Finding and fixing Office 2013 installation problems

Desktop administrators can streamline Office deployments by understanding fixes to important installation problems.

The move to Microsoft Office 2013 is often smooth and uneventful, allowing computer users to take advantage of the many advanced features and design improvements that the Office suite provides. But successful software installations are never guaranteed. Windows devices depend on complex interactions among countless hardware and software components. Any unexpected or unwanted components can easily disrupt the installation process or cause poor behavior that must be corrected.

Let's examine several important Office 2013 installation problems that can occur and consider ways to fix them.

I installed Office 2013, and now the display is blurry; it just doesn't look right. Do I need more graphics acceleration?

Office employs the graphics-rendering capabilities of modern graphics adapters such as those manufactured by Nvidia and ATI. Unfortunately, some graphics acceleration features can cause unexpectedly blurry or distorted displays when running Office applications.

For example, Nvidia's fast approximate anti-aliasing (FXAA) can smoothe lines and sharpen edges with considerably less computing power than traditional anti-aliasing techniques, but it tends to make textures and rendered elements -- such as dialog boxes or text -- appear blurry.

Another example is ATI's morphological filtering option, which intentionally blurs edges and lines by melding colors between them in a slightly different approach.

Both of these anti-aliasing features are great for gaming, where such smoothing action can make images seem more lifelike. But those features also apply the same techniques to static display elements such as Windows dialog boxes, lines and text. The result is often annoying blur or distortion of the Office displays.

The easiest fix in cases like this is simply to turn off advanced anti-aliasing features using the graphics adapter's management console.

A second option is to use the graphics adapter's management console to disable anti-aliasing features for certain applications such as Office 2013. This means the graphics driver is "smart" enough to see which applications are running and can stop using anti-aliasing like FXAA or morphological filtering as long as Office components are active.

A third option is to check with the graphics adapter or PC manufacturer to learn if an updated graphics driver is available to correct the problem by reworking the anti-aliasing algorithm or adding a setting to automatically detect and prevent anti-aliasing when Office or other Windows programs are running.

This type of visual problem is generally not caused by a lack of computing or graphics capability, so upgrading the graphics adapter should not be necessary. If an upgrade fixed the problem, it would be almost certainly because of the introduction of a new graphics driver rather than a more powerful hardware component.

Similarly, turning graphics acceleration (hardware acceleration) off entirely will also fix the problem because it will shut down anti-aliasing along with every other advanced graphics feature. This means the computer will rely on the CPU and software rendering techniques like Windows Advanced Rasterization Platform (WARP). The result is invariably lower visual frame rates and reduced system performance. Avoid turning off graphics completely unless it's your only option.

Is the Office 2013 installation process supposed to be this slow? My hard drive is working overtime.

This complaint occurs most often when Office 2013 is being installed through streaming, and it's almost always related to a computer's antimalware tools attempting to scan each file as it streams to the local system. Most commercial endpoint-grade antimalware tools, including Norton, McAfee, Kaspersky and others, have been known to cause such a performance decline.

Although this is not an error in the strictest sense -- the antimalware tools are doing their job -- the relentless scanning is causing excessive hard drive activity and slowing the rate at which new files are stored to the system. In virtually all cases, this is regarded as simply an inconvenience that stops once the streaming is finished.

There are basically two options here. First, you can simply live with the performance penalty and wait the additional time for the streaming files to download. Once the installation is complete, there are no reports of continued performance problems.

The second option is to disable or pause the antimalware tool until the Office 2013 installation is complete. However, this is the least desirable option because disabling antimalware protection can leave an endpoint device vulnerable to attack.

I'm trying to install Office 2013, but it always stops at the same point and just hangs there. What can I do?

This can be particularly frustrating because there may be a considerable time between the successful start of an Office 2013 installation and the occurrence of an error -- repeating or restarting the installation ultimately halts at the same place each time. In many cases, the underlying problem is caused by a conflict between the installer and some service or configuration state on the system.

The most common stoppage seems to occur at between 80% and 90% through the installation process, and it is attributed to the Office 2013 installer and the computer's print spooler, which serves as a buffer for content being sent to the local printer or print server. This doesn't necessarily mean there is a problem with the print spooler, and there may be no issue with printing from the computer.

The best way to approach this error is to stop the print spooler temporarily, install Office 2013, and then restart the print spooler. For a Windows 7 system, click Start and then click Run to open a command-line dialog. Type services.msc and then click OK.

For a Windows 8 system, type services.msc from the Start screen, and select services from the resulting list of services. Select Print Spooler from the list of services, and then choose Stop and OK. Repeat this process, and select Start and OK to restart the print spooler.

If the Office 2013 setup stops at other percentages of completion, try repairing the Office installation. Open the Control Panel, select Programs and Features, and find Office in the Uninstall or change a program dialog. Then select Change, choose Online Repair, and then select Repair. If the problem persists, try uninstalling Office 2013 instead, reboot the computer, and then try reinstalling Office 2013 once again.

Microsoft Office can be time-consuming to install, and the complex productivity suite is vulnerable to numerous installation problems. Fortunately, most of these are not catastrophic, and they can be corrected with a minimum of wasted time and trouble.

Next Steps

Enterprise desktop administrators should take the time to familiarize themselves with Office 2013 features and installation processes and be ready to address possible problems before deploying enterprise rollouts of the Office suite.

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Using Group Policy or SCCM to install Office 2013

Microsoft Office 2013 addresses configuration, authorization

Revised Resource Kit can ease Office 2013 deployment

One Office 2013 migration avoids compatibility and interface hurdles

New features in Office 2013 target both IT and users

This was first published in June 2014

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