps that you pay for on a subscription basis.

    And here's information on the file formats that are used in Office 2013:

    Mary Jo Foley
  • Microsoft's Office 365 Home Premium: What happens when subscriptions expire

    Makes it a lot easier if you decide you want to use the application instead of the web interface and you know the documents will transfer and open seamlessly between the two.
  • open source soft$ware may offer alternatives

    despite corporate nannying, users must avail themselves of alternative control of their own assets (files, images, business documents, etc) to ensure no liability remains if data 'vaporizes' when you fail to 'pay the piper'.

    this may seem an alien idea to those who profit from MS and any other scheme that seeks users who blindly trust them.
    Nancy Smith
    • ....

      I really don't understand your post. Everything from the random dollar sign in the word "soft$ware", the fact that it followed open-source (which is commonly NOT associated with money) and also what liability? If you're referring to corporate documents disappearing (only thing that relatively makes sense), I expect that corporation to keep up with it's bills.
    • Their Own Assets

      If they are corporate, they are not their own assets. And every IT shop in their right mind is going to be wary of having people use whatever tool they feel like to monkey around with files that IT will have to support afterwards. What you do at home is up to you, and nobody will keep you from using your tool of choice.
      • huh?

        First of all, this is about the Home edition, so corporate can be left out of the conversation. Second, this is still Microsoft Office and these are still all the same tools that businesses have been using for years. It's the payment method that has changed.
  • The subscription is about the software

    The files created will not expire. This does not make sense. What is described in the article is when the storage space you have in the cloud will expire as well. If you download your files you have them and you can open them locally with a compatible software. But the idea of the subscription for the software makes sense. And for SkyDrive users, as long as you keep your files under the total (free) storage limit, you may even keep them in the cloud. Anyway, I am assuming that is how it is going to work. The article is unclear in making the distinction between software subscription, storage allowance, and the data itself.
    Andre Velloso
  • My Documents becomes Leased Documents

    Of course M$oft wants you to keep paying forever; it's an excellent business model. Plus they have your documents for data mining, law enforcement information requests, and whatever else they choose to do with them, and all this with no responsibility for loss, theft, or misuse of your files. And they can hold your files hostage so that you have to keep paying again every year. Like the way Office works today? It doesn't matter, because now every 3 months it'll change whether you like it or not.

    M$oft lost me at Vista/Win7 and the Office ribbon user interface. As a result I now use Ubuntu PCs for the desktop and Android for phone. And with the new Office 365 pay forever plan, I'm even happier with my decision to leave M$oft behind.
    Anono Mouser
    • Cloud

      I hope you don't plan on using any cloud-based storage solutions either, because most of them basically own your files when you upload them.
    • Why, Mouser?

      Why waste your time posting on a MS Office article if it doesn't affect you at all? Are you looking for affirmation for switching to Ubuntu and you opensource office suite? Okay: "Yay, you! Way to go!" Feel better now?

      If you had used Office 2010, you'd find that MS made some good tweaks to the ribbon interface versus 2007. It is now actually better (imo) than the "classic" interface. I am able to do my job quicker. It took a while to "un-learn" using the classic interface, but it was worth it. I've been using the RC of Office 13 for a while now, and I think the interface is still very good.

      Paying $100/yr for FIVE licenses and the additional Skydrive storage is not too expensive. If it is for you, then you don't need it.

      I've tried all the free or cheap office suites - some very recently - but keep coming back to MS Office. The majority of businesses and schools use it, and there is just no other way to ensure compatibility with shared files than to use MS Office.
    • im glad it works for you

      if you are able to do serious work on sub par software i'm glad it just works for you - i can't - my work demands that i get (purchase) the best available software out there and that's just Office. I've tried the cheap/free ones before and they aren't even close to Office.

      But I'm glad it works for you -

      The rest of your rant makes no sense.
      Master Wayne
  • I don't know whether this is right thread or not

    when it comes to publicizing the features that are given to audience with any Microsoft products, they just suck.

    Look at the Apps within Office. You could insert, the apps written for office, within your document and Office 2013 documentation has very limited information about it and their website showing this feature is pathetic. Microsoft you need a complete reboot at your Marketing.
    Ram U
    • this is what I am talking about
      and there is nothing similar to this in any other office type product for any other platform. Microsoft, you are just pathetic when it comes to marketing and that website is another pathetic example. It looks so busy.
      Ram U