Yak Shaving (MS Office Edition)

So I’m setting up a virtual machine for one of my classes. The machine is chock full of the “free stuff” they give students, and instructors, at institutions like mine. It’s mostly Microsoft applications like Windows, Office, Visual Studio, etc. The software comes from a program called “Microsoft Imagine” which is run by a company that goes by the name Kivuto.

Lessons Learned

I’ll give you my conclusions first. You can then read the story if you’re so inclined.

Here are some things you should be aware of when using the “Microsoft Imagine” programs. Note that I’m using purchase in quotes since you’ll have to use the store front to buy your “free” applications.

  1. Don’t “purchase”the “Web Installer” versions of your applications, this is the online-only installer and it’s a PAIN to get the thing in a format where you can re-install later. Instead, “purchase” the DVD/CD versions so you get an actual mountable ISO image. You can’t go back on this, once you’ve “purchased” one type of file, you’re stuck with it.
  2. Save the ISO files, or package up the web installers, and put them someplace you can get to them later. Some of these applications have a time limit on their ability to be downloaded and in one instance I had to pay $10 for the privilege to re-download something that I had already purchased.
  3. Copy and paste your keys from the site into a textfile. Put these someplace secret and safe.

Also note that you can’t mix 2013 and 2016 versions of Office applications (Office + Visio, Project, etc) so check carefully that your versions match.

The Story

Here’s where I found myself this morning. I’m trying to setup Office 2013. I previously made the mistake of “purchasing” the Web Installer version, so I created an offline installer through some XML wrangling (I’ll write about this later). Everything installs OK and I fire up the installer for Visio 2016. Ruh-roh, here’s where I encounter my first issue. “Office” (just Visio) can’t continue until it uninstalls Office 2013. This can’t be right. So I hit up DuckDuckGo and come across this piece.

Error: Stop, you should wait to install Office 2016. We’ll have to remove the following if you continue.

If you follow the instructions it recommends that you update Office 2013 and try again. OK, no problem.

So I fire up Excel and I’m met with the “Product Activation” wizard. I don’t have Office 2013 installed on any of my other machines, so I tick the “online activation” box and click next. Not so fast big guy, Microsoft can’t activate my product online for whatever reason, and I’ll have to use the phone activation method. Crap, fine, whatever. Now I’m presented with a list of numbers and textboxes for an activation code, and I’m asked to select my country for a phone number. I scroll down to USA and I’m told that “Telephone activation is no longer supported for your product”. WTF?!? Searching DDG again reveals this gem.

“Telephone activation is no longer supported for your product” error when activating Office

OK, so now I have a phone number. I call it and the nice computer offers to send me a text message with a link to a mobile site I can use to activate Office. Here’s the URL if you ever find yourself in this situation.

Activate A Microsoft Product with Your Mobile Device (or Web Browser)

Note: This link could be dead in a week, who knows.

So I feed it numbers, it gives me numbers back, I feed those numbers to the wizard and it activates Office, and now I can finally get to updating Office 2013 so I can install “Office” (Visio) 2016. I check for updates and Office informs me that “The latest version of Office is installed on your computer.”


Fine, let’s go for it. I run the installer for Visio 2016 and it installs (yay!) but it removes Office 2013 (boo!). So now I’ve determined that I need to get Visio 2013. Luckily it’s available for purchase from my “Microsoft Imagine” account. I buy it, I install it. It works. Awesome.

Now I need to, again, install Office 2013. Done. Need to activate it via phone, again, using the link to the mobile site (I skipped the phone call) it works. Now I’m good to go.

This does provide a good lesson for students (and instructors like me), convince your institutions to use applications that are friendly to your freedoms, your time, and your sanity.

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