Power BI Download Options: App vs MSI

Many Power BI users don’t realize that there are actually two methods of getting Desktop on your PC. 

While the resulting software programs are essentially identical in the end, the method of download and distribution within your organization is important. 

What are my options?

  • From the Microsoft Store (App)
  • From the Microsoft Download Center (MSI)

The latter option is the more traditional method for installing Desktop. It requires you to download an .exe file and navigate through the Microsoft Installation (MSI) screen. However, the App version feels much more like something you would download on your phone. For Windows 10 and up users, Microsoft is beginning to push their App Store for retrieval of Power BI Desktop. This “download” feels much less formal – just press the “Get” button and after a few seconds it appears within your list of programs.

Regardless of which option you choose, the download link can be found here: https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/downloads/

Power BI download link image

Clicking on the Download button will redirect you to the Microsoft Store, while clicking Advanced download options will redirect you to the Download Center.

What if I already have one downloaded and want to try the other?

The interesting part about these two methods is that they can both coexist on your PC at the same time. Notice that when downloading using each option, they both appear in the list of programs. The more formal, Download Center version, is located inside of a folder called Microsoft Power BI Desktop. Meanwhile, the App version appears as a standalone program:


Which option is best?

Initially there were a handful of bugs in the App version. However, now that most of those bugs have been ironed out, we now would recommend using the App version. Why? The biggest advantage is that utilizing the App version means that you’re always using the latest release of Power BI Desktop. While you may not always care to have the latest release features, it becomes very important when sharing .pbix files with coworkers.

App version helps with backwards compatibility complications

If you're using the February 2020 Desktop version and you want to share your .pbix file with a coworker, there is a strong chance that they will encounter an error message upon opening if they don’t have the same release. 

That’s why for large organizations, it makes sense to direct your Power BI users to the Microsoft Store to ensure that everyone is using the latest release version of Desktop.


Written by Eric Leuthold
Eric Leuthold is a Manager with over 8 years of experience in data analysis and business intelligence.