Ask LH: Where Can I Get Discounts On Software?

Ask LH: Where Can I Get Discounts On Software?

Dear Lifehacker, I usually don’t have a problem paying for software, but some programs — like Photoshop, Office, and even Windows itself — are just so expensive. Are there any good strategies for getting discounts on programs like this? Thanks, Peeved About Software Prices

Image remixed from Denis Semenchenko (Shutterstock).

Dear Peeved,

You’re right; sometimes it seems like certain software is just too expensive for its own good. It’s hard to justify buying a program that costs as much as the computer you run it on. It’s doubly annoying when you realise that prices can be much higher when you buy in Australia than elsewhere (yes Adobe, we are so looking at you right now).

Realistically, you’re not going to pick up legal copies of any big-name software brands for $10. But there are a few ways you can get discounts — in some cases, serious discounts — with just a bit of patience.

Grab A Student Copy

This is the most obvious trick, and one we’ve talked about a lot before. If you’re a student, you can often get discounts on “academic” copies of big name software. Here are some of the better deals:

  • Microsoft offers Office for $99 (Windows and Mac versions), and a Windows 7 Professional upgrade for $119
  • Apple offers discounts on hardware and software, but check carefully: Office for Mac, for instance, is cheaper through Microsoft itself
  • Adobe

If you order online and try and score a student discount, you’ll often need a address (to demonstrate that you’re part of the tertiary system). In some cases, you can keep your university email address after graduating, but it depends on the individual institution and the vendor. Most have a relatively strict verification process.

Get OEM Software For Less

Original Equipment Manufacturer software (also known as OEM software) is software designed to come pre-installed on a computer. Technically, this shouldn’t be sold to you without the accompanying hardware, but in practice you can search any price comparison engine (such as StaticICE) and find copies on sale from white box resellers. This generally works better with operating systems (Windows in particular).

Software Bundles

Software bundles are often an awesome way to snag a bunch of programs for a very, very low price. We usually mention these software bundles here at Lifehacker when they’re good enough, so keep an eye out.

Software bundles do come with two problems, though: not only are they susceptible to “impulse purchases” due to their time limits and low prices, but you also have no way of knowing when the program you want is going to appear in one. In fact, chances are, the popular program you want isn’t going to appear in a bundle — they’re usually filled with programs that aren’t quite as well-known and are trying to make a name for themselves. But if all you want is something better than free, keeping an eye out for bundles can be effective. Just make sure the bundle’s price is actually worth the price of one or two of the programs contained within, or you’ll end up wasting your money.

Follow Developers On Facebook And Twitter

Digital Inspiration offers a great for scoring software deals: follow the developers you like on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Big companies are always having sales or posting coupons to their Twitter feed, so following them is a great way to stay up on all the discounts happening. Also be sure to check out our daily App Deals post for information on bargain software for your phone.

Cheers Lifehacker

Lifehacker’s weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money. Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact tab on the right.


  • Umm… don’t buy them?

    Instead of Photoshop, use GIMP
    Instead of MS Office, use LibreOffice
    Instead of Windows, use Linux

    Use the open source alternatives, and spend that $10 as a donation to the people who make them available!

  • It’s worthwhile noting that some OEM software, particularly Windows, is generally only installable ONCE, particularly if you reinstall after installing new hardware.

  • There’s a problem with switching Photoshop for GIMP. GIMP blows – It is a truly dreadful bit of software that can’t be made usable no matter how many addons you plaster on top of it.
    On the other hand, Photoshop 7 is a fantastic bit of software that runs like lightning on modern hardware and has 99% of what your workaday graphic designer needs. You can pick it up on Ebay often for $10-15. Use it

  • Sometimes larger businesses have home use program agreements in place with software vendors, so it might be worth asking your it department. For example, many government employees can get cheap versions of office and trend antivirus

  • For most microsoft products join Microsoft Technet you get all OS for 1 year and you keep the licenses. You get Office and other stuff it’s worth the price of admission if you have more that one computer.

  • Also, check with your workplace. Many large firms have Microsoft Home Use programmes, where you can score extremely cheap ($20 for Office cheap) MS software (presumably to stop you nicking disks from work) if your workplace is a big enough MS customer.

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