Mac Office 2008 Product Key Issue Solved

There have been numerous reports on the web of installation issues with Office 2008 for the Mac. Most of the issues seemed to center around Office 2008 not recognizing the proper product key during a re-installation. As far as I can tell from my Internet research, nobody had come up with a solution for the problem.

However, I was able to solve the problem when I encountered it. So, in this blog entry, I'll describe how I encountered the problem, the things I tried that didn't work and, finally, my solution to the problem. I hope this will be useful to other people who may encounter the same issue. I've also published my solution to one of the relevant Google groups on the subject.

The Problem

First, the situation. I got a new Mac at work. Since Voxant is a small company, the IT department simply keeps the boxes for the various Office installations, marking each box with the name of the person to which it was assigned. When you're small, you can get away with simple solutions like that.

The IT department gave me a copy of Office 2008 for the Mac from which the shrink wrap had been removed. Since no name had been written on the box, they believed it was still unused.

They were wrong.

As I soon discovered, that instance of Office had already been installed by someone else in the building. Whenever we were both on the network at the same time, the second one who tried to access an Office product would be unable to use it until the other one had quit the application the were using.

Clearly, this was a mistake (and not an effort at piracy). To resolve the issue, the IT department bought me my own copy of Office 2008.

I removed the shrink wrap, uninstalled Office and then installed the new copy. However, the new instance of Office automatically "remembered" the old product key. It didn't even prompt me for a new one, or give me the opportunity to change it. The same usage conflict ensued with the other user.

Failed Solutions

Next, I un-installed Office entirely, plus I removed everything on the machine that even mentioned Microsoft. On the next re-install, I was prompted for the product key. But on the very next install screen, the system once again "remembered" the old product key.

I went through this installation cycle several times. Each time, based on advice from various sites I found on the web, I tried to zap whatever was causing Office to remember the old product key. None of the things I tried worked.

The Solution

OK, so finally I did another bare-bones removal of Office. Then I re-installed and let it use the same product key as before. The one that was already shared with the other user.

Before starting any of the Office products, I edited the following two files:

    ~/Library/Preferences/Microsoft/Office 2008/Microsoft Office 2008 Settings.plist

    /Applications/Microsoft Office 2008/Office/OfficePID.plist

Both of these files have the product key in clear text. Edit the key with the proper product key. Then, when you start up your Office products, you'll be good to go.


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