Office 365/2019 change from 32-bit to 64-bit with little warning

Microsoft Office 365/2019 installation is about to change in a big way for all users – home and business.  The default is changing from 32-bit to 64-bit software in mid-January 2019.  Microsoft is giving little warning of the change despite the compatibility risks to customers.

An important change in the way Office is installed by default.

Yet Microsoft has chosen to communicate this vital change very poorly and without proper clarity.

The situation is confusing because Microsoft has chosen NOT to openly talk about the change.  Microsoft loves to say that their blogs are a way to openly communicate but the Office blogs are silent on this important choice.

For some reason Redmond thinks it’s better to hide the switch to 64-bit and hope no-one notices or complains.

Office 365 administrators received warning about this in the Office 365 Admin Centre – which isn’t a lot of help to regular users Even admins themselves might have not noticed the change (we’ve copied the Admin notice below).

What is affected?

While it’s not stated, this only applies to Office 365/2019 for Windows.  Office for Mac has already been 64-bit for some time.

While the Office 365 Admin statement seems to only apply to Office 365 ProPlus and Office 2019 for business customers it appears to also apply to Office 365 for consumers (Home, Personal, University).

Office 365 Home / Personal / University too

Microsoft’s web page about choosing Office 32-bit vs 64-bit has been quietly changed, seemingly in advance of the changeover to a 64-bit default.

The updated page says “64-bit version is automatically installed”.

That page applies to “Office 2019 Office 2016 Office for business Office 365 Admin Office 365 for home Office 365 Small Business Office 365 Small Business Admin” – we’ve highlighted some that are relevant to Office 365 consumers.

We checked the current Office 365 download pages for Home/Personal/University.  The current default is still 32-bit (as at 11 January) but the install choice has been updated to make the 32 vs 64 bit option more explicit than in the past.

Here’s what we’re seeing with ’32-bit English’  shown and an ‘Other options’ link easily seen.

That’s a welcome change from the past installation system which gave only 32-bit Office with other options (64-bit, Insiders, other languages etc) all tucked away where most people could not find them.

What to do?

Current installs of Office 365 or Office 2019 won’t change.  They’ll remain as either 32-bit or 64-bit software.

But if you reinstall Office on the Windows computer or onto a new computer you could be switched to 64-bit Office without realizing it.

Always check exactly what Microsoft is installing – don’t accept the defaults.

64-bit is the best choice for most Office users who probably won’t notice any difference – good or bad.  But there are traps for the unwary.

Office 365 Admin center notice

Here’s the announcement in the Office 365 Admin Center

Office ProPlus and Office 2019 will now be installed with 64-bit as the default setting. Previously, the default setting was 32-bit at installation. This change will begin rolling out in mid-January, 2019.

After this change takes place, the 64-bit version of Office will automatically be installed unless you explicitly select the 32-bit version before beginning the installation process.

If you install the 64-bit version, but wanted the 32-bit version instead, you must first uninstall the 64-bit version before installing the 32-bit version. The same is true if you installed the 32-bit version but want to install the 64-bit”