Move Microsoft Office 2011 to macOS High Sierra

The latest version of Mac OS is called macOS High Sierra. There are some nice changes in the new OS. Instead of using HFS+ file system, a new file system, Apple File System (APFS), was introduced. Important enhancements in the APFS include faster speed in file copy, built-in encryption, crash-safe protections. Safari in this version not only becomes much faster (Apple claims it is the fastest desktop browser, I am not sure about this), but also has a feature to stop the most annoying feature on the web: autoplay videos. The new Safari also has a feature to allow you to view sites in Reader mode. Interesting, I didn’t know I can view site in writer mode before! There are also some improvements in video and icloud experience, which I don’t really care.

There was an important note about Office 2011 caught my attention. Microsoft announced that the company is no longer to support Office 2011 on macOS High Sierra and users should switch to Office 2016. I understand the company may want to get more revenue from selling Office 2016 to existing customers. While many other programs are still supported and running on macOS High Sierra, it looks bad if Office 2011 is not working in High Sierra, especially Word and Excel are some of the most popular applications people used daily. If this is the case, It would hesitate to upgrade my Macs to the new version: High Sierra.

I have been there before. I used to have Parallel software for my VMs on Mac many years ago and it worked great. Forgot from which version of new Mac OS release, Parallel announced the old version Parallel software would not work on the new MacOS and existing customers must pay extra fee to upgrade to new version if want to continue to use Parallel on the new Mac OS. If I remember correctly, Parallel has done the same trick almost every time a new Mac OS is released since then. Luckily, I switched to VirtualBox when Parallel did the first announcement and completely get rid of Parallel since then. Although I missed some nice features from Parallel, VirtualBox meets all of my requirements for my VM and it is free.

Similarly, if Microsoft Office 2011 is not working at all on macOS High Sierra, I will switch to Apple’s Pages and Numbers, or Google Docs. Anyway, my use of Word and Excel at home is very basic, just some simple Word and Excel documents. I don’t see paying annual subscription to new Office 2016 makes sense to me. Anyway my company laptop will have Office 2016 subscription. But if I can keep using my paid Office 2011 on my home Mac, it would be perfect.

I checked out Microsoft Office Support page, it has the following statement:

Office for Mac 2011

Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Lync have not been tested on macOS 10.13 High Sierra, and no formal support for this configuration will be provided.

All applications in the Office for Mac 2011 suite* are reaching end of support on October 10th, 2017. As a reminder, after that date there will be no new security updates, non-security updates, free or paid assisted support options or technical content updates. Refer to the Microsoft Support Lifecycle for more information.

Interestingly, it sounds like that users of Office 2011 will be on their own if they continue to use Office 2011 on High Sierra. But the wording does not say the Office 2011 is not going to run on High Sierra. So if running into issue in Word and Excel, don’t call Microsoft support. This is understandable. Anyway, all applications in the Office for Mac 2011 suite are reached the end of support on Oct. 10th, 2017.

Ok, this is better. I will see whether Microsoft Office 2011 works or not in the new macOs High Sierra. I happen to have a Mac at home that indeed needs a complete refresh. After many years running and installation, many software were installed on the computer and the Mac was terribly slow. I want to do a complete new fresh installation long time ago. One of major concerns I had in the past is that I would still bring a lot of garbage back if I do a time-machine restore during the OS upgrade. But if I do a complete wipe out, I have to reinstall Office 2011 and I could not find my license key anymore. Although there are some articles about moving Office 2011 license files for application migration to new Mac, I was always skeptical and worried what happened if it didn’t work. I was stuck in this situation for several years. This time, I have to a good opportunity to do it. I must wipe out my Mac for a fresh installation and have to test the steps to move Office license files. If it fails, I will not use Office on this Mac.

After reading some articles about moving Office 2011 to a new Mac and did some preparation work, I finally made it successfully. Actually, I tested two scenarios by accident. When I did the upgrade, I didn’t wipe out my hard drive on my Mac because I was worried the OS Installation would not complete if I wiped out the hard drive. Actually I was wrong. There was another small partition containing OS boot and installer. Without wiping out my default hard drive, after installation, I found out I just did an upgrade to macOS High Sierra and all of my garbage stuff were still there. No wonder it was so slow during the installation. But at least I verified Microsoft Office 2011 was still working under scenario of upgrading to High Sierra. Then I tried the correct scenario, wiping out my default hard disk first, then do the OS installation. It was much faster and successful. On top of that, I did the office 2011 migration successfully. The followings are the steps:

Step 1. Backup Office 2011
Of course, I need to do a full time-machine backup before doing anything else. In addition to the backup, I also copied the followings to an external drive.

The following directories are mainly for backup purpose, not really used during the migration step. It’s good to backup these Office 2011 directories.

/Library/Application\ Support/Microsoft/
/Applications/Microsoft\ Office\ 2011/

Then backup the following three license related files.

/Library/PrivilegedHelperTools/com.microsoft.office.licensing.helper
/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.microsoft.office.licensing.helper.plist
/Library/Preferences/com.microsoft.office.licensing.plist

Step 2. Wipe out Default Hard Drive
If you just do the High Sierra upgrade, do not do this step. This step is going to wipe out everything on the default partition.
After reboot, immediately press Option + Command + R keys at the same time. When OSX Utilities screen shows up, uses Disk Utility to wipe out the default partition first.

Step 3. Install macOS High Sierra
Then click Reinstall OS X. Go through the regular mac OS installation screens to complete the High Sierra installation.

Step 4. Migrate Office 2011
Install Office 2011 software and it will show the screen to license information at the end.

Unfortunately, Quit in Office 2011 was not working and I had to do the force kill from Activity Monitor.

Copy the three backed up file from external drive to the same path on the new system.

/Library/PrivilegedHelperTools/com.microsoft.office.licensing.helper
/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.microsoft.office.licensing.helper.plist
/Library/Preferences/com.microsoft.office.licensing.plist

Start Word or Excel. The Office 2011 works on macOS High Sierra. I am sure there are certain features might not fully functional on the new OS. But basic functionality seems working and that’s enough for my usage.

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9 thoughts on “Move Microsoft Office 2011 to macOS High Sierra

  1. My Mac died, so I bought a new Mac with High Sierra and restored from my old Mac’s disk, which restored Office for Mac 2011 version 14.5.5.

    Outlook works for a few minutes, then it hangs (not responding) and I have to force quit it. This happens every time I launch Outlook. I was wondering about updating it to version 14.7.7, but I don’t know if this will stop it from working completely, similar to how Outlook for Mac 2016 version 15.32 detects High Sierra and quits at launch.

    Which version of Office for Mac 2011 do you have? 14.7.7? Does your Outlook hang after a few minutes?

    • My Office for Mac 2011 version is 14.4.0. It looks good to me, but I did notice Word is doing the work like “Optimizing Font Performance” when the first time Word was Open. It was hang for about 30 seconds. After that, everything back to normal.

      I am not sure your issue is related to Office version and doubt upgrade can help you. Check whether you have network connected (wifi or wired connection to internet). I remembered my company laptop has Office 365 subscription. Every time the office hang if I open it in the flight and turn WiFi off. If I turn on Wifi, even without connecting to outside internet, office works.

      In a separate note, just like you, I had one Mac at home died completely sometime back. It was really a disaster recovery situation as I hadn’t backed up this mac for about two years. I had to bring it back. All of the tricks I could find on the internet did not work as I felt it was caused by a bad (corruption) sector on the boot section of the physical disk. The OS was Sierra. It was always stuck in the middle of booting. After many tries and research, I figured out a way to bring back my Mac. Here are my steps at high level:
      1. Bought a 64G USB and create a USB booting disk for Mac. (Many blogs about this topic)
      2. Booted from this USB disk. Then I could see the hard disk on my old Mac. Backed it up using two ways: 1) Migration Assistant (don’t remember exactly) 2) physically copied everything to another external USB hard disk. Just to try to be safe in case I wiped out the original disk.
      3. Booted from USB disk again. Using Migration Assistant to move all content of old Mac to another external USB hard disk. It was slow process, but it worked.
      4. Booted from this external hard disk with everything (just like my old mac). It was a slow but have everything I had from my old Mac on this external hard disk. From here, I can finally do a time machine backup.
      5. Restore this backup to my old Mac. My old Mac worked again.

      I wished I would have documented this process in a blog. The above steps might help you to recover your old Mac. Although you could do step 5 and restore directly from your Time Machine, it might be risk if the backup is not a good one. You might want to try to restore it to an external hard disk and see whether it is working or not. If it works, I feel like you can bring back your old Mac. Good Luck.

      • One correction. My Outlook did not work and it shows the screen to request license key, but my Word and Excel are still working. This is weird. Anyway I am not using Outlook on this Mac. So I did not find out this issue at the time when I wrote my blog.

      • I found the solution to my Outlook problem here:

        https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/3098396/outlook-for-mac-2011-on-os-x-10-11-hangs-during-account-sync-operation

        I don’t know if the problem with my old Mac was caused by a bad (corruption) sector on the boot section of the physical disk. When I boot it up, it shows the Apple logo and progress bar for a short while and then the screen becomes grey and hangs there. I brought it to the Apple store and they felt that the problem was with the logic board, though I don’t think they confirmed this.

        I removed the SSD from my old Mac, put it in an USB enclosure, connected it to my new Mac and used Migration Assistant to recover all of the apps and data from the SSD (accessed as “startup disk” by Migration Assistant) to my new Mac.

        What I might try is: erase the SSD, install macOS High Sierra onto this SSD, put the SSD back into my old Mac and try to boot.

  2. Great to read that word and excel still work! I haven’t upgraded to High Sierra because I do not want to feed money to Microsoft by buying a subscription. Do you know if Power Point works ok? That’s what I mostly need. Thanks!

  3. Hi! I’m operating on Mac OS High Sierra and can’t find “Library/PrivilegedHelperTools/” anywhere. I ran the terminal commands to show hidden files/folders and still nothing. On the new Mac operating system, does it appear under a different name? Please let me know, thanks!

    • I confirmed this directory exists in all of my Mac with High Sierra OS. I think I know what happened in your case. You entered the Library folder under your user id, but not the system level library. After you open terminal, make sure to type in command “cd /Library/PrivilegedHelperTools” command, not “cd Library/PrivilegedHelperTools”. These two are different paths.

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