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Excel – a history of rows and columns

How many rows and columns does Excel have?

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All the talk about 64-bit versions of Office has raised the issue of maximum rows and columns in Excel.

A few readers seem to believe that 64-bit Excel will have more rows or columns than the 32-bit version. While that might be theoretically possible, it’s not true.

The maximum rows/columns in Excel is limited by the version of the product, not it’s ‘bitness’.

Having larger worksheet sizes just for 64-bit Excel would cause all sorts of document compatibility issues. Microsoft rightly wants their documents accessible to all copies of that application and version – regardless of whether it is 32-bit and 64-bit.

The reader messages made it clear that it’s still commonly believed that Excel is limited to 65,536 rows when Excel 2007 (32-bit) increased that to 1,048,576 rows.

Max. Rows

Max. Columns

Max Columns by letter

Excel 2010




Excel 2007




Excel 2003




Excel 2002 (XP)




Excel 2000




Excel 97




Excel 95




Excel 5





Excel 2007/2010 will show the Excel 2003 limits (65,536 x 256) when opening a .xls document.  To get larger worksheets, save the document to the Excel 2007 .docx format.

The number of worksheets in a single document/spreadsheet is another constraint. Excel 2007/2010 can theoretically handle 255 worksheets in a single document; however the practical limit is memory. The amount of memory available to Excel depends on both the operating system and version of Excel.

Excel 64-bit can access considerably more RAM and thus can deal with more worksheets at the same time. Excel 2010 and Excel 2007 32-bit versions have an upper memory limit of 2GB though other limitations may kick-in before you reach that. Excel 2010 64-bit can theoretically access 8 TERAbytes of memory, a 4,000 fold increase.

Article posted: Friday, 09 April 2010

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