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Monday, May 9, 2011

Office 2010 System Requirements

In most cases, CPU and RAM requirements for Office 2010 are the same as for Office 2007, so if your computer meets the Office 2007 system requirements, you can run Office 2010. A graphics chipset will help boost the performance of certain features and disk footprint has increased (more on these points later), but as general rules:

* If your current computer can run Office 2007, it can run Office 2010.
* If you’re purchasing a new laptop or netbook, it can run Office 2010.
* If you have a computer with a multi-core processor, it can run Office 2010 even faster.
* If your computer is currently running Office 2003, it’s possible that it can run Office 2010 (check the requirements to be sure).

What do the hardware requirements mean?

First off, I’d like to explain what level of performance you can expect from minimum-requirement hardware. The minimum hardware spec is about defining the kind of computer that an average Office customer needs to have in order to have an acceptable experience performing typical tasks. This means tasks like opening up and editing a 20-page report. Tasks like creating some simple pie charts or scatterplots that highlight your findings, and putting together a few slides summarizing your results for that meeting next Tuesday. Or even tasks like writing up your blog post about system requirements. You should also be able to comfortably run two applications simultaneously.

As you might expect, more intensive tasks benefit from fast chips, more RAM, or speedy hard drives, and newer hardware makes everyday tasks faster – but the hardware requirements aren’t about making Office 2010 blazing fast, or about running several applications at once, or about crunching financial models in a giant spreadsheet. They’re simply about getting typical tasks done.

A lot of other pieces of software carry both “minimum” and “recommended” hardware requirements, and you might be wondering why Office 2010 doesn’t have “recommended” requirements. The reason for this is that customers have told us that understanding hardware requirements can be confusing, and the difference in meaning between “minimum” and “recommended” requirements isn’t all that clear. For example, if the minimum RAM requirement for a program is listed as 1 GB, but 2 GB is recommended, what does that really mean? Does the customer need 1 GB or 2 GB? By including minimums, we’ve tried to make the hardware requirements as clear as possible.
How do we approach Office 2010’s hardware requirements?

CPU and RAM requirements approximately doubled between Office 2003 and Office 2007, as you can see below:


One of the pieces of feedback we’ve received from customers is that they really, really hate having to buy new hardware every time a new version of Office is released. With that in mind, one of our goals for the Office 2010 was to make sure that the minimum hardware requirement would not increase from Office 2007. We invested in improving the customer experience on minimum-requirement hardware, and we regularly tested performance throughout the development cycle. Our footprint has gotten larger since Office 2007, but we’re proud to say that we’ve succeeded in keeping the CPU and RAM requirements the same as for Office 2007.
How do you verify the CPU and RAM requirements?

To be objective about our hardware requirements, we maintain a performance test lab of machines with the following specifications:

* Intel Pentium III processor, 500 MHz
* 256 MB PC100 SDRAM
* Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 3

I have one of these machines in my office, and when I got it I couldn’t help but laugh: it was manufactured in January 2000. Maintaining that machine and our lab becomes more challenging as time goes on – this hardware hasn’t been in production for years, and it keeps getting harder to find replacement parts when stuff breaks!

We verified our requirements using this hardware with the following tests:

* We measured benchmark times for 200 typical user scenarios and 1300 additional scenarios in both Office 2007 and Office 2010. The data we collected showed that Office 2010 performance on minimum-requirement hardware is comparable to Office 2007.
* Along the same lines, we tested memory use for the typical user scenarios, and found that memory use was comparable to Office 2007. Also, we never reached 100% memory utilization during our tests.
* Finally, members of our team used the test computers instead of their regular desktops for a week and reported on the experience. Performance was, as you might expect, slower than on average hardware, but nobody pulled out any hair (for reference, we believe that the “average computer” has a 2.1 GHz dual-core processor and 2 GB of RAM. We collect this sort of information through the Customer Experience Improvement Program, which Peter Koss-Nobel has explained in more detail in his blog post here.)

With this data in hand, we’re comfortable with a 500 MHz CPU and 256 MB of RAM as appropriate minimum requirements for Office 2010. To give this a bit of context, some of the least powerful computers available today are netbooks, and our data suggests that the average current netbook has a 1.6 GHz CPU and 1 GB of RAM – which is significantly more powerful than our minimum requirement.
What about disk space?

We haven’t changed the CPU or RAM requirements from Office 2007, but the footprint of most Office applications have gotten larger. These changes force us to increase the system requirements – most standalone application disk-space requirements have gone up by 0.5 GB and the suites have increased by 1.0 or 1.5 GB.

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