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July 5, 2020

Grooming MS Office 365 Licenses & Activations

In reading over some MS Office 365-related threads at TenForums lately, I’ve been learning more about the Office software protection platform script, aka ospp.vbs. I’d started poking around with same, to understand what the fuss might be about. First, I turned to MS Docs, where I found a helpful overview and explanation entitled “Tools to manage volume activation of Office.” The first heading in that document reads “The ospp.vbs script” and it provides a raft of useful information. Also, it turns out that if you type cscript ospp.vbs /? at the command line, it produces a local web page (HTML file) in Internet Explorer (go figure!). It’s named file:///C:/Program%20Files%20(x86)/Microsoft%20Office/Office16/OSPP.HTM. Experienced web users will recognize this URL syntax as corresponding to a local file which IE reads from the C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office16 folder. I’m not sure if the file is generated or is already present — goes off to look — looks like it’s laid down as part of Office 365 installation. If you want to play with this command, it’s definitely worth digging into, as I was quick to learn myself.

Get License Status with dstatus

When you run the Office software protection platform script, it resides at the root of your current office installation. For current Office versions, that also means the folder structure will vary depending on whether the install is 32 or 64 bit. If it’s 32-bit, it will reside in the C:\Program Files (x86) folder tree; if 64-bit, in the C:\Program Files tree. I usually use Voidtools Everything to search for ospp.vbs then use shift-right-click to grab its path information. You must change to that directory in PowerShell or cmd.exe to run the script anyway, and this makes sure you’ll grab the right one (don’t forget to trim the /opss.vbs/ portion off the end of the string, because you only need to navigate to its home directory, not specify the file in full. In the following screenshot, you can see my Lenovo X1 Extreme is running 64-bit Office 365 because it’s set to the “Program Files” root folder. In that context, I run the string cscript ospp.vbs /dstatus to see what licenses for Office are installed and to check their status. Here’s what that output looks like:

Grooming MS Office 365 Licenses & Activations.dstatus

Notice that licensed status says “LICENSED” with a 5-letter key suffix in the last line. Read that info as “it’s all good” for this installation.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

Removing Unwanted Office Licenses

You may occasionally find a variety of “grace” or “trial” versions, with license key suffixes included when you run this command on a Windows 10 PC. If so, and you don’t need or want those licenses on that machine, there’s a simple ospp.vbs sequence you can use to purge them. Take those 5 characters — let’s use A1B2C as an illustration here — and use them in this string: cscript ospp.vbs /unpkey:A1B2C. I’ll show this at work on an expired grace edition on my Lenovo T520 laptop, with its removal using the afore-cited syntax in this next screencap:

Grooming MS Office 365 Licenses & Activations.delkey

The first dstatus shows an unwanted grade edition with key suffix 27GXM. After removing that license, the second dstatus shows it’s gone.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

Pretty simple, actually — as long as you’ve got a key suffix you can use to uninstall Office licenses. Notice also from the preceding screenshot that I was working on an Office 2013 installation, so the directory structure (and names) are different from my earlier example, which comes from a current Office 365 edition.

Steer clear of the dstatusall option

The ospp.vbs script offers another option you can use to view Office licenses. It’s the /dstatusall parameter, and it’s probably best avoided. On a brand-new Office 365 installation I made this morning, it shows me 23 unlicensed Microsoft Office elements in response to that command. Here’s a snippet, to show you what they look like:

Grooming MS Office 365 Licenses & Activations.nokey

Notice the UNLICENSED status and key not available information in each item. This means “You don’t care” about these items.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

Alas, there’s nothing easy you can do to make these bogus entries go away (at least, my research hasn’t turned up any relevant software tools or techniques). So it’s best just to ignore them, knowing that they have no impact or import for your real, running Microsoft Office installations. On the other hand, those SKU IDs do turn up in the registry as subkeys in a key named HKLM\SOFTWARE\WOW6432Node\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Registration. I wonder if you deleted those keys, if they wouldn’t show up in the listing any more either. Let me try just this one, and see what happens . . . Nope doesn’t seem to help.

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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