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Microsoft recently has some trouble with a patch (14.2.1) for Microsoft Office 2011. Many people had no issue, but some had problems with their identities not converting. Still others had a problem where you were asked for your product key after the upgrade. Of course, that’s not a problem – if you haven’t misplaced your key. My laptop upgraded just fine, so I was surprised when I was asked for my key on my MacPro.

Fortunately, I put my key in a secure note in the Keychain, so all I had to do was open the note and..um..really? I put the product code in the note instead of the key. Good Grief.

No problem, I’ll just go to the drawer where  I keep all my original software. Yup, here’s Office X, Office 2004, Office 2008, backup copies of each…but where’s my Office 2011? Huh. It must be on the overflow shelf then. Right behind the Adobe Suite box…or the FileMaker box…or…

Yup, no key. No software. Un-flippin’-believable. I’ve got every other piece of software I’ve ever bought. There’s a copy of OS/2, for heaven’s sake! But no Office for Mac 2011.

So I restored my Office directory back to the way it was (thank you, Time Machine). Interestingly, the old software didn’t ask me for a key – it just worked.

A few days later, Microsoft announced a new version of the update that was supposed to work better, especially for folks who had issues with their identity before. But it worked the same for me – install the software, bring up an Office app, and get asked for your key.

So I backed it out again, and posted a comment on the Office for Mac blog. I mentioned that I couldn’t get use the update because I couldn’t find my key. A couple of other folks chimed in with similar problems. I decided to wait for the next patch to see how that would fare.

A couple of days later, I got an email from David Pelton, the Release Test Lead for Mac Office. He’d read my blog comment and wanted to try and help me out!  As it turns out, Microsoft had made some changes to how they detect eSATA and Thunderbolt drives. Seems in the original release, if you had eSATA or Thunderbolt drives attached when you installed Office, then you ejected them, Office detected that as a major enough change that it thought it was running on a new computer, and so wanted a key.Bringing the program down and remounting the drive made Office happy again. But I never eject my 2 eSATA drives on my MacPro, so I never ran into the problem – until the upgrade.

The upgrade takes care of the problem, but the new code now wanted my key one more time (most likely it was generating a “new” baseline that didn’t include the external drives). We proved this out somewhat by my ejecting a drive while still on the older version of the software. I then brought up Word, and I was asked for my key. I remounted the drive, and was no longer asked for a key.  I then installed the update, brought up Outlook – and got asked for my missing key. But Mr. Pelton was nice enough to give me a new key, and now with the 14.2.1 update Office doesn’t care if the drives are attached or not.

So two takeaways for this week – make sure you have those keys backed up (mine are now in the Keychain and in 1Password), and it does pay to (politely) complain sometimes. Thanks again to Mr. Pelton and Microsoft for getting me out of a jam.

By the way, I see there is another patch, 14.2.2 available as I write this. Time to update…

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