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Get a Family Discount on Software to Save 50% or more

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Software is expensive!!

While some computer software seems to be getting increasingly expensive even while the costs of PCs drop, more options are starting to pop-up that can yield big savings.

As you probably know if you've bought software in the past couple of years, the basic model has changed from the old "buy the box, keep the software" to include complicated licensing and other arrangements.  Nowadays you buy the software (e.g., Windows, Office, anti-virus) in a number of forms, mostly on an installation DVD or downloaded from the Internet.  With the software comes a license (usually a long, unique string of letters and numbers).  That license is what allows you to legally use the software, as opposed to just sharing the same installation DVD with your neighbor.

Typically consumers have to legally buy separate software for each PC on which they want to use it, and therefore pay multiple times, even if they already have a disk in hand.  Businesses and professional software developers have exclusive access to discounted licenses when buying in bulk: they would get a single installation DVD that they could use over and over again, and while they still had to pay for each individual license (for each computer), they got those at a big discount.

Now that many homes have multiple PCs--desktops, laptops, netbooks--it's getting very expensive to try to upgrade a whole household.  That's where family discounts come in!

Getting a Family Discount

Anti-virus software companies were among the first to offer deals where you can buy the software once and legally use it on more than one (commonly up to 3) computer.  That means the whole house could share the cost of one purchase.

More recently Microsoft has begun to offer a similar deal for their software, first with Windows 7 and now with Office 2010 Home and Student.  You need to look for the packages labeled "Family Pack" or with terms like "multi-user"/"3-user" to get the deal. There are a number of options for Mac users as well.

The benefit of this approach is obvious: upgrade 3 computers for the price of about 1 1/2.  In the case of Windows 7, that meant paying just $150 for 3 computers instead of $120 apiece.  That's up to $210 in savings! In fact, since it costs only a little more than the price for just 1 computer, it's still cheap to pay for a Family Pack even if you just have two machines.  In some cases you might be able to share licenses and split the cost across multiple people, if the terms allow.  In the case of Windows 7, Microsoft states "If you are a 'Qualified Family Pack User', you may install one copy of the software marked as 'Family Pack' on three computers in your household for use by people who reside there." 

Family packs are sometimes offered for a limited time, and while supplies last, so if you think you will benefit from this, act fast. If you miss your opportunity, keep an eye out on sites like Ebay for a chance to buy for a little more than the original price, but still at a generous discount.  

Where to Buy

  • Check out Microsoft's online store for what family packs might be offered right now.
  • Warehouse Clubs like Costco
  • Electronics Stores like Best Buy or
  • is a great place to look. In particular, try this search for their wide range of PC & Mac options.
  • Ebay. As we mentioned above, they're a great place to look if you miss a 'limited time' offer.

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