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Before talking on how to upgrade Office 2010 to full version, let us understand the free Office 2010 Starter Edition. To counter piracy and to increase the sales of Office 2010, Microsoft is offering a free Office 2010 Starter Edition other than the four full editions: Student edition, Home and Office edition, Professional edition, and Academic edition. While these four editions come at a cost, the Starter Kit is free. The Office Starter Kit contains MS Word and MS Excel with limited functionality, sufficient to view and edit documents and spreadsheets.
You can upgrade this Office 2010 to full version by visiting any of the Microsoft's retail stores or by contacting MS Sales. You will get an upgrade code. To upgrade Office 2010 to full version using this method, you need to download the version for which you bought the code. Once downloaded, all you need to do is to enter the code to activate the full version. You will not lose any customizations that you did to the Office 2010 Starter edition.
You can also ask for a DVD for upgrading from Starter edition to full version. In this case, you will have to pay the shipping and handling charges in addition to the discounted charges that you pay for the code. Remember to ask upgrade codes for the correct edition that you wish to download. If you buy the upgrade code for Student edition and then you download Office 2010 Home and Business edition, the code will not be valid and you cannot upgrade.
Note: The Office 2010 Starter Edition is not available for purchase as a separate edition. It comes with a new PC. Microsoft has advised retails shops, not to advertize Starter edition as Free Office 2010 but rather as PCs carrying "ready to activate" Office 2010.
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Upgrades from Office 2007 and Free Upgrades
People who are using Office 2007 can upgrade to full versions of equivalent editions of Office 2010 at discounted costs. This means that if you are using a Home edition of Office 2007, you can get an upgrade to Home edition of Office 2010 only and not to the Office 2010 professional edition. Upgrading from Office 2007 will save you money as Microsoft the upgrade cost is far less than purchasing a new Office 2010 kit. However, if you are using Office 2007 Home edition and wish to have Office 2010 Professional edition, you will first need to convert your Home edition to Office 2007 Professional edition and then you can go for Office 2010 Professional edition.
You can also get a free upgrade of Office 2010 to full version, for some Office 2007 packages. The only condition is that you should have bought the Office 2007 between May 5, 2010 and Sept 30, 2010. Please note that you will get only an equivalent upgrade in this case too, but it will be free (only the costs of shipping will apply if you ask for a DVD).
If you are wondering why Microsoft is offering the free upgrades, there is a good reason behind it. Office 2003 and previous editions cannot be upgraded directly to Office 2010. You need to have Office 2007, Office 2010 beta, or Office 2010 Starter kit to upgrade to Office 2010 full version. The above time-period allows users to purchase Office 2007, understand the new Interface and then upgrade to Office 2010. Otherwise, you have to go for a direct purchase of Office 2010.
Important: The beta version of Office 2010 expires on October 31, 2010. If you upgrade Office 2010 to full version before the said date, it becomes easier for you as it would retain the customizations etc.