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Can I Use Office 2003 with Windows 10?

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What are your criteria for deciding whether or not to take Microsoft updates?

I have Win10 and Office 2003. Regularly, when I get an update from Microsoft it trashes my Excel 2003. If I try to paste into a spreadsheet or format a cell the program crashes. I have to reinstall from my last Macrium full back-up (which includes the o/s) and then my last data backup (which does not include the o/s). I’m fed up with doing that, so I’m intending to turn off Microsoft updates. I can’t use the PC without Excel. I could go back to Win8, which is stable but nasty. I’m certainly not going to buy a new version of Office which will look nothing like Office 2003. REALISTICALLY, as opposed to THEORETICALLY, what are the dangers from turning off the Win10 updates?

Honestly, it doesn’t surprise me that Windows 10 might not be compatible with 14-year-old software. I know you like it, I get that, but Office 2003 + Windows 10 is a match made … well, somewhere other than heaven.

I’ll address the pragmatic reality of avoiding updates, and I’ll also review what I see as your alternatives with respect to Windows 10 and Office 2003.

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Avoiding updates

The problem with avoiding Windows 10 updates is that someday you’ll need one.

Not just one of those “it would be nice” kind of needs (though you’ll have those as well, I suspect), but more of an “oh man, I really need this” need.

The scenario that comes to mind is an issue that’s discovered for which you really, really, want the fix. It’ll probably be some kind of security issue that is rampant in the wild, and for which your machine will be vulnerable until you take an update. This kind of thing has happened in the past, and it’ll happen again in the future, I’m convinced. Then you’ll be stuck.

As a matter of practicality, what you allude to is probably correct: most Windows 10 updates aren’t pragmatically critical, and you can easily wait them out — until there’s one that’s truly important. That’s what I worry about.

And, unfortunately, getting that one update will likely require installing all the updates you’ve been avoiding up to that point.

Grasping at a straw

It concerns me that Office 2003 worked in Win10 until after an update to Windows 10. Generally, I’d expect the failure to happen immediately when you first encountered Windows 10.

In fact, I was able to successfully install Office 2003 on a fully up-to-date Windows 10.

Office 2003 on Windows 10
So, one straw I might grasp at is a clean install of Office 2003. Specifically:

  • Take a full image backup, so you can return to this point if what we’re about to try fails.
  • Uninstall Office 2003 completely. This might be a scenario that calls for using something like Revo Uninstaller to perform a bit more of a clean up after the uninstall than the normal setup program might do.
  • Bring Windows 10 up to date completely. Take all the updates. Check for updates repeatedly until no more are available.
  • Install Office 2003 from scratch.

If that works, you’ll know it was some kind of interaction with the update process and Office 2003, rather than a fundamental incompatibility.

If it doesn’t work, you can revert to your backup image and start considering other options.

Take Windows a step (or two) back

If you must continue using Office 2003, then your only real option might be to revert to Windows 8, as you mentioned, or Windows 7, which I assume is less “nasty” (to use your terminology).

The process is much like what we did above:

  • Take a full image backup, so you can return to this point if what we’re about to try fails.
  • Install the Windows version of your choice from scratch.
  • Bring Windows up to date completely.
  • Install Office 2003 from scratch.

Office alternatives, but why?

Of course, you could switch to something other than Office 2003, like LibreOffice or OpenOffice.

The problem here is that they are different — as different from Office 2003 as the most current versions of Office, just in different ways. You might not have a ribbon interface (the most common complaint of post-2003 versions of Office), but much else will change in either look or behavior.

My recommendation

If you can’t get Office 2003 to work acceptably in Windows 10, then…. well, you’re not going to like my suggestion.

Embrace the current version of Office.

Honestly, you’re probably spending more time trying to get Office 2003 to work on Windows 10 than you would be simply learning the ins and outs of the latest version. Unless you’re doing things that are really esoteric, once you get past the ribbon, it really is the same Office you’re used to.

That way, you’ll also be updated and protected for both Windows and Office.

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52 comments on “Can I Use Office 2003 with Windows 10?”

  1. Leo, I successfuly use VB6 with my up to date Win 10 no problems. (don’t ask me why) Cant see any problem with Office 2003. although I use the latest version myself.

  2. I think Libre Office is a great alternative to Office 2003. From my experience, the user interface is more similar to Office 2003 than more recent versions of MS Office are to Office 2003, so it should be a relatively painless transition. Of course, there are features in MS Office which aren’t found in Libre Office, but those are the more esoteric features used only by a few power users. There’s also a compatibility issue. Libre Office can be made to save in .doc or .docx and .xls or .xlsx etc format, but the documents will usually change in appearance from one program to another. If you don’t need full document compatibility, this shouldn’t be a big problem.

  3. If it’s just the Ribbon Interface that newer versions of MS Office have that stops him from using the newer (And more Secure) Office Software, He can try using Ubit Menu to “Bring the Menu Bars back”. As an old hand with office, it drove me nuts when they switched to the Ribbon, so I installed it and I loved it. Find it here: http://www.ubit.ch/software/ubitmenu-languages/ There is a free version (with Branding) and paid (Cheap – without Branding).

  4. Excellent advice to do a clean install of Office 2003 — after doing a thorough uninstall. I think Microsoft may still offer a program that will remove all traces of its older versions.

    I’ve still got one ancient program running in Windows 10, specifically Corel Ventura 10 (desktop publishing) – still using it because it’s still more powerful and better featured than any of the current competition). But when installing such elderly programs, you need to run the installer program with its properties set to “run as administrator” and in compatibility mode for Windows XP (Service pack 3). That seems to be a key step with programs we shouldn’t even be using if there is a newer version available. Be forewarned, however, than the Help function of older program may not work in Windows 10 — and there’s nothing much you can do about that.

    If you’re not using the latest version Office 365, you are missing out on a more stable, more user-friendly, easier-to-use, and much more powerful set of programs. I never liked Excel before Office 365 – now it’s a blast to use. I hated Word prior to Office 365 (loved Lotus Word Pro, which hasn’t been updated in over a decade), but Office 365 has made even Word usable.

    If you don’t like the ribbon replacement for menus (and, frankly, once you get used to the ribbon, it is more efficient than the old menus), you can get add-ons that restore the menus. Extendoffice.com sells “Classic Menu for Office” (free 30-day trial) which restores the old look and menus of Office 2003 to Microsoft Office 2016, 2013, 2010, 2007 or Office 365. They also offer OfficeTab which puts, for example, all of your open Excel files in a single window with tabs like a browser, rather than opening each file in a different instance of Excel. (free 30-day trial).

    But why not uninstall Office 2003 completely and try the 30-day free trial of Office 365 or Office 2016? You might be pleasantly surprised. You can still save files in the old format — but you should know that the new format produces much smaller file sizes.

    • Many older programs lose their HELP systems in Windows Vista and newer operating systems. A solution to restore the help systems is to run WinHlp32.exe (found here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=40899
      Doing so installs the 32-bit help engine Microsoft used to include in the operating system. If you still cannot run the Help system, find, copy and register MSVBVM50.dll which is needed for Visual Basic 5 programs, which many help systems run on. Microsoft indicates the executable WinHlp32.exe installs MSVBVM50.dll, so it may not come up.

  5. The link for “What’s a Good Free Alternative to Microsoft Office?” actually links to the previous story “Is a Microsoft Office Subscription Worth It?”.

  6. This was interesting, as I moved/was moved to Win 10 from Win 7, and Office 2003 carried on as if nothing had happened. Not only Office 2003, but Publisher 2000 works fine, too.
    To get a bit more up-to-date I’ve just installed, in a spirit of European unity (I live in England), the German Ashampoo Office 2018, which parallels Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and is claimed to also run on Win 7 and 8. We’ll see how it goes – one reason for the move is that my church has Office 2016, so it will be good to be able to do a bit more with PowerPoint, given the limit of 4:3 ratio in 2003.

  7. Leo, regarding the question about Office 2003 on a Windows 10 computer, I have found that Office 2007 works fine with Windows 10. Windows 7 can be found on ebay for as little as $15 and is compatible with Office 2003 and Office 2010.

  8. Three months ago one of the W-10 {?} updates zapped a dll, perhaps. I reinstalled and all is OK. Before that never had a problem. Why do I still use Word Suite 2003, because why should I use the ribbon menu alien to all other programs be they word processor, graphics etc. Short answer, YES, all parts of 2003 work in W-10 home issue.

  9. I have great sympathy for the person who wants to continue using MS Office prior to the 2007 “ribbon” version. I continue to use Office 2000 (with a compatibility pack for later versions) on my desktop, where the OS is Win 7. However, my laptop has Win 10 (hit the upgrade button by mistake when it was free and couldn’t stop it. Use it every day, but don’t like it). I was not able to get 2000 to install correctly via the CDs, so got Office 2010. I’ve had it for half a dozen years, use it occasionally, but no matter how many times I use it, I dislike it. . . especially on a laptop where the vertical screen space is much less than on a desktop monitor, and the “ribbon” occupies WAY too much of that space. The saving grace is that I installed Classic Menu for Office, which provides most of the easier-to-find menus, so rarely have to rummage around the ribbon for anything. At the time I got it, it was free. Now it’s $30. Still well worth it.

  10. I guess I am fortunate because I have had Office 2003 long before Windows 10 came into the picture and so far have not experienced any problems with it. I’m not a heavy user so maybe this is why no trouble. If I were a heavy user, I wouldn’t be so opposed to paying an ongoing fee to use it. I would just rather pay once and not have to be bothered with it again.

    I will take a look though at the 2007 version on Ebay. If that is the only cost I will consider making that purchase.

    I’ve also seen product keys being offered for full versions of the latest version of Office for a small fee. Any comments on that? Does anybody know if this requires paying the monthly fee?

    I hope this is still on topic Leo.

    I would be very interested in any and all comments and ideas.

    • Please note that Office 2007 does have the ribbon interface, if this is a problem. Also, if the cheap product keys are pirated, they could well be detected before long, leaving the program crippled.

      • I purchased two perfectly valid licenses for Office 2016 Pro on Ebay for $5 each. The reseller sent me the license keys via email along with a link to download the software from Microsoft. I followed the link and had to enter the license keys to download two fully legitimate copies of the software. These resellers buy volume licenses and then resell them individually. All legal and above-board. No piracy.

  11. Just to poke my nose into this: I bought Office2000 with my move up from an Amstrad desktop back in the late 1990s – and I’m still happily using it (admittedly mostly just Word and Excel, with occasional ventures into Access and PowerPoint) with Windows 10. It does all I want, and thanks to Microsoft (!) I’ve been able to fix it so I can open and work on .docx files (have to save them as .doc of course) if required (which is a rare occurrence). Does anyone see any future problems looming…?

  12. I grew to like Office 2000 on my job as a software engineer using all features and tools included, then moved on to Office 2003. I acquired a copy for my personal use because it was perfect for what I needed. One might say that I am a “power user”. I have continued using it on my personal computers under XP, Windows 7, 8, and now 10. I have installed it on many computers as they have come into usefulness and as they phased out in favor of later and more capable hardware and operating systems. I have to commend Microsoft for having created such a useful and reliable tool as Office 2003, which I am currently using on all of my computers under Windows 10. I have never had real problems with it. I may have reinstalled once or twice but I don’t consider the reason for that to be the fault of Office 2003.

    I have thought about using the latest Office XXX, but there is no incentive. What I have works great, and the alternative is to pay a subscription and then to rely on the cloud for various support. All that is unnecessary unless I have to share with coworkers and such, or Office 2003 stops working altogether.

    • Under the latest “upgrade” of Windows 10 (Fall 2017 Creators ) I have noticed that when using Excel 2003 with multi pages (tabs) in a workbook there is a strange error. When I make a change to a cell on the second tab, it changes the corresponding cell on tab1 as well as the intended cell on tab2. I wonder if anyone else has noticed this, or whether it is just my setup.
      Thank you to anyone who responds.
      Hal

      • What you described an Excel feature. You probably turned on “Fill > Across Sheets” one way or another, and to do that, you also would have had to group 2 or more sheets. You can find Fill Across Sheets under the Home tab: find the Editing block, and the icon is a down-pointing arrow. Click on that and you will see “Across Sheets”. If it is greyed out, it’s because you haven’t first grouped 2 or more sheets. To experiment with it, group worksheets by clicking on a tab, then hold down the Control key & click on another (or more) tabs to group.

      • If you prefer Office 2003, you might be a candidate for Libre Office. It’s interface is very similar to Office 2003. Office might have a few more features, but Libre Office is absolutely free and does everything the 99% need in an office suite. I have one of my machines set to default too Libre Office and for me it’s absolutely as good as MS Office. It’s a little more cumbersome in some processes but there’s always a way to do what you need. The only issue I’ve seen with Libre Office is that if you want the document to look exactly the same on a computer using MS Word, there will definitely be inconsistencies. Although, I’ve seen similar inconsistencies from computer to computer, both using using MS Word. Sharing a file between 2 machines using Libre Office generally has fewer inconsistencies.

  13. I use Office 2003 on Windows 7.
    If I ever replace my computer, I’ll switch to Linux, because when my attempt to update to Windows 10 bricked my computer, I fired Microsoft.

  14. I don’t understand the ribbon haters. Yes, it takes a bit of getting used to. But I use Word and Excel so frequently that it doesn’t take long to adjust to it. And I find it easier for things that I don’t remember where they are. Having pictures besides the labels helps a lot.

    But for those who refuse to adapt, I do have a solution. Install a virtual machine (such as Oracle’s Virtual Box, which I got from a Leo recommendation, I believe). Install the older operating system and the older software in the VM and run it from there. I had to do that for a while until a piece of software I use every week got updated to work in Windows 7.

    • Hi, James B.,
      My guess is that you’ve not used Word 2003 or experienced the endless ways to customize it. Word 2003 did in one click what takes 2 – 4 clicks in Office 2013 (and that I’m sure is true from the first version of Office that uses the Ribbon). I was and am a “power user,” and this whole Ribbon system is not geared towards a power user and is a time waster and is more about fluff than anything else, in my opinion. I find myself having to create macros for all too many things in order to shorten the number of clicks it takes to accomplish what Word 2003 did in one click. And the floating toolbars were genius! Why they were eliminated is beyond belief, especially when Microsoft wants you to believe that each new version is better than the last. Anyway, those are only some of the reasons why there are so many “ribbon haters” out there. Just sayin’ . . .

  15. We have also upgraded all but one (it is a tablet on 8.1 and would not take the upgrade) Windows systems to Windows 10. The two main systems we use also have Office 2003 installed. Until the Fall Creators Update, we have had no problems with Office. The latest update killed Outlook 2003 for my wife. I went into the Add & Remove Programs (or whatever Windows 10 calls it) and did a repair installation and it works fine. Since neither of us has any use for Word (we do word processing in Excel as it gives better control of the output and does NOT screw with the text) we are happy that Excel still works fine. As to why not upgrade Office – my wife tried the free trial and hated it – also Microsoft keeps adding worthless things like “Smart-Tags” (which make copy & paste harder) as well as the well deserved to be hated Ribbon interface – which takes up way too much screen space. If Office 2003 starts giving me problems, I will probably try my old Office 97 or resort to any of the several Office alternatives.

  16. Something which helped me transition to Excel 2010 was Ubit menu. I liked Excel 2003 too! Google ubit menu Office and you’ll see it.

    • XP is indeed forever, but hardware isn’t. It’s not a matter of if your PC dies, it’s a matter of when. Then you’ll be upgrading to Win 10 on a new machine, ready or not.

      • Nonsense! Just low-level format the HD, then install XP and the ServicePacks from the CD.
        Or if you’re nervous ;), you can always add something VirtualBox, then put an XP image into it. That way, you can keep your malware* OS (i.e. Win10).

        [*Previous MS OSs tended not to break things during updates. Win10 tries its best to force you to upgrade EVERY MS product you have installed, usually without any options. They’re especially fond to trying to force the garbage that is Office365 down your throat if you have any other older version installed. Personally I never want to run any software from the ‘cloud,’ or as we used to call it: ‘data bureaus.’]

  17. My Outlook 2007 broke in the Autumn Windows 10 update yesterday showing a “not implemented” error whenever I tried to check mail or create a calendar entry, and Microsoft state that that version stopped being supported in October of this year. I was pretty much forced into buying Office 2016, which (to be honest) I should have done earlier. It would have been nice to get some warning though!

  18. I have a copy of Office 2003 and prefer this simple program to other Office iterations. Office 2003 is installed and used on my Windows 10 computer and works through all of the Windows10 updates. I also have Office 2007 installed on the same computer since it is easier to open newer Office files. This double installation causes some problems because microsoft thinks that the Office 2007 program should always overwrite 2003 programs. God bless MS, because I don’t.

  19. I’m happily using Office 2013 on my Win 7 machine, but am also still using one part of Office 2003: FrontPage, for my personal website. Sometimes an error message pops up that I’ve learned can be ignored, and then everything works perfectly. I’d like to keep using FrontPage until I’m pushing up daisies (about 15 more years, actuarily), but worry that I won’t be able to keep using Win 7 (or 10) that long. Sure wish FrontPage could be rehabilitated by Microsoft. Was so easy for amateurs like me.

  20. Another option might be to use a virtual machine. I have some legacy software that will not run on anything more current than Vista. I used VMware workstation pro to create a virtual machine from my old laptop which allows me to run Vista as a quest on my new Win10 host. I had used microsoft virtual pc many years previously but vmware is much better and the vista quest performs very well. Another advantage is the vista guest can be backed up so if the host fails I can just restore the guest file and I am back in business in minutes.

    Dennis

  21. I trained on Office 2003, but have since used 2007, 2010, and the newer versions under the Office 365 schemes – 2013 and 2016. In my opinion it is better to evolve with the changes over time, than to be forced into an abrupt change in a crisis situation.

    Likewise I’ve used Windows XP, skipped Windows Vista, used Windows 7, Windows 8.1 (not 8.0), and now Windows 10 plus it’s various major updates which are still called Windows 10 instead of new Windows names. (Just got new features added in an update on Tuesday and Wednesday this week).

  22. Windows 7 on a Dell Optiplex.
    I am still troubled with opening folders on the desktop. It either says there is no suitable program to open the folder or it defaults to trying to open it with VLC media player ! It happened after an update. I restored to before the update and all was fine. But I like to keep the thing up to date. So annoying. I have to right click and click open to see the content of the folder

  23. I don’t understand the problem. My family is using five PCs, all fully updated to the latest Windows 10 and all but one are using Word 2003. We are heavy users of Word 2003, using it daily and often. I have had only one problem with Word 2003 and that was easily fixed with a Repair function of a reinstall. Otherwise, Word 2003 and Windows 10 get along just fine.

    Why v.2003? Yup, I hate the ribbon because it takes up too much space which is a real problem on the laptops but mostly because the ribbon cannot be extensively customized the way I like it. When I need a function, it slows me down to have to click to a different tab to find what I need where my customized menus in Word 2003 have what I need just a single click away. Belonging to a computer user group, we sometimes have friendly competitions where everybody creates a document to see who can type and format fastest. Most of my friends are using newer versions of Word which involves using the ribbon where I am using Word 2003 with my customized menus all showing on the borders of my interface. I usually win because I don’t have to click thru the tabs to click a command; it’s all right there in front of me on my customized menus.

    My point is that four fully updated versions of Windows 10 (v1709) work just fine with Word 2003. Maybe it is different with Excel 2003 which I don’t use but PowerPoint 2003 also works fine the few times I’ve used it.

    • My updated Windows 10 machines can run software that a new install of Windows 10 cannot. Maybe that’s the answer.

    • I originally didn’t like Word 2007 because of the ribbon. Then I placed a shortcut to all of the Word features I use regularly on the Quick Access Tool Bars in Word and Excel and then I Minimize the Ribbon. That gives me more screen real estate than using the Office 2003 tool bar and when I need it I click on the text menu bar to bring up a ribbon when I need it.

    • I wonder if you have turned off updates for “other Microsoft Products” which would include Office 2003. That caused me problems until I found it and shut it off. Go to Settings > Update and Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options and uncheck the box where it says “Give me updates for other Microsoft products when I update Windows.” This was checked by default and caused trouble. Since Office 2003 is no longer supported, it cannot be updated and so apparently caused problems with updates to Windows itself.

  24. I am now also unable to use Excel 2003.

    I bought a new PC last year with Windows 10 and loaded my existing purchased version of Office 2003. I chose to do this as, along with others on here, I was very comfortable with the software particularly Excel 2003 which did everything I wanted.

    Everything has been fine until last week when Windows 10 prompted me take updates to Windows 10.

    Taking these updates has totally killed Excel 2003.

    Word, PowerPoint and others are all fine but Excel is dead. Every time, it attempts to do a calculation, the program just shuts down. Even Copy and Paste shuts the software down.

    So I am now in a position whereby I can’t keep my personal records up to date.

    Does anyone have any ideas on how I can go back to the situation pre the automatic Windows 10 update?

    I really love Excel 2003. I have no desire to move to whatever the current version of Office is.

    Any ideas?

    • You might try reinstalling it, but you might also simply be out of luck. You probably already know your options: revert to an older version of Windows, upgrade to a newer version of Office, or switch to OpenOffice or LibreOffice (after confirming they meet your needs – they, too, are different.)

  25. My 2003 Excel worked fine with Windows 10 until the last update – which MS says is a critical update – a few days ago. Since then it shuts down when I try and enter data. I reloaded Office 2003, but still the same. IMO, your comment was correct, there is no real fix but to get a newer version of MS Office.

  26. I had the same problem as you after the Windows 10 update in May 2018: If I try to paste into a Excel 2003 spreadsheet or format a cell the program crashes. However, I reinstalled Excel 2003, and it works!

  27. I’ve been running Office 2003 on Win 10 since 2015 when I bought a small laptop that refused to upgrade to Win 7.
    It’s been working perfectly until about 30 minutes ago when OUTLOOK suddenly reported an OLE registration error.
    I tried Office repair but that gave ODBC error for Visual Foxpro.
    I’ve no idea what has caused this I was using the browser at the time the error occurred.
    Only thing I can find on Google is reinstall MDAC 2.8 but don’t think that is compatible with Win 10.
    Does anybody have any ideas how to get round this?

  28. Can I access to tables in database Access 97 example test.mdb is in the server
    when the software (program) itself is in Access 2007 in one stasion and in anader stasion in access97
    to continue working on the Access 97 software in parallel

    • It really depends on the features used in the database. All I can say is “maybe”, so I’d try it and see what happens. Perhaps backup the database first.

  29. Microsoft removed essential features from old versions of Office. Many users are stranded and unable to upgrade or face enormous loss of customization. Microsoft bragged that Access 2003 still worked in Windows 10. Yet they turn blind eye to users of Access 2003 by forcing installation of Access 2016, which causes the errors mentioned in this article. The debugging needed to keep Access and Excel 03 running cleanly is minuscule. They live by the mantra “to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs.” However, substitute “you have to” with “should with malevolent intent.”

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