Hi everyone! My name is Alex Dubec and I’m a Program Manager on the Office Trustworthy Computing Performance team. My team is responsible for compiling system requirements across Office, and I’d like to give you a behind-the-scenes look at how we determine system requirements and the hardware your computer requires to run Office 2010.
Before diving into all the details, I want to answer a question that I’m sure is on all of your minds:
Can I use Office 2010 on the same hardware I’m using to run Office 2007?
In most cases, yes! 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.
There are a few reasons for these changes:
- New features. New features mean more code. Also, even if you’re installing 32-bit Office, code changes to support the introduction of 64-bit Office increase our footprint.
- Office-wide Ribbon implementation. In Office 2010, you’ll see the Ribbon in all Office applications.
- Different suites. In the case Office Professional, the 2007 suite didn’t include OneNote; Office Professional 2010 does. Some distributions of Home and Student 2010 and Home and Business 2010 (such as the boxed retail versions) also include optional trial versions of Professional 2010 applications, which we’ve included in our disk requirements.
- Conservatism. We tend to be overly conservative when drafting hard disk requirements, and we round up to the nearest GB or 0.5 GB. For example, if we measure an application’s footprint to be 1.63 GB, our requirement will be 2.0 GB. If our measurement reads 1.99 GB, we’ll make the system requirement 2.5 GB. Our requirements are larger than the actual disk space usage of the software – and we intentionally oversize them just to be safe.
What operating systems are supported?
To determine which operating systems would be supported for Office 2010, we prioritized based on usage statistics for a given OS, as well as the engineering costs associated with ensuring compatibility and providing customer support for that OS. The following charts summarize OS compatibility for Office 2010.
Why is there a new graphics processor requirement?
If you’ve checked out Office 2010’s full system requirements, you’ve probably noticed the new graphics processor (GPU) requirement, and might be wondering what that’s all about. Another piece of feedback we received after releasing Office 2007 is that customers were interested in harnessing more of the potential of their PCs. Many computers in 2007 and most computers today have graphics processors separate from the CPU (this doesn’t necessarily mean a dedicated graphics card; for example, most laptops don’t have a physical graphics card, but do come with a graphics processor). If your computer has a GPU, it lets us perform graphics rendering tasks (like drawing charts in Excel, or transitions in PowerPoint) in the GPU instead of in the CPU, which parallelizes work and speeds up performance. This is particularly relevant for users of PowerPoint 2010, which will introduce some awesome new graphics and video integration features (more info at the PowerPoint team blog).
We chose to design for Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0c compliant graphics processors with 64 MB video memory. These processors were widely available in 2007, and most computers available today include a graphics processor that meets or exceed this standard. However, like our CPU and RAM requirements, this requirement is targeted for typical tasks – if you intensively use graphics features, you’ll benefit from a more powerful GPU.
If you want to verify the specs of the graphics core in your computer, the DirectX Diagnostic Tool will help:
- First, run ‘dxdiag’ from Run. This will bring up the Diagnostic Tool.
- Click on the Display tab: the DirectX version your graphics processor is using is listed next to ‘DDI Version’.
- Unfortunately, the Diagnostic Tool does not list your video memory, but the Device information on the Display tab will help you find the manufacturer’s specifications for your device.
Again, to put this requirement in context, the graphics chipsets in many netbooks are capable of using up to 224 MB or 256 MB of memory – which greatly exceeds our system requirement.
What if I don’t have a graphics processor that meets the requirement?
If you’re interested in upgrading from Office 2007, and you don’t have a GPU that meets the requirement, don’t worry – you can still use Office 2010. A graphics processor that meets or exceeds the standard will help speed up some of the graphics features you’ve used in earlier versions of Office, and it will help you use advanced transitions, animations, and video features new to PowerPoint 2010. We think a graphics processor will enhance your Office 2010 experience, but again, if your computer doesn’t have one, you can still run Office 2010.
It will come as no surprise that the performance of Office 2010 benefits more RAM, a faster CPU, or newer hardware. If you’re looking to buy a new computer, or if you’re running Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows Server 2008, you probably already have a machine that far exceeds the minimum requirements for Office 2010 (although you should check first, just to be safe). That said, I hope that I’ve given you some insight into how we develop system requirements and what they represent. Thanks for reading!