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How to Choose Between the 32 and 64 bit Versions of Access

How to assess the 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft® Access and to choose between them for any new project or database upgrade.

Last updated on 2020-05-26 by David Wallis.


A Bit of History

The first 64 bit version of Microsoft Access appeared in July 2010, as Access 2010, and since has been an alternative to the 32 bit versions of 2013, 2016 and 2019.

Before September 2018, the 32 bit version was recommended by Microsoft as the default installation of Access, alongside the other 32 bit programs of Office. Nowadays the 64 bit version is their recommended default, as it is for all their Microsoft 365 programs.


Choosing 64 bit Access

MSA logoUnless you instruct your IT supplier otherwise, any new computers you order are likely to come with 64 bit Access, as suppliers follow Microsoft's recommendations for Office 365.

This presents an issue for the majority of DMW’s clients as new computers are introduced to supplement, rather than replace, their old ones. The old computers have 32 bit applications installed; the new ones, 64 bit. Does this affect the running of databases? Certainly, yes it did. I try to explain why later in this article.

So why not specify 32 bit Office 365 for all new computers? Sticking with the devil you know may save a lot of hassle because you know that everything you’re using will work on those new computers.

But the devil you don’t know is when 32 bit Office might lose support (no sign of that yet as far as I can make out) and you’re left with applications, including databases, that break down under a 64 bit regime.

So why not move all existing computers to 64 bit, or replace them? In a one-word answer: cost.

There’s cost in licencing under Microsfot 365; in moving any workstation from Windows 32 bit to Windows 64 bit; in replacing workstations that don’t have the hardware to run 64 bit applications.


Access and SQL Server

One reason why you might be obliged to go for 64 bit Access is because your database has a SQL Server back end and tables in that back end have fields of the bigint data type. 64 bit versions of Access, beginning with version 2007, are equipped with a Larger Number data type, which provides the required compatibility.

32 bit versions of Access can’t support the Large Number data type.

For full information from Microsoft see Using the Large Number data type.


Upgrading Access 32 bit to 64 bit

About 32 bit Access

These are some considerations on upgrading a computer from 32 to 64 bit Access:


Performance Gains With 64 bit

Views expressed on the web about performance gains ascribed purely to upgrading 32 bit applications to 64 bit are divided.

Road runnerIt seems generally agreed that performance benefits from a 64 bit platform accrue to extensive Excel spreadsheets performing heavy duty calculations, to large-scale master plans in Microsoft Project and to long and complex documents in Microsoft Word.

For Access databases, opinions are mixed. The favourite seems to be that you won’t notice much, if any, increase in responsiveness in taking your database to 64 bit.

My experiences are these:

“I have a question,

I recently took delivery of my new Dell, which came with the 32bit version of Windows 7, however the PC is capable of running at 64bit.

If I install Windows 7 32bit twice would that make it 64bit?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.”

fwitt, Microsoft TechNet Forums (2010)