Power BI Desktop is a free, standalone self service BI tool for data modelling and reporting. You will not get a better, free desktop data modelling and reporting tool than this anywhere.
Power BI Desktop is evolving at a rapid rate with updates released every month. Due to the speed of the updates, it is important to keep up to date and have the latest version of the tool installed on your PC to get the best value from the software.
There are 2 options to install Power BI Desktop.
- Install from the Microsoft Store
- Install from a direct download (click to run).
These 2 options are available when you go to the Microsoft Power BI Installation Page (as shown below).
The two options install the same version of the software, but there is a subtle and important difference. If you install with the direct download (#2 above), you will manually install the latest version of the software, and you will need to repeat the installation manually every time there is a new version of Power BI Desktop released (i.e. up to 12 times per year*). On the other hand, if you install from Microsoft Store (#1 above), it is a one time installation as the desktop installation will automatically be updated by Windows whenever a new version of the software is released to the Microsoft Store.
It is for this reason that I recommend option 1 – install from the Microsoft Store.
Notes about IT
- Some companies’ IT departments prevent the use of the Microsoft Store by default. If this is the situation with you, you will not be able to use option 1 above.
- Some companies’ IT departments also prevent the installation of click to run software (option 2).
If either of the above limitations apply to you, then you may need to have a (often difficult) conversation with IT about the benefits of using a modern software as a service approach to managing the updates of this product.
Update: There have been a couple of comments below on how IT departments intervene in this process arguing that the intervention is required. In my view, Power BI Desktop is an authoring tool, not a production tool. There can definitely be issues (as outlined in the comments) where Power BI Desktop causes an issue in production (PowerBI.com). If that happens, then why not just roll back to a previous version? Better still, use the premium deployment pipelines to test everything prior to going live. If you value 100% uptime at the expense of the additional layers of cost and delay in the Desktop update process, and don’t use the deployment pipelines/premium, then of course an IT department can intervene and prevent the users installing the latest version of the software. In my view, this is an old approach to IT.
* I say above “up to 12 times per year”, but in reality Microsoft often releases bug fix releases intra-month, meaning there can be many more versions to install than 12.
- Some have reported (see comments) issues with using the Store version with an Oracle connector. If this is you, you may want to do some testing before getting too excited about moving from the click to run version and moving to the store version.
Installing Power BI Desktop from the Microsoft Store
This is the preferred option where possible. Follow these steps to install Power BI Desktop from Microsoft Store.
- Go to https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/desktop/ and click on Download free > (#1 below).
This prompts you whether to open the Microsoft Store.
- Click on Open Microsoft Store (#1 below).
This takes you to Power BI Desktop app in the Store.
- Click on Install (#1 above).
This downloads the Power BI Desktop tool to your PC. Generally speaking, that is all you need to do. The software will automatically update each month (and for bug fixes) from then on. However, if you know a new version of Power BI Desktop has been released (say on release day) and you are desperate to have it installed immediately you can.
- Launch the Microsoft Store
- Click on the ellipsis (#1 below)
- Select Downloads and updates (#2)
- Click Get Updates.
This will force the immediate update of all software you have installed, including Power BI Desktop. Normally it is scheduled by Microsoft to spread out the install effort as it updates everyone’s version around the world.
Installing Power BI Desktop with Direct Download
This is the non-preferred option. Follow these steps to install Power BI Desktop with direct download.
- Go to https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/desktop/ and click on See download or language options (#2 below).
- Scroll down the page to find the following.
As you can see in #1 above, you can set your language preference from the drop down box. By clicking on + (#2 above) you can find the details about the tool, the system requirements (#3 above) for the installation and the install instructions (#4 above). You can find in Details that it is possible to install either 32-bit version or 64-bit version of the tool. I recommend installing 64-bit version to get the maximum performance of the tool. You do not need to install the 32-bit version of Power BI Desktop even if you have the 32-bit version of MS Office installed.
- Select your language (#1 above) and then click on Download (#5 above).
Here you get to select either the 64-bit version (#1 below) or the not recommended 32-bit version (#2 below). You should select the 64 bit version.
- Check the 64-bit version and click on Next.
This downloads the file PBIDesktopSetup_x64.exe to your system.
- Double click on this downloaded exe file, proceed as per the instructions that popup, agree to the license terms and then click on Install. This installs the Power BI Desktop current version onto your system. Click on Finish and Power BI Desktop will be launched onto your system.
New Version Available
If you install the click to run version, you may see a message in the bottom right hand corner of the screen indicating there is a new version that can be downloaded and installed. This message will show when there is a new release, but also if there is an update to the current release.
What if I Change My Mind?
OK, if you first install the click to run version and then realise you should be using the Microsoft Store version, then you really should uninstall the version do you not use. If not, you will end up with 2 versions installed (see below).
If you don’t uninstall one of them, you may have issues launching the correct version of the software from within Windows Explorer. Therefore, if you have both versions installed, I recommend you fully uninstall the click to run version from your system.
Uninstalling the Click to Run Version
I suggest you uninstall the click to run version as soon as you move to the Microsoft Store version.
- Click the Windows icon in the task bar.
- Select Settings.
- Click on Apps
- In the section Apps & Features, search for “bi” as shown below. Careful, there are 2 search boxes. Use the one shown below.
If you have 2 versions, one will be the click to run version and the other will be the Microsoft Store version. In the image above,
- #1 is the download version (note is says “Microsoft PowerBI Desktop”).
- #2 is the Microsoft Store app (note it says “Power BI Desktop” with no “Microsoft”, plus it says “Microsoft Corporation” beneath the software name)
Keep the Microsoft Store version (#2 above) and select and uninstall the click to run version (#1 above).
That’s it. No more monthly fussing around to keep the software up to date, and no more being out of date.