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Office 365 activation and account errors

Last weekend I fought for four days to get Windows upgraded to build 17074, and to get Office installed, activated and working with my OneDrive for Business and SharePoint services. Read the full story here. Once I put those misadventures behind me, I thought everything was fine. Fast forward to early today (Saturday): I turn my laptop and external display plus other devices on, make a huge pot of coffee, then open Outlook to check my email. Because I always use the black (dark) theme for Office applications, I noticed something was wrong as soon as Outlook opened using its default blue theme instead. “Not again!”, I thought.

My suspicions were confirmed almost immediately when I saw this pop-up appear next:

After five days, O365 had lost activation prompting me to sign in. Click screenshot to open it enlarged in new tab.

Signing back in with my main Azure AD account, contrary to my prior belief, I could see straight away that this problem had not been resolved. No connection to my account was possible (see the featured image at the top of this page). I tried to sign out and use another Azure AD account, only to see this message instead: “Account error. There are problems with your account. To fix them, please sign in again“.

Here’s what I did next: a complete uninstall / re-install, making sure I had first removed all traces of Office. Next, I deactivated the uninstalled Office on my 365 account settings and re-installed. Aargh! Once again, Office did not activate, account errors, no joy. I thought it might be a Click-to-Run issue, so I downloaded the Office ISO from the Visual Studio (MSDN) subscription downloads. Then I repeated my earlier drill: I uninstalled Office again, checked that there were no lingering traces present, and re-installed it from the ISO. But yet again, my attempts to activate Office using an Azure AD account failed.

Just to be doubly sure, I uninstalled once again then signed in to a different O365 / Azure AD account. But when I tried to install from that account, my results were the same: No luck!

By this time I’d been trying to resolve this issue for over five hours. After the last of those re-installs I took a whisky break. After two hours or so I decided to check the Office license status on the laptop. I did so by running this command in an elevated Command Prompt: cscript ospp.vbs /dstatus. It produced a strange and unexpected result. Here’s that screenshot:

One Office installation, two different O365 licenses. Click screenshot to open it enlarged in new tab.

One Office Click-to-Run installation, two different product IDs, SKU IDs and licenses. Notice that the “real one” (yellow highlight) is reported as a licensed subscription product, whereas the second “fake one” (blue highlight) is a retail installation, whose license is (Out-of-Box) OOB_Grace with 4 days remaining in the grace period.

Something about that four days rang a bell. Aha! Earlier today my perfectly working Office stopped working 5 days after I’d installed it. The Windows Calculator told me that although my remaining grace was said to be four days, in fact it was almost five (7009 minutes is 3 hours short of 5 days). By checking the Windows clock and calculating exactly when I’d re-installed Office the final time before my break, I determined that a five-day grace period started at the very moment I installed Office.

Although it most probably was unnecessary, I uninstalled Office again, cleaned up all Office tasks and registry settings, manually removed any possible Office related folders in Program Files, Program Files (x86), Program Data, Appdata\Local and Appdata\Roaming, restarted and re-installed another new Office one final time from my primary Azure AD account. As I expected, Office did not activate and the same by-now-familiar Account error appeared.

OK, now I knew what to do. I uninstalled the product key of the “fake” Office using cscript ospp.vbs /unpkey:VMFTK (five last characters of the problem causing “fake” Office SKU, yellow highlight). Next, I checked the status and finally activated the correct SKU using cscript ospp.vbs /act (blue highlight):

Product activation successful! Click screenshot to open it enlarged in a new tab.

Office was now activated but it still gave me an Account error message, no matter which account I tried to sign in to Office. Although I knew there couldn’t be any issues I signed in to our O365 tenant as admin and checked that my accounts were OK. Indeed they were, with all licenses assigned as they should be.

Last weekend, when it seemed that nothing on my laptop worked I’d downloaded the Microsoft Support and Recovery Assistant for Office 365. I found that installer on my NAS and ran it again. Signing into my account, I entered my password and the 2FA code from the Microsoft Authenticator app on my phone. But no sooner had I entered that code than a request for my credentials appeared again. The Support and Recovery Assistant couldn’t continue because I was repeatedly asked to sign in. In fact, I entered my credentials and 2FA code at least 8 or 10 times before giving up.

Another whisky break. I had to think. While thinking, I just signed into the O365 admin panel and without any good reason I can explain, I disabled two factor authentication on my account. Or maybe I could explain it if I tried: I had a feeling that both Office and now this troubleshooter accepted my password, otherwise 2FA code would not have been asked. Yet both Office and Microsoft’s O365 troubleshooter kept repeatedly asking me to sign in. Maybe the culprit was 2FA?

After a while I run Support and Recovery Assistant again, it passed with flying colors without any issues detected, this time only asking me to sign in once and without 2FA code.

I opened Word, went to my Account page, clicked the Fix me button in the yellow Account error box, signed in and everything was OK! I was signed in to Office and my connected services for that account were automatically added.

Then, I tried to add some connected services — namely, OD for Business and SharePoint from my secondary O365 / Azure account — but couldn’t make either one work. Another account error. Then, I went back to the O365 admin panel and disabled 2FA from this account as well. When I went back to Word after that, I had no further issues in adding connected services!

Here I was, faced with two different issues suddenly today. At first blush, neither appeared to have anything to do with the other. However, the account problem only appeared after the activation issue occurred.I finally managed to resolve them by removing an unnecessary product key for an equally unnecessary Office SKU, and disabling two factor authentication from the connected O365 / Azure AD accounts. The weird thing is I didn’t have to disable 2FA from my personal OneDrive accounts which I also keep connected to Office, being able to add them to connected services without an issue. The 2FA issue seems to be related to Azure AD accounts.

I don’t like to configure my accounts without 2FA. But at the moment, that seems to be the only way to make Office work on my W10 PRO x64 Insider Preview Build 17074 Asus laptop. But if I still have an activated Office without account errors five days after today’s last reinstall and applied fixes, I will be quite satisfied. The occasional compromise is apparently necessary to keep my Windows environment working. Sigh.





Author: Kari Finn

A former Windows Insider MVP, Kari started in computing in the mid 80’s writing code for VAX / VMS systems. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of IT positions. He specializes in Windows image capture, customization, repair and deployment as well as Hyper-V virtualization. Kari is a proud Team Member at number #1 Windows site TenForums.com.

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