Windows – sues ensue from having multiple versions of Office installed?

microsoft-officewindows update

My ultimate question is embodied in the title but I thought it might be helpful to others if I detail what instigated my inquiry and my examination of the problem.

To me, the first rule of software updates is Primum non nocerefirst, do no harm. So with my Windows 7 system containing both Office 2003 and Office 2010 I blithely proceeded to install this month's updates from Microsoft, containing updates for both versions of Office. While Microsoft officially does not recommend running multiple versions (see, for example, Running Multiple Versions of Microsoft Excel it is possible; I have had two versions installed for a year or more and have never run into an issue before. One thing that is always mentioned is installation order, i.e., the one you want to open files by default should be installed last. I wanted 2010 as my default so I had indeed installed 2003 first then, years later, 2010. So with this round of Windows updates, either it installed patches to 2010 before 2003, knocking out the file association, or the 2003 patch was more comprehensive, in the sense of touching the file association while the 2010 did not. In any case, after updates, double-clicking a .xls file opened 2003 rather than 2010.

Web search indicated either:

  1. Use the file associations control panel to re-associate .xls files with the correct version of excel. I looked at this first, but it showed what seemed to be an unversioned "Excel" associated with .xls files so I did not check further. (This turned out to be an error on my part; more later.)
  2. Re-install versions in the desired order; I find this unreasonable.
  3. Run the repair option of the Office installer on the desired version; still seems more work than one should need.
  4. Run excel from the command line with "/regserver" on the one to be the default and "/unregserver" on the other. Good idea, but further search indicated that neither 2007 nor 2010 support "/regserver" contrary to some posts (e.g. Default Program With Multiple Versions Installed).

Since this was a Windows Update issue and Microsoft provides free support for such, I inquired there as well, but succeeded only in getting the suggestion to uninstall all other versions, period; not acceptable to me.

What worked for me was going back to the file associations control panel and manually selected the Office 2010 version of Excel. While it appeared no different in the control panel, it did fix the double-click issue. So if all it takes is this simple fix after an update, I can live with that. What I am wondering is: Has anyone seen any other problems related to having multiple versions of Office installed?

Best Answer

A client could not open any of his xls and xlsx files for the people he services. His Office and Windows updates had just installed at the previous shut down. His Windows 7 system is running Office 2000 and the machine also came with a non-activated ability to use Office 2010.

Looking at the fault, which claimed that the program associated with these files was either not installed, or not a valid Windows program, led me to file-associations. I saw that about 30 different file-types had become linked to Office 2010. I set all the associations in use or potentially so to be back with the older Office program, that is about 15 of them, leaving the others for now uncorrected. All has so far been well.

When I return to him next month I wonder if I will find that further Windows Office updates are available to rectify the matter more formally, but for the moment I have asked him to avoid any Office updates and have switched off automatic updating, in case the matter becomes more confused. I propose at that time to remove the non-activated Office 2010, remembering that this might be via some obscure machine manufacturer's SYSPREP type menu I may have to find, as seen elsewhere historically, rather than an uninstall via control panel programs and features applet. The state of the residual file types might then need correcting, possibly by a Office Repair from the Toolbar menu, I would guess.

Similar to a situation reported back in 2011.