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Should I install the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Office/Outlook?

I’ve just installed Windows 10 on my computer and I’m now about to install Office. It offers to install the 32-bit version but I know there is also a 64-bit version available.

I seem to recall that Microsoft used to recommend to install the 32-bit version, even on a 64-bit version of Windows but that was some years ago.

  • Does Microsoft still recommend installing the 32-bit version?
  • What are the downsides or benefits when I install the 64-bit version?
  • Where can I download the 64-bit version of Office?

32-bit or 64-bit Office?Microsoft indeed still recommends installing the 32-bit version of Office unless you have a specific need which requires the 64-bit version.

Personally, and mainly from an Outlook perspective, I’m seeing less and less instances where using the 64-bit version of Office is causing issues so I think we are about to reach a turning point for the recommendation;

Install the 64-bit version, unless something is keeping your on the 32-bit version.

Why the 32-bit recommendation?

32-bit Office buttonThe main reason for the original recommendation was compatibility with existing add-ins for Office.

For an add-in to work with the 64-bit version of Office, it needs to be recompiled by the developer specifically for the 64-bit version of Office. In some cases the developer also needs to make some specific changes for 64-bit support or needs to wait for specific libraries, that the add-in relies on, to be recompiled for 64-bit. Simply put; It’s a waiting game and today most of the popular add-ins are available for both the 32-bit and 64-bit version of Office.

Popular Outlook add-ins which are not compatible with the 64-bit version of Outlook are the Calendar Printing Assistant and Personal Folders Backup. This last add-in is actually a very old add-in that is also not compatible with Outlook 2013 32-bit (but there is an alternative).

A similar issue exists with other applications that integrate themselves with Office or rely on Office components. They have to be made aware that they can also expect a 64-bit version of Office and of course be compatible with it. When an application integrates with Outlook at MAPI level, this application or component also needs to be 64-bit or the integration is lost.

Specifically for Outlook, there are certain sync applications for (older) mobile phones and Pocket PCs that do not recognize the 64-bit version of Outlook like Windows Mobile Device Manager (WMDC). Unless you are still holding on to such an old mobile device (>5 years old) and are still relying on these synching capabilities, this is not going to be an issue anymore. Even iCloud and iTunes offer 64-bit support for over 3 years now.

If an external application doesn’t support the 64-bit version of Outlook, you usually get an error like:

Either there is no default mail client or the current mail client cannot fulfill the messaging request.

An additional reason to stick with the 32-bit version of Office is that when you are using Compiled Access databases (*.mde and *.accde files), these databases need to be adjusted to support the 64-bit version of Access.

Benefits of using the 64-bit version of Office

64-bit Office buttonUsing the 64-bit version of Office is only really beneficial when you are working with large data sets like Excel workbooks or Project files that are over 2GB in size.

Similarly, when you are working with large Word documents or PowerPoint presentations that are very rich with multimedia (pictures, videos, complex animations, etc…) or large tables or other embedded objects, the 64-bit version can be of help.

The 64-bit version of Office also offers a security benefit as it always has Hardware Data Execution Prevention (DEP) enabled (although this can be enabled for the 32-bit version as well).

Using the 64-bit version of Outlook does not have any direct benefits. The functionality within Outlook is the same and there is also no (noticeable) performance increase by using the 64-bit edition. There also isn’t a 2GB file size limit for the 32-bit version of Outlook like there is for Excel and Project. The file size limitation in Outlook is determined by whether you are using an ANSI or Unicode formatted pst-file.

So… Should I use the 64-bit version or not?

Use 64-bit Office?The reasons for the 32-bit recommendation are still valid today; There are still quite a few (especially older) applications out there which only work with the 32-bit version of Office or Outlook. Going for the 32-bit version is still the safe choice.

However, when you don’t rely on any of these applications, nothing is keeping you back from using the 64-bit version either. More and more add-ins and applications are fully compatible with the 64-bit version of Office and Outlook.

A small downside that is good to keep in mind though is that the 64-bit version of Office can take up between 5% and 20% more disk space when compared to the 32-bit version. Some of this is caused by the fact that certain components also still install the 32-bit version next to their 64-bit version counterpart for compatibility reasons. In reality, this comes down to a 300 – 500MB larger footprint, so unless you are using a really small disk (32GB or less), this might hardly be a consideration.

Installing or downloading the 64-bit version of Office

Download Office buttonWhen you start Setup from an installation medium that has both the 32-bit and the 64-bit version on it, you’ll be installing the 32-bit version of Outlook/Office by default. When you press the Customize button in Setup, you’ll see the Platform tab if your system can support a 64-bit installation of Office/Outlook.

If it does and you want to start installing it, close the current Setup window and browse to the installation source (for instance your DVD-drive). Here you’ll find a folder called x64. Open it and run the setup.exe file located in this folder. The setup process is from thereon the same as for the 32-bit version of Office/Outlook.

Installation Information about the availability of the 64-bit version of Office 2013. (click on image to enlarge)
Installation Information about the availability of the 64-bit version of Office 2013. (click on image to enlarge)

If you currently don’t have a 64-bit installation media, depending on your edition of Office, you can download the 64-bit installation setup from the following links:

  • Download: Office 365 for Home
    Set the “Version” dropdown list to 64-bit.
  • Download: Office 365 for Business
    Click on the “Advanced” link next to “32-bit (Recommended)” to be able to select the 64-bit version from the dropdown list.
  • Download: Office 2013
    Supply your Product Key, go through the wizard and select to download the 64-bit version.
  • Download: Office 2010
    Supply your Product Key, go through the wizard and select to download the 64-bit version.

You can use same license key as the 32-bit version. No license key is needed at all for the Office 365 versions as you’ll activate that by logging on to Office with your Microsoft Account or Work Account.

Make sure you uninstall all 32-bit Office versions (including older ones) and other 32-bit applications of Office before you start. So if you are for instance also using Visio or Project, you also need to install the 64-bit version of these applications.

Check whether I have the 32-bit or 64-bit version installed

You can see whether you are using the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Office by opening the About dialog box of Outlook (or any other Office application of course);

  • Outlook 2010
    File-> Help-> About-> Additional Version and Copyright Information
  • Outlook 2013
    File-> Office Account-> About Outlook
  • Outlook 2016
    File-> Office Account-> About Outlook

At the top of the About dialog, you’ll see the current build number of the application and MSO appended with either 32-bit or 64-bit.
At the top of the About dialog, you’ll see the current build number of the application and MSO appended with either 32-bit or 64-bit.


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