Are you considering Office 365 plans? Hold off on reaching for your wallet just yet. Let’s explore some alternative options first.
I know, the idea of acquiring a free Office 365 download seems a bit far-fetched. But it’s not impossible. If there’s a legal way to obtain it without paying, you’ll find it right here.
Naturally, one straightforward method is to get the free trial of Office 365 if you haven’t already. This version has limitations, but it gives you an opportunity to test it out before committing.
Now, let’s dive into the top ways you can secure a full, free Office 365 experience.
1. Acquire Office 365 through Your Educational Institution
Microsoft offers Office 365 Education for free to many schools and universities. As long as you’re a student or educator and your institution is eligible, all you need is a valid school email address.
This truly free version of Office 365 allows you to enjoy the benefits for an extended period. Apart from the familiar MS apps, this version comes equipped with tools that foster collaboration in the classroom, such as Access, Sway, Teams, SharePoint, Stream, and Flow.
Occasionally, Microsoft will verify your status as an active educator or student. Once your Office 365 Education plan expires, the applications will become view-only after 30 days. And after 60 days, you’ll lose access. To continue working, you’ll need to subscribe to Office 365 or backup your files and use Office Online.
If you were formerly a student, check if your school email address still grants you access. If not, see if you qualify for the alumni discount they offer for Office 365 Personal.
2. Utilize the Free Trial of Office 365
This is the easiest way to access premium versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher, and Access for free. However, the trial period lasts for only one month. After that, you’ll need to either subscribe to Office 365 or use one of the other methods mentioned here.
Please note that you’ll have to provide payment information to sign up for the free trial, but you won’t be charged until the trial ends. Once it does, automatic billing will commence. Remember to turn off recurring billing in your Account Settings unless you’re prepared to pay.
Unlike the online version, the locally installed Office 365 provides you with full document editing capabilities offline. Furthermore, you can share the free trial version with up to five others, and each person receives 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage. This allows you to sync and share files across Windows, Apple, and Android devices.
This method is ideal for short-term use. Please remember that you only get one free trial per email and credit card. Trying to circumvent the terms of the license agreement is not recommended unless you want to risk losing access. Or maybe there’s another way?
3. Test Drive Office 365 ProPlus with the Free Trial
Microsoft offers potential customers evaluation versions of their products through their Evaluation Center. This includes Office 365 ProPlus. To gain access to the full evaluation version, you’ll need to register an Office 365 ProPlus account and qualify for an evaluation account.
Similar to the Office 365 trial version, the ProPlus trial also requires payment information and bills you after one month.
Once you have access to the evaluation version of Office 365 ProPlus, you can share and manage up to 25 users. This version provides all the premium Office tools, not just web apps, and also includes Skype for Business. With streaming installation for up to five computers per user, everyone can work offline with full editing capabilities.
Since this is an evaluation version, expect a few hiccups as Microsoft continues to work out the kinks. It’s primarily designed to attract enterprise customers, offering a sleek toolkit for any company. However, if you’re not inclined to pay once the trial ends, you’ll need to back up your files and switch to an alternative software.
Tip: G Suite Business may not be free, but its pricing is competitive, making it a viable option for agile companies.
4. Persuade Your Company to Subscribe to Office 365
If your need for Office 365 is strictly personal, convincing your employer may prove challenging. However, if you frequently require full versions of Word or Excel, you likely have a compelling case to present to your employer.
While Office Online is a great free solution, its lack of functionality and offline capability can be extremely frustrating. If these limitations cause delays and eat into your productivity, the company may actually be losing money compared to what they would spend on a subscription.
This approach may not always work, especially if you are self-employed. Apologies to freelancers, but we’re exploring every option to get Office 365 at no cost.
5. Free Office 365 with the Purchase of a New PC
This option might not be suitable for everyone, but it presents an intriguing opportunity. Some PCs come with a one-year subscription to Office 365. This offer often extends to ultra-affordable laptops, allowing you to save $99 annually on an Office 365 subscription.
However, it’s crucial to double-check that you’re getting what you expect. Certain computers may only include Office 365 Personal, while others might not even have an operating system installed. Read the fine print and ensure everything is set up as you anticipate.
What about Office Online and Mobile?
Now that you know how to secure a free Office 365 download, I want to mention two permanent, easy-to-obtain Office alternatives—just in case they meet your needs:
Get Office Online
Office Online is entirely cloud-based and accessible on most browsers. As long as you have an internet connection, you can access familiar MS Office tools such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, along with Sway, OneNote, Outlook, Calendar, OneDrive, Forms, People, and Skype. Simply create an account and log in from anywhere to collaborate with anyone.
While Office Online doesn’t take up any storage space, the downside is that you need an internet connection to use the programs and access your documents. If you have reliable and accessible Wi-Fi wherever you work, this limitation isn’t too bothersome. Additionally, you can always sync your computer with OneDrive to store files automatically for offline access.
Keep in mind that Office Online has limited features compared to Office 365. However, for personal use, it’s suitable as long as you plan ahead. But if you’re coordinating larger teams using Office Online, it may not save you as much money as you’d hope.
Get the Office Mobile App
The Office mobile app is available for Android and iOS devices. It combines Word, Excel, and PowerPoint into a single app that syncs with all your Office-enabled devices.
While you can download additional apps, which will occupy some storage space, all your documents are stored in the cloud. With the app, you can create and sign PDFs, as well as edit documents, tables, and slides. Do note that the editing features are limited without an Office 365 subscription.
Similar to Office Online, the mobile app works well for personal needs but falls short in enterprise-level scenarios.
Please be aware that editing using the Office mobile app is restricted to screens up to 10.1 inches. If you have a larger screen, you’ll need to upgrade to Office 365 or accept read-only access.
Dubious Methods and Hacking
Lastly, I want to emphasize that while you might have come across these options in your search, they may not be safe or legal. Just as attempting to prolong your Office 365 free trial by using multiple credit cards or email accounts isn’t recommended, there are other dubious methods out there.
For instance, you might find people offering Office 365 for $1 on platforms like eBay. However, these product keys may only work for a limited time, and they definitely aren’t legal. Typically, you can use these accounts for a year or until Microsoft detects that your key is invalid.
There are also videos and blogs explaining how to hack Office 365 through successful KMS activation emulation. Some authors claim that the KMS license key is legal, depending on how the code is written. However, installing a key to access licenses you haven’t purchased is undoubtedly illegal.
In addition, these unauthorized patches you incorporate into your system may include unwanted functions. After all, they were created by hackers. Frankly, the risks associated with these methods far outweigh any potential benefits.
Similarly, stay away from any free Office 365 versions you find on torrents or other sites that are frequently shut down. Using an illegally obtained version may bring you more trouble than you bargained for.
Final Note: If You Have to Pay, It’s Not That Bad!
Ultimately, Office 365 offers an incredibly valuable suite of programs. Paying $99 per year is quite reasonable.
I understand the frustration, especially when you’re in a bind and unable to access your documents. Trust me, I get it. However, it’s essential to recognize that this software requires ongoing maintenance to ensure security and seamless integration. The landscape has changed, and companies transitioning to a subscription model aren’t necessarily evil.
Of course, I understand that there will always be differing opinions.
LibreOffice is a fully-loaded, free office suite used by over 200 million people. This open-source program supports more than 200 file types and includes applications like Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, and others that users familiar with Word will recognize.
There are also free offerings from Google that meet most personal document creation, sharing, and storage needs. However, for enterprise requirements, G Suite for Business is competitively priced and boasts a higher user satisfaction score compared to Office 365.
Use the trials I’ve mentioned to determine which option suits your needs. If Office 365 is the best fit, budget for it and consider it a worthwhile investment. Here’s a guide to help you understand Office 365 pricing and make an informed decision.