I primarily use OneNote 2013 on my personal PC. Last week, I was thinking, Microsoft has made OneNote free forever, why don’t I just upgrade OneNote to 2016 and take advantage of the new features (if there is any).
So I searched and downloaded the installation file from Microsoft. As suggested, if you are not sure what version to use for your CPU, choose x86: setuponenotefreeretail.x86.en-us_, is the file I got. Then I installed it on my PC, along with the existing full pack of Office 2013. Lucky me, it did not replace OneNote 2013 I have.
What’s the problem?
When I run OneNote 2016 the first time, it asked me login, using my main Live account. No issues, it opened all my OneNote files in OneDrive. But, when I tried to open an OneNote notebook that only existing on my local hard drive. It gave me this error:
So, I can choose either upload this notebook from my hard drive to Microsoft OneDrive, or page a fee to activate the Office 365 subscription, although it says OneNoteFreeRetail and such promises somewhere on their web site.
I have O365 subscription, it just not linked to my main Live account, and I don’t want or need to buy another subscription. Should I upload everything include my personal archive or more sensitive notes to the cloud? Neither. So keep the old version and be cautious when you do upgrade.
Here is an article talking about similar issue on Office 2019, but I think the 2016 version has the same, as I described above. https://www.itguyswa.com.au/how-to-fix-office-365-or-office-2019-activation-or-unlicensed-product-problems/
A thread in Reddit, people talked about this already 2 years ago: https://www.reddit.com/r/OneNote/comments/4vtvfb/i_just_installed_onenote2016_on_the_same_computer/?sort=new
Of course, you can always use the online version for free, but you have to upload it to the cloud. Next time, if there is a major upgrade, I would export all my notes to PDF first.