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How I upgraded Office 365 Personal to Office 365 Home for $10

Instead of spending $100 for a one-year, five-license Home subscription, spend $70 (or less), then $10.

Bring Home home for an extra $9.99.

Microsoft Office is a need for some, a preference for others. In both cases it's an expensive proposition, with the one-user Office 365 Personal edition costing $69.99 and five-license Office 365 Home costing $99.99 -- per year.

However, there's a way to game the system, to turn a Personal subscription into a Home subscription for a one-time charge of $9.99. I tried it, it works, and there's nothing shady or illegal about it; it's just an oddity in the way Microsoft manages accounts.

The broad view goes like this: If you already have a paid subscription Office 365 Personal, you'll "buy" Office 365 Home on the 1-month auto-renewal plan. Then you'll turn off auto-renew, but still end up with Home. I'm not sure why this works or how long it'll be until Microsoft closes the loophole (though my source on this, veteran tech writer Paul Thurrott, first covered it back in January -- so maybe never). In any case, you're only risking $10.

First things first: how to get the best possible deal on an Office 365 Personal subscription. A few weeks ago I detailed how I got that and a Windows tablet for $40 (spoiler: I bought a Windows tablet for $40, and it came with a year of Office). Needless to say, if you can find a Windows device for under $70, one that includes that 365 Personal subscription, grab it.

In fact, grab two. Or three. Because it turns out you can stack those licenses, meaning if you activate a one-year Personal subscription and then another, you end up with two years. Then, once you do the Home upgrade trick, you'll have two years of Home for the price of two years of Personal (plus $10).

Once you're signed up for Personal, however it happened, here's how to upgrade to Home:

Step 1: Visit the online Microsoft Store and sign into your account, making sure to use the same e-mail address associated with your Office 365 Personal subscription.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step 2: Head to the Office 365 Home page, choose the $9.99 per month option, then click Buy and download now.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step 3: Complete the checkout process. As a reminder, this will cost you $9.99 now, but only now -- after you're done, you'll be turning off auto-renew.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step 4: Head to your Office Online account page to verify that you're now the proud owner of an Office 365 Home subscription, with all the extra licenses afforded it.

Step 5: While there, click Manage Account, then choose Turn off automatic renewal.

And that's it! Even though you've effectively ended your Office 365 Home subscription, your existing Personal subscription will continue on as one -- for a full year, from the time you "upgraded."

Now for a big fat your-mileage-may-vary caveat: While there's lots of anecdotal evidence this works, including my own experience, I can't promise this will work for you, or that Microsoft won't close this loophole at some point and downgrade you back to Personal. Let's just hope nobody blabs about it in a public forum!