Upgrade Office 365 from 32-bit to 64-bit with Microsoft Intune – Part 1

When Microsoft Office 2010 was released, it was the first version of Office that offered both a 32-bit and 64-bit version. Since 32-bit Office was the default recommended option, most organizations deployed that version and have never really re-visited it. Unless a user was dealing with large data sets in Excel, there wasn’t much of a need to deploy 64-bit. In newer versions of Office 365, Microsoft is now recommending the 64-bit version and is even providing it as the default option. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to deploy and use 32-bit Office in your organization. I bet a lot of organizations will stay on 32-bit Office for a while or until Microsoft forces them to upgrade. The reason most organizations will stay on 32-bit Office is because of compatibility options with 64-bit Office. Not all custom software, plugins, macros, etc. are compatible with 64-bit Office or they might require upgrades to these different components. Microsoft provides a tool called the Readiness Toolkit which can help identify these compatibility issues and provide remediation steps. This is something you definitely should look into as part of your 64-bit planning and before you begin upgrading users.

For this tutorial, we are assuming that there are no compatibility issues and we want to start deploying Office 365 64-bit (now Microsoft 365 Apps) to a subset of users or all new users. To cover all new users, you could start by including 64-bit Office in your image or whatever provisioning tool you are using on all new computer builds. For existing users, we need to develop a different plan. If its a small set of users, we could look into just uninstalling 32-bit Office and then installing 64-bit Office manually. What if we decide to expand beyond this small set of users? For a while, running a clean uninstall of 32-bit Office and then installing 64-bit Office was really the only option. Even if you scripted this, it would still take a bit of time and would be disruptive to the end user. I think this is one of the reasons why most organizations stayed on 32-bit Office, because there wasn’t a good upgrade path.

Microsoft recently released an upgrade option to go from Office 365 32-bit to Office 365 64-bit. This process essentially automates the upgrade by using an XML option called MigrateArch. There are a few different ways to perform this upgrade using Microsoft Intune, which is why I am doing this blog post in multiple parts. If you haven’t seen my previous blog post on Deploying Microsoft 365 Apps with Microsoft Intune, take a look at it because we will be using a similar process.

Before we begin, I want to note a few items:

  1. Microsoft requires at least version 1902 of Microsoft 365 Apps (Office 365) to change the bitness.
  2. The MigrateArch option can only be used to upgrade Office products that were installed using Click-to-Run. MSI installations of Office won’t be upgraded.
  3. We will be covering a very basic scenario upgrade. I would recommend reading Microsoft’s documentation on upgrading Office architecture here for additional information and more advanced scenarios.

Create Office Upgrade Process

Lets start by navigating to the Microsoft Endpoint Manager portal and going to Apps -> Windows Apps

We are going to select Add to create a new App. Lets select Windows 10 and later under Microsoft 365 Apps.

Microsoft 365 Apps

I am going to give my new app a name of Microsoft 365 Apps 64-bit Conversion and then a similar description.

Microsoft Intune Add Microsoft 365 Apps

The Microsoft 365 Apps wizard gives you an option to use the configuration designer or use XML data. For this upgrade process, we are going to select Enter XML data.

Microsoft 365 Apps XML data

When you select this option, you will be shown a blank box.

Microsoft 365 Apps configuration file

Now you might look at this and have no idea what to do. Microsoft provides a wizard at config.office.com which can help you build out a custom XML configuration file. This could be used to build out your upgrade configuration. However, Microsoft also has some documentation on upgrading your architecture from Office 32-bit to Office 64-bit here. If you scroll down, they provide a nice and simple XML configuration sample to perform the upgrade. I am going to copy and paste that sample in my configuration box as shown below. They key piece here that performs the upgrade is MigrateArch=TRUE

Enter Office 365 XML data

This specific configuration will take my existing 32-bit Office install and upgrade it to 64-bit Office. It will not change any other configuration settings that were part of my original 32-bit install like language, update channel, existing products, etc. I will need to select Validate XML before I can proceed. The validation only take a quick second and I can proceed to my assignment options.

As you can see below, I have the option to deploy this as Required or as Available for enrolled devices. If I choose Required, this upgrade will be forced on the device and provides no options for the end user. This might be a good option if you are deploying the upgrade to desktop PCs after business hours or possibly lab systems. For an upgrade like this, I don’t like the Required option because it gives an end user no control. If you want to deploy this upgrade during the day, I want to provide the end user an option of when they can start it. They might want to run it over lunch or at the end of the working day. Therefore, making it available for enrolled devices is the option I am going to choose.

Microsoft Intune Assignments

If I hover over the “i” icon, I can get a further explanation of this assignment option. In order to deploy this as available, I need to have the Intune Company Portal app on my device, which I do. The Intune Company Portal app lets end users install applications that are made available by an organization. In this case, our 64-bit Office upgrade will be available for us to install from inside the Company Portal app.

Note: I am not going to explain how to deploy the Intune Company Portal app in this tutorial but Microsoft provides some information here on some different deployment options. At a high-level, you will need to either sync your Microsoft Intune tenant with the Microsoft Store for Business or you can download the offline Company Portal app and deploy it using Intune.

Microsoft Intune Available Assignment

As you can see above, I need to select a user group to deploy the Office 64-bit upgrade to. I have already created a group called Company Portal Users that I will use.

Microsoft Intune AD Group

Now I can see my summary of my Office 64-bit upgrade deployment. I will go ahead and click Create in order for this to be made available in my Company Portal on my device.

Microsoft Intune Review + Create

Run Office 365 64-bit Upgrade Install on Device

Now I am going to check the Intune Company Portal app on my device to see if its there.

Microsoft Intune Company Portal

Since it is there, I can click on it to start the install.

Microsoft Intune Company Portal Install

I am going to select install which will go ahead and run the upgrade process from 32-bit Office to 64-bit Office.

Office install

Once its done, I can see it says Installed.

Office installed

I am going to check my version of Office and confirm its now on 64-bit.

Office 365 version

Final Thoughts

While this process is quite simple, I do want to make a few notes:

  1. The upgrade process took about an hour to complete. Microsoft needs to download the 64-bit Office files (about 3-4GB) from the Office CDN which can cause this time to vary.
  2. If you have any Office apps running during this upgrade, it could fail. I would recommend closing all Office apps before starting the upgrade. There is an option in the XML to force close apps here.
  3. If you have Click-to-Run versions of Visio and Project installed, those will also be upgraded as part of the process. You can choose to exclude these in your XML.
  4. While it is not mandatory, I would recommend a reboot after the install is complete.

In Part 2 of this tutorial, I am going to utilize the same deployment method, but I am going to create a win32 app to deploy instead. Stay tuned!

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