Microsoft Office 2016 For Mac Serialisation Changes


Soon Microsoft are to release an update to the Office 2016 Volume License installer on VLSC.

This update is 15.17 & is the first that has a few changes that may affect the way you deploy Office 2016.

These changes are going to be later enforced in 15.20 & onwards. Below are some details on the changes, some of the why & how via the power of the Slack & the awesome @pbowden that some of us have had a sneak peek.

What’s Changing?

When you download the .iso from VLSC you’ll notice two packages within it:

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 23.38.15

The change is the new second pkg: “Microsoft_Office_2016_VL_Serializer.pkg”

What’s that about?

Well, for a while now it’s been fairly common practice to deploy the Office license to Macs outside of the Office installers or updates.

This came about as on occasion an Office Update or Installer would delete the file.

However, whilst the deletion itself was a bug, the ability to use the license.plist across Macs was also a bug.

What is it & should I use it?

With Office 2016, Microsoft are moving to a device based serialisation method. Which means that deploying the plist /Library/Preferences/ will no longer work.

This device based serialisation is based around the generating a license on the Mac that is to be running Office 2016.

So if you employ monolithic imaging or deploy Office 2016 via a Composer snap shot etc, the serialisation will not work. (Please don’t deploy Office 2016 via a Composer snap shot, use the pkg).

Also, if you install Office 2016 whilst booted to another volume (as in when installing via a NetBoot or NetInstall volume or something like Target Mode Imaging), again the serialisation will not work.

To install Office 2016 from another volume & have the serialisation work, cache it locally on the Mac being imaged & install on first boot or if using Casper Imaging check “Install on boot drive after Imaging” for the PKG from within Casper Admin.

However, to enable Office 2016 to be correctly licensed in the multitude of deployment scenarios that we mac admins employ, @pbowden & his team have created the “Microsoft_Office_2016_VL_Serializer.pkg”

Running this will correctly serialise the Office 2016 suite, & should be run from the Mac that’s running the suite. So again, can be added post imaging & then the suite will be correctly serialised.

To be clear, this will only affect you if using the Volume Licensed version of Office 2016 & not the Office365 version.

What happens if I carry on copying the licensing.plist?

For now, not much.

15.17 is the first release with the “Microsoft_Office_2016_VL_Serializer.pkg”, from 15.20 (scheduled for Q1 2016) you will have to use the correct license.

How did people find this out?

Well a little over a month ago a gentleman with the nick @pbowden hopped into the #microsoft-office channel on the Slack, this was awesome as @pbowden is a: Software engineer for Office for Mac/iOS at Microsoft, a fellow Brit & nice guy.

It’s been a great few weeks with the community sharing feedback with @pbowden & some of us being able to test pre-release installers for Office.

I hope this warning has been as helpful to you, as it was when @pbowden shared it with us.

17 thoughts on “Microsoft Office 2016 For Mac Serialisation Changes

  1. Dennis

    Ben, just to clarify, when you say “To install Office 2016 from another volume & have the serialisation work, cache it locally on the Mac being imaged & install on first boot or if using Casper Imaging check “This package must be installed to the boot volume at imaging time”” you are talking about the check box on the Options tab in Casper Admin that says “Install on boot drive after imaging”?

  2. cashxx

    Ugg…I like the old way better. Just install it and forget about it, never had issues here all these years. So I am still creating a master golden image and deploying it, can I install Office on the golden image and then throw the serializer package in munki or do a post install in deploy studio using that serializer package so it then activates office on the clients then?

  3. gskibum

    I am a bit confused as to the enforcement of licenses in the context of the new Office 2016 serialization method.

    An organization I work for purchased 50 copies. If I install this on say, 10 test Macs, does that mean their available count of licenses is down to 40? Or will all 50 still be available for deployment to devices in service?

    Is there a way to deactivate licenses? Is there even a need to deactivate licenses?

  4. gnoriega

    Hi Macmule,

    I hope you are doing well.

    I am new to the Mac admin world and my company just started using Casper. Now I am in the process of upgrading Microsoft office (from 2011 to 2016) for all our users about 260 clients. Before I start I am doing a lot of research so I can learn more about the Casper tools and hopefully chose the right option for this project.

    I am planning to just use the Self Service App to cache the Office 2016 installer on clients computers, after that I am still debating if it will be a good idea to have clients run the upgrade them selfs or just run it automatically for them.

    I read an article from Microsoft and they mentioned that if we run the pkg from the VLSC we don’t need to run VL Serializer. Has anyone tested this?

    If I install the Volume License edition of Office 2016 for Mac from the ISO downloaded from the VLSC, do I still need to run the VL Serializer?
    No. The Volume License installer already has the functionality of the VL Serializer built-in.

    Link –

    I also read a few discussions in JAMF Nation and there were a few recommendations to remove Office 2011 first and the run the Office 2016 installer. Do you guys know if this is still the case? Or this has been resolved with the latest version.

    Thanks in advance, I really appreciate all the information you share and any help you can provide.


    • We install Office 2016, & then the serialisation pkg. Seems to work fine, I’m not sure about that MS info you’ve read.

      No need to remove 2011 1st.

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