Is Office 2003 Compatible With Windows 8?

Office 2003 may indeed be fully compatible with Windows 8 but it is difficult to confirm for sure – because Microsoft aren’t publishing all the information needed to make an informed decision.

On the one hand, Microsoft Support states: “Office 2003 suites and applications are not compatible with Windows 8, you will have problems running it on Windows 8” [my bolding].

This advice refers to Windows 8/Windows 8 Pro and all versions of Office 2003 and associated applications. On the other hand, this view is flatly contradicted by Microsoft’s own Windows 8 Compatibility Center – checking for Office 2003 applications produces the following W8 compatibility results:

  • Word 2003 SP3 – compatible
  • Excel 2003 Professional – compatible
  • Powerpoint 2003 SP3 – compatible
  • Outlook 2003 Professional – compatible
  • Publisher 2003 SP3 – compatible
  • Access 2003 SP3 Professional – compatible
  • Office 2003 SP3 Basic – compatible
  • Project 2003 SP3 Professional – compatible

So, according to the Compatibility Center, every individual application is compatible with Windows 8 – as long as you have installed the (free) Service Pack 3. It seems impossible to tell for sure as they haven’t published any details as to why they believe it may not be compatible – what exactly is it that doesn’t work?

This conflicting advice inevitably raises the suspicion of scaremongering – that Microsoft may just prefer people pay them $120+ for a shiny new version of Office 2010/13, regardless of whether they really need it…

Certainly there are many users who have installed Office 2003 SP3 on Windows 8 and found that it appears to work just fine. There may be some very obscure features that are incompatible (or issues could arise after future W8 updates) but we aren’t aware of any yet – and Microsoft aren’t saying.

Office 2003 fits in alright…

Office 2003 Future – Regardless of actual compatibility with Windows 8, it is worth noting that Office 2003 is 9 years old and does not have long to go before Microsoft stop supporting it. On April 8, 2014 Microsoft will drop all support for Office 2003 (and Windows XP).

That means there will be no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates – Office will continue to work but, once unsupported, it becomes more vulnerable to security risks.

Therefore it would be wise to switch to a newer version before the cut-off date in 2014. However, that is still a year and a half away – those who wish to eke out their initial investment can install it on Windows 8 now and upgrade much later on.


Is Office 2003 compatible with Windows 8? Microsoft say no (but won’t say why not) – but then Microsoft also say yes… In practice, plenty of people have installed it since Windows 8 was officially launched (ignoring any errors during installation) and yet found no problems or incompatibility issues.

In our view, if you must have 100% guaranteed compatibility, upgrade to Office 2010 or 2013. If you want to keep Office 2003 for another year (especially if you don’t use the most complex features) it is likely worth installing it on Windows 8 – but consider switching before the end of support in 2014.

6 thoughts on “Is Office 2003 Compatible With Windows 8?”

  1. When I buy a product its mine to use how I see fit. I don’t expect Ford to say after 10 years that I can longer drive my car!
    Microsoft have made billions overcharging for their bug and security ridden software. The least they can do is make it possible for their expensive Office offerings to continue to work for as long as the buyer deems fit. I like Office 2003. I don’t like the more recent offerings. So I want to use it for as long as I like. Microsoft can easily do this for me at no loss of profit to them as I would move to Open Office 4 rather than give them money.

  2. You say you can install Office 2003 as long as you install Office 2003 Service Pack 3 (free). I installed that but the installation from CD proceeds only to the point where the installer finds no office 2003 executable and then it hangs. So you cannot install a fresh version of Office 2003!!! So I can’t install a brand new, fresh, never installed CD of Office 2003 Professional. Does anyone have a solution to this problem?

    • Hi Rudi, if you dislike W8 anyway, a cheaper option would be to buy and install W7 (c $100 OEM edition) instead – your office 2003 will work fine on that. But 2003 reaches end of life in April anyway as it will be 11 years old so probably not worth it from a security perspective…

      Office Home and Business 2013 (includes outlook so almost the same as 2003 Pro) is c $220 for the download version whilst Office Home and Student is c $140 – can’t really blame MS for wanting to get paid again, they can’t support it for ever and 11 years of updates and support is longer than anyone else offers…

      • Thanks for your help, both are probably poor solutions. For someone who uses Excel 97 and Word 97 and was happy with
        a Thinkpad running XP Sp3, these alternatives make me very cranky and annoyed. I do not expect any support, that’s for business. As far as wanting to get paid after a few years for a new version why not disable software after five or even three years? What I find incredulous is that even a software engineer does not know why an installation program does not work and locks up the CD drive (cancel or close X) does not work. It would seem someone would have a solution for this technical problem.

  3. Runtime Error keeps appearing after I upgraded it to SP3 (no error appeared during installation); works perfectly fine if I don’t upgrade OFFICE 2003 to SP3 version.

    But Windows Update always upgrades OFFICE 2003 to SP3 version (haven’t figured out the way to cancel that upgrade); I have deleted OFFICE 2003 so can’t tell you guys the exact name of the runtime error~ sorry~~

    • You cannot install office 2003 professional from cd!!! MS says so and users including me have tried it. Even with the (free) Office 2003 Service Pack 3 installed, it will hang during the O2003 installation, no message of course, it just hangs up and the CD will not respond.
      Windows 8 is useless even with its own software. When you call them they say well its a 2003 program why would you expect to be able to install that, it’s now 2013 you should get 2013 software, it’s only $300 to $500 for an upgrade. PS stopping the spooler does not help.
      And no one at Microsoft knows exactly why you can’t install from CD, it is ludicrous and sheer incompetence for a software engineer to say you can’t install because you can’t install because its not compatible when others are running Office 2003P on Windows8.

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