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Overview of the Office 365 Subscription Service

Office 365 is a subscription service from Microsoft for the cloud based application suite. There are a number of different versions that offer personal consumers / end users, small businesses, large corporations, and government institutions, the ability to streamline their use and cost when it comes to the applications they need and use.

This blog post is a high level introduction to the two personal consumer and end user subscription versions available, the base, listed costs for each plan, (as listed at the time of this post’s publication), and the services that are available under each version.

I also offer a quick review of Office Home & Student 2016 edition, which is the one-time purchase version option for the Office 2016 suite, rather than an ongoing subscription based cost version like the Office 365 Personal or Office 365 Home editions.

There are two additional versions, Office Home & Business 2016 and Office Professional 2016, but because the focus of this post is really to personal consumer and end user use, I have skipped these versions, as they are normally more aligned to small business and true commercial and enterprise use.

When you purchase and activate your Office 365 Personal or Home subscription, you also get, in addition to the applications and services below, free upgrades to your Office installation. When a newer version is released during your subscription cycle (example – from Office 2013 release, to the release of Office 2016) you are granted the ability to upgrade your installed version as well.

This post will cover both the Office 365 Home and Office 365 Personal versions and the minor differences between these two offerings.



Office 365 Personal Subscription – $6.99 per month or an annual cost of $69.99 for one year (billed up front). This version is really meant for a single user with a couple of additional personal devices.

  • Allows for one installation on Windows 7 systems (or higher) or on Mac OS X 10.10 (or higher).
    • Office 2016 versions of:
    • Word
    • Excel
    • PowerPoint
    • OneNote
    • Outlook
    • Publisher
    • Access
  • Allows for one installation on a tablet device and one phone.
      • Office 2016 versions of:
      • Word
      • Excel
      • PowerPoint
      • OneNote
      • Outlook
      • Publisher
      • Access
      • Windows 8 or higher required.
      • Office Mobile applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote) require Windows 10.
      • Office Mobile applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook Mail, and Outlook Calendar) require Windows 10.
    • iOS
      • Office for iPad and iPhone requires iOS 8.0 or higher.
      • Office for iPad Pro requires iOS 9.0 or higher.
    • Android
      • Office for Android can be installed on tablets and phones that have both:
      • Android KitKat 4.4 or later version
      • ARM-based or Intel x86 processor.
  • OneDrive
    • Cloud storage
    • Available across all devices
      • Allows for cloud log in to ANY device with internet service; this is to access the cloud stored data (not necessarily limited to Office 365 subscription installed software).
    • One terabyte of cloud storage space (1,024 gigabytes of data storage)
  • Skype
    • 60 monthly minutes
    • Call mobile phones and landlines from any device where you have Skype installed
      • mobile phone, tablet, TV, or other device
    • Landlines and mobile phones for:
      • Canada, China, Guam, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Thailand, and the United States
    • Landlines ONLY for:
      • Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Chile, Croatia, Colombia (excl. Lex), Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guadeloupe, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia (Jakarta), Ireland, Israel, Italy, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, United Kingdom, and Venezuela.
    • Skype minutes cannot be used for calls in:
      • Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, India, Korea, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Namibia, Pakistan, Qatar, Taiwan, Tunisia, and United Arab Emirates.
      • In many instances, special, premium, and non-geographic numbers are not covered by Skype minutes.
      • Generally, emergency calls through emergency service provider systems cannot be made via Skype.


office home

Office 365 Home Subscription – $9.99 per month or an annual cost of $99.99 for one year (billed up front). This version is really meant for more than one user (in a household) as it allows for multiple installs over multiple devices.

In this section I will only outline the differences between the two versions, as many of the features and services are the same. Anything not shown should be considered “same as Office 365 Personal Edition, as shown above”.

  • Allows for up to five installations on Windows 7 systems (or higher) or on Mac OS X 10.10 (or higher).
    • You can install the same Office 2016 versions as listed in the Office 365 Personal Subscription above
    • These can be locally installed on (up to) five PCs, laptops, Mac computing systems
  • Allows for up to five installations on a tablet devices and phones.
    • iOS
    • Android
  • OneDrive
    • Same as Office 365 Personal Subscription above
    • One terabyte of cloud storage space (1,024 gigabytes of data storage) for up to five users
  • Skype
    • 60 monthly minutes for up to five users each
    • Same as Office 365 Personal Subscription above (calling use – landlines, cell phones, and countries, allowed and restricted)


Finally, and as a quick review, personal consumers and end users do still have the “legacy” option to pay a one-time retail cost and buy Office 2016 for their device. The version most home users will get is Office Home & Student 2016. The manufacturer suggested retail price for this version of the software suite is $149.99.

This version of Office 2016 only installs the following applications:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • OneNote

Additional limitations include:

  • It is only available for ONE PC or laptop device and it does not allow for a simultaneous install to any tablets or phones.
  • The purchase does not offer you the one terabyte of cloud storage space (1,024 gigabytes of data storage) in OneDrive – if that is something you want or need, you would need to purchase it separately.
  • There are no Skype minutes – if that is something you want or need, you would need to purchase it separately.
  • Version lock
    • When you purchase Office 2016 in this manner, you will only have this version. When new versions come out, you will not (normally) be upgraded for free. The exception to this would be a special limited time offer. (Example – the free Windows 10 upgrades that Microsoft offered users, through the end of July 2016, where they are running most editions of Windows 7, 8 and 8.1).
    • When you purchased the retail version of Office Home & Student 2013, you were not upgraded to Office Home & Student 2016 when it went to final release.

The minimum installation requirements for Office Home & Student 2016 are:

  • CPU – 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster x86-bit or x64-bit processor with SSE2 instruction set
  • Memory – 2 GB RAM
  • Hard disk – 3.0 GB available disk space
  • Display – 1280 x 800 screen resolution
  • Graphics – Graphics hardware acceleration requires a DirectX 10 graphics card.
  • Operating system
    • Windows 10
    • Windows 8.1
    • Windows 8
    • Windows 7 Service Pack 1
    • Windows 10 Server
    • Windows Server 2012 R2
    • Windows Server 2012
    • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Browser
    • current or immediately previous version of Internet Explorer
    • current version of Microsoft Edge
    • Safari
    • Chrome
    • Firefox
  • .NET version
    • .NET 3.5 required
      • Some features may require .NET 4.0, 4.5, or 4.6 CLR to also be installed.

Other requirements to keep in mind:

  • Any needed Internet functionality requires an Internet connection.
  • A touch-enabled device is required to use any multi-touch functionality.
    • Touch features and functionality are always available by using a keyboard, mouse, or other standard or accessible input device.
      • Touch features are optimized for use with Windows 8, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10.
  • Product functionality and graphics may vary based on your system configuration.
  • Some features may require additional or advanced hardware or server connectivity.
  • Certain features require OneDrive
  • Certain features require a Microsoft account
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2 Comments. Leave new

Tonight I received a message from Microsoft informing me that the free storage on Onedrive was being reduced from 15GB to 5GB. To compensate for any hard feelings, MS offered me one year of the personal subscription for free-including the Terabyte of storage. I am not sure if this is for everyone or exclusively for those that lost storage on the previous offerings.

Hi Tom! Hope you’re feeling better these days.

So I pulled the following information from https://blogs.office.com/2015/11/02/onedrive_changes/ which was released in November of 2015:

“OneDrive storage plans change in pursuit of productivity and collaboration”

We’re making changes to OneDrive storage plans for consumers and are committed to making this transition as smooth as possible.

Since we started to roll out unlimited cloud storage to Office 365 consumer subscribers, a small number of users backed up numerous PCs and stored entire movie collections and DVR recordings. In some instances, this exceeded 75 TB per user or 14,000 times the average. Instead of focusing on extreme backup scenarios, we want to remain focused on delivering high-value productivity and collaboration experiences that benefit the majority of OneDrive users.

Here are the changes:
•We’re no longer planning to offer unlimited storage to Office 365 Home, Personal, or University subscribers. Starting now, those subscriptions will include 1 TB of OneDrive storage.
•100 GB and 200 GB paid plans are going away as an option for new users and will be replaced with a 50 GB plan for $1.99 per month in early 2016.
•Free OneDrive storage will decrease from 15 GB to 5 GB for all users, current and new. The 15 GB camera roll storage bonus will also be discontinued. These changes will start rolling out in early 2016.

We’re taking the following steps to make this transition as easy as possible for customers:
•If you are an Office 365 consumer subscriber and have stored in excess of 1 TB, you will be notified of this change and will be able to keep your increased storage for at least 12 months.
•If you are an Office 365 consumer subscriber and find that Office 365 no longer meets your needs, a pro-rated refund will be given. Follow https://support.office.com/en-us/article/OneDrive-changes-for-Office-365-Home-Personal-and-University-subscribers-478fbf09-fd6c-4b6f-8c5d-18598cb0b200?ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US to learn more.
•If you are using more than 5 GB of free storage, you will continue to have access to all files for at least 12 months after these changes go into effect in early 2016. In addition, you can redeem a free one-year Office 365 Personal subscription (credit card required), which includes 1 TB of OneDrive storage.
•Current customers of standalone OneDrive storage plans (such as a 100 or 200 GB plans) are not affected by these changes.

OneDrive has always been designed to be more than basic file storage and backup. These changes are needed to ensure that we can continue to deliver a collaborative, connected, and intelligent service. They will allow us to continue to innovate and make OneDrive the best option for people who want to be productive and do more.

Additional information can be found at the FAQ (https://blog.onedrive.com/onedrive_changes_FAQ/), and we will continue to update it throughout the transition.

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