Office 2010 under-stated system requirements

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Microsoft plays their usual self-serving game with Office 2010 hardware needs.

Microsoft has announced the Office 2010 hardware and system requirements and, as usual, they are self-serving and unrealistic.

When looking a Microsoft system requirements for any of their products you need to keep in mind that the specs are not designed to be a real guideline for customers. 

The published hardware specs are intended to drive sales – ie give the impression that as many computers as possible will work with the software.

The idea being that a prospective customer looks at the system requirements and says ‘Great, my 5 year old computer will work with this software”.    The software is purchased and later the customer isn’t happy because while the software runs, it’s very slow.

For a while Microsoft published both minimum and recommended requirements.  The ‘recommended’ specifications where still on the low side but better than nothing.  That idea appears to have been dropped in favor of risably low requirements.

Here at Office Watch we’ve usually given our own broad recommended specs for each edition of Office based on what people need to run Office (especially Outlook) in more realistic conditions than Microsoft presumes.

Office 2010 specifications

Here are Microsoft’s base requirements for Office 2010, please try to restrain your guffaws if not outright laughter:

·         Processor: Intel Pentium III 500mhz

·         Memory: 256MB  PC100 SDRAM

·         OS: Windows XP Professional with SP3

·         Hard Drive: 1GB

·         DirectX® 9.0c compliant graphics processor with 64 MB video memory

Sure, Office will run on such a computer but unless you’re only doing small documents and not Outlook at all you’ll spend most of your time waiting around for the computer to catch up.

Outlook with even a modest amount of use would virtually grind to a halt on such a relatively slow computer.

Graphics Processor

The graphics processor requirement is new for Office 2010.  Microsoft Office 2010 is finally making use of the powerful graphics capabilities in modern computers (graphics driven by the needs of gamers but available to all).

These graphics enhancements are used by Word, Excel and Powerpoint to draw images and video on the screen much faster than before.

Microsoft’s base graphics card requirement isn’t onerous, most computers made in the last 3 years or more will meet the spec.

However netbooks, many laptops, and some cheaper desktop machines don’t have their own separate graphics memory.  Instead some of the main RAM is ‘borrowed’ for display use and called ‘integrated graphics’.  For example a 1GB netbook may only use 960MB of RAM with 64MB taken by the graphics chip.

Microsoft does not say if their ‘256MB’ minimum memory requirement takes the 64MB graphics memory into account, we suspect not. 

If you have a low specification computer (maybe a few years old) you need to look at the available RAM after any graphics processor use. That’s easily done from the Windows ‘Computer/My Computer’ desktop icon – right-click and choose Properties.  The memory available to Windows is shown below the processor type.

Microsoft’s recommendations don’t mention screen size, but that’s certainly something we’re looking at in considering the suitability of Office 2010 on those small netbook screens.

Microsoft ‘average’ machine for Office

In stark contrast to the above minimum requirements, here’s what the Office developers consider an ‘average’ computer for Office 2010:

·         Processor:  2.1Ghz dual-core

·         Memory: 2GB

With the same specs for OS, drive space and graphics.


Closer to the public release of Office 2010, Office Watch will decide on some recommended hardware specs.   Those suggestions will probably come in two sections; suggestions for Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Publisher only, additional requirements for Outlook and maybe also Access developers.

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