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About the software on that used computer…

Houston Chronicle logo Houston Chronicle 2/27/2021 Jay LeeContributor
a close up of a sign: When the unthinkable happens, it can get very expensive reinstall Microsoft Office on your budget PC. © Rick Rycroft, STF / Associated Press

When the unthinkable happens, it can get very expensive reinstall Microsoft Office on your budget PC.

Q: My previous employer let me keep my laptop when I left the company. I recently had a hard drive failure and now I have to reinstall Windows as well as the version of Microsoft Office that I had. Is there a way to do this for free since I had the software previously?

A: I see this kind of thing all the time. Someone leaves their company and gets to take their computer with them or someone gets a great deal on a used computer from a business that is retiring old hardware.

The computer is often loaded with some juicy and pricey software, so it seems a great deal on the surface. But there's an underlying gotcha just waiting to rear its ugly head, and that's the matter of replacing the software in the event of a system failure or hardware upgrade.

Even if the computer still has the old recovery partition, the best you can do is restore Windows and that's about it.

If you had things like Microsoft Office or Adobe Acrobat they were likely added by the business after they purchased the computer.

For many businesses, the software is volume licensed to the company for use on company owned hardware and is not intended for use on a personally owned PC. The fact that they left the software installed when they sold or gave away the PC is actually a violation of the licensing agreement the company has with the software vendor.

It's common, though. Most people don't think about it, or, if they do, simply don't care.

When the unthinkable happens, your budget PC can get very expensive to get up and running again because those applications will have to be purchased if you want to use them again.

I am not a fan of buying second-hand computer, and I recommend that if you plan to do so, just know what you're getting yourself into.

Q: I am really struggling with some issues I am having with Microsoft Excel. Can you recommend a resource for learning and troubleshooting this software?

A: Occasionally I do get questions about using Excel and I must confess my total ignorance about this software. Even when I have to sort things out with Excel I find myself turning to the web to search for clues.

There are some very good online forums where you can post your questions and receive free assistance from other Excel users.

Check out the Microsoft Excel Community at techcommunity.microsoft.com. You'll also find discussion groups for all the other Microsoft products. You can also turn to the Excel Help Forum at www.excelforum.com which has been helping users with this app for many years.

helpline@chron.com

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