What are the differences between Microsoft Office vs Office 365?

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Last Updated on June 9, 2021

If there were ever to be a contest for the most common, resourceful, and best productivity tools for corporate and casual users, Microsoft Office would quickly sweep the board. However, the device comes in different types and options, and choosing one (particularly for a newbie) isn’t exactly a breeze. Microsoft offers its Office tools/services across several devices, but primarily, there are broadly two types of Microsoft Office suites: Office 365 and Microsoft Office. The former is the most recognized and has been around for ages, while Microsoft announced the latter in 2011. So, you might wonder: What is the differences between Microsoft Office vs Office 365?

microsoft office vs Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft Office (PC)

Microsoft Office is a desktop office suite by Microsoft containing many software/tools that can be installed merely once on your computer or workstation without worrying about future payments about user licences. Microsoft Office is available in different bundles: either for ‘Home & Business’ or ‘Professional’ use. Each collection or package has specific apps they contain, and whichever of the packs you choose to have on your computer, you purchase the license forever; that is, you can use the applications within the suite all your life and beyond.

Microsoft Office is particularly perfect if you’d be using most of your desktop tools for daily work and for a long time. Office 2013, Office 2016, and the latest Office 2019, are different types of standalone Office suites.

If you find yourself trapped in the confusing Office tangle, the simplification provided under the headers below should help to demystify everything and make the picture clearer for you.

Short Answer: Microsoft Office (MS Office from now on) is the version typically installed and accessible on your PC. Office 365 is a cloud-based subscription service to access a suite of various Office platforms.


  • Pay once, use forever
  • In the long run, it will be affordable to own the license rather than subscribe to it. 


  • One device per license
  • Only runs on Windows 10 and macOS
  • You get this version without upgrade options (you’ll have to repurchase it at the total price when the next version comes out)
  • Mainstream support is limited to 5 years
  • Installation requires some know-how
  • Limited security updates

Office 365

Office 365, as opposed to Microsoft Office, is a subscription-dependent service offered by Microsoft for individuals and businesses alike. Its equipped with all of its latest and updated tools and features. This service is essential and perfect for small businesses, schools, large enterprises, companies, start-ups, and non-profits. However, there are also Office 365 plans tailored for individual or personal use. Read this if you need any help with setup Office 365.

As a part of the Office 365 cloud-based service, users can also purchase MS Office. This feature means that you can buy an MS Office usability license for the standalone suite or use the tool as a component of an Office 365 subscription. You can pay for your subscription either every month or every year. Interestingly enough, unlike MS Office, you can share an Office 365 (Home) subscription with up to four members of your household.

Microsoft 365 Business

Microsoft 365 Business is most suitable for small and medium businesses with 300 users or less. It comprises of:

  • The Office 365 suite
  • 1TB of storage
  • Device management capabilities via Microsoft Intune
  • Primary data and app security

For specific product information, click here.

Microsoft 365 Enterprise

Microsoft 365 Enterprise is suitable for larger organizations that need more robust security and device management functionality. It’s broken up into three tiers:

  • F1 (for Firstline Workers)
    • Office 365 (minus Access)
    • Basic threat protection
  • E3 (Basic Tier)
    • Office 365
    • Basic threat protection
    • Office 365 Data Loss Prevention
  • E5 (Premium Tier)
    • Office 365
    • Advanced threat protection
    • Office 365 Data Loss Prevention
    • Audio conferencing/Phone system
    • Advanced compliance tools
    • Analytics tools

Microsoft Office (PC) vs Office 365: Comparison

Given below are some of the major differentiating features of Microsoft Office and Office 365:

Purchase and Payments

Office (2013, 2016, 2019) are suites that you can purchase upfront, installed on your PC, and use for your entire life. Office 365, on the other hand altogether, is a cloud-dependent service that mandates monthly or yearly (as per your choice) payments to use all Microsoft’s tools and apps for a limited period without having to install them all on your device first.

Connectivity and Accessibility

While we may or may not have said this before, Office 365 is exclusively accessible online (hence necessitating internet connectivity). In contrast, you can use MS Office despite your computer’s internet connectivity status.

With that said, the “online side” to Office 365 is far more advantageous than its offline status as you can access tools, apps, and files across almost all devices with a stable internet connection. Although this is also possible through MS Office, Office 365 offers many more options; you can use/share your subscription across several devices.

Upgrades and Updates

For Microsoft Office, as soon as you install a version, automated bug fixes and security updates are the best extra perks you can get alongside. Unless you decide to purchase a new version as soon as there’s one, you cannot experience any new features. However, with Office 365, you can lay hands on new updates and features as soon as Microsoft releases them.

With newer upgrades, Office 365 users can easily purchase new plans or whichever Office 365 package they have a subscription form in the admin dashboard. But MS Office users would need to shell out extra cash for a perennial license.

App Support

A more significant number of apps are generally available to Office 365 subscribers than MS Office users, depending on your subscription plan. Skype, for instance, is not available for Office users but comes with all packages of Office 365.

Choosing between the two Windows Office suite versions could be quite a hectic task as there is no one-size-fits-all package available for everyone. However, survey the programs that each suite offers and finally select the one that upticks all your boxes. For instance, if basic Office programs are all that you might need(such as Powerful, Word, Excel, etc.), you should purchase a perpetual license for a standalone MS Office suite. A low-level subscription to Office 365 would also suffice.

On the other hand, if you would occasionally be needing advanced apps such as Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, Skype, Yammer, Outlook inbox space, and data security for personal, home, or business use, a fully-fledged Office 365 plan will serve you well.

Conclusion of Microsoft Office vs Office 365

Microsoft Office is available for one-time purchase upon payment of a fixed license fee. It works with both Windows PC and Mac and can be used on a single device only. If you wish to setup it, then visit office.com/setup in your browser.

Office 365 is typically accessible via a standard browser across multiple devices (laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) via a stable internet connection. Furthermore, to access Office 365, you would need to subscribe to a monthly or annual plan. Visit this link to know how to get Microsoft Office 365 for free?