Installing Office on a netbook

How to install Office without a CD or DVD drive.

I have a netbook with no optical drive. How can I install Microsoft Office? A friend says I have to either buy Office as a download from Microsoft or get an illegal download – don’t like either of those options. “ Charles C from Iowa among many have asked this question.

There are several options for installing software onto a computer with no CD / DVD drive. We’ll focus on Microsoft Office (as usual) but the same techniques can be used for almost any programs.

All these suggestion boil down to a simple truth – you can copy the contents of the Microsoft Office install disk to a folder which can be accessed from the netbook.

We have plenty of other netbooks on Office tips in our feature: Using Office on Netbook computers. Like this article, our feature was written on a netbook computer, so the advice is from hard personal experience.



Install disks are NOT that special

There was a time when install disks were specially made so you could not copy them easily but those disks are rare these days. The installation files for Microsoft Office can be copied just like other files.

What really matters is the Product Key that’s supplied with your purchase – it’s that 25 character key which allows Microsoft Office to work normally. See What happens if your product key is stolen?


USB memory stick

The easiest option is to copy the entire contents of the install CD to a USB memory stick or portable drive then plug that ‘key’ into the netbook.

Make a folder on the USB drive called, for example, Office 2007 Standard install.

Then copy the whole CD/DVD (sub-folders and all) with the root folder of the install disk copied to the new folder on the USB drive.

Office install disk copied to folder on removable drive.jpg image from Installing Office on a netbook at Office-Watch.com

When you plug the USB drive into the netbook, navigate to the install folder (ie what was the root folder of the original CD/DVD).

Double-click the setup program or right-click autorun and choose Install. This will start the install process just as it would from the CD/DVD.


Share a CD/DVD drive


On a Windows network, any drive can be shared and ‘seen’ across the network by other authorized computers.

Go to the desktop computer, right-click on the CD/DVD drive and select Sharing (the exact menu wording depends on your version of Windows) then share the drive with appropriate permissions.

On the netbook computer, go to the Network option on the Start menu. Navigate to the desktop computer then the shared CD/DVD drive. You can then see the contents of the install disk, click on setup or autorun (as above) and the installation will begin.

Apple promoted a ‘special’ remote CD feature when they released the Macbook Air. It was hailed in many quarters as a wonderful innovation, despite the fact that Windows users have been able to do the same thing for years.


Copy to netbook across the network


If setting up the CD/DVD as a network share doesn’t suit, you can simply copy the install disk contents to a new folder on a desktop hard drive which is shared and accessible from the netbook.

On a Vista desktop machine the easiest option is copying to one of the ‘Public’ folders then make sure those folders are shared with the local network. The netbook computer can ‘see’ that shared folder on the desktop machine and you can install from there.

Alternatively, copy from the desktop CD/DVD to the netbook computer. Make some folders on the netbook shared with write permissions then open Explorer on the desktop computer navigate to the shared folders on the netbook. Copy the contents of the install CD/DVD from the desktop computer to the shared folder on the netbook. Install from the netbook folder.


Plug in a CD/DVD drive


There are plenty of cheap USB CD/DVD drives available which you can buy to plug into your netbook. However, as you can see, there is usually no need because you can access an optical drive from a desktop computer via the local network.


Repairing Office


In the olden days (ie a decade ago) if Microsoft Office had problems you’d have to dig out the install CD and reinstall.

For the last few versions of Office (Office 2007 and Office 2003 at least) that’s rarely necessary. When Office is installed a copy of the key installation files is put in a hidden folder – if (when) Microsoft Office has a little nervy an auto-repair system should start and restore files from the source. Re-using the install disk is less common these days.