Excel - a history of rows and columns

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How many rows and columns does Excel have?

All the talk about 64-bit versions of Office has raised the issue of maximum rows and columns in Excel. A few readers seem to believe that 64-bit Excel will have more rows or columns than the 32-bit version. While that might be theoretically possible, it’s not true.

The maximum rows/columns in Excel is limited by the version of the product, not it’s ‘bitness’.

Having larger worksheet sizes just for 64-bit Excel would cause all sorts of document compatibility issues. Microsoft rightly wants their documents accessible to all copies of that application and version – regardless of whether it is 32-bit and 64-bit.

The reader messages made it clear that it’s still commonly believed that Excel is limited to 65,536 rows when Excel 2007 (32-bit) increased that to 1,048,576 rows.

Excel versionMaximum
Rows
Maximum
Columns
Max. Column
by letter
Excel 365
Excel 2019

Excel 2016
Excel 2013
Excel 2010
Excel 2007

1,048,576

16,384

XFD

Excel for Mac
– Excel 365
– Excel 2019
– Excel 2016
– Excel 2011
1,048,57616,364XFD
Excel 2003
Excel 2002 (XP)
Excel 2000
Excel 97

65,536

256

IV

Excel 95
Excel 5
16,384256 IV

The .xls trap

Excel 2007 and later get downgraded to the lower Excel 2003 limits (65,536 x 256) when opening a .xls document.  The older, less secure, Excel formats can’t cope with a higher number of rows/columns so Excel limits workbooks to the constraints of the file format.

See What happen with UK COVID tracking and Excel?

To get larger worksheets, save the document to the Excel 2007+ .xlsx format.

Worksheet / tab limit

The number of worksheets in a single document/spreadsheet is another constraint. Excel 2007/2010 can theoretically handle 255 worksheets in a single document; however the practical limit is memory. The amount of memory available to Excel depends on both the operating system and version of Excel.

Excel 64-bit can access considerably more RAM and thus can deal with more worksheets at the same time. Excel 2010 and Excel 2007 32-bit versions have an upper memory limit of 2GB though other limitations may kick-in before you reach that.

Excel 64-bit can theoretically access 8 TERAbytes of memory, a 4,000 fold increase.

In other words, if you’re working with large workbooks, it’s much better to use 64-bit Office.

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