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Demystifying Microsoft 365 Update Channels

Updated: Feb 22

The regular updates of Microsoft 365 contain new features and other intended changes, but sometimes they also come with problems and bugs. To a certain extent, you can control the updates by choosing a suitable update channel, i.e. the interval and the "maturity" of the updates. Since selecting and changing channels is not straightforward, we want to provide the relevant information.



Current

Monthly Enterprise

Semi Annual (Preview)

Semi Annual

New Features and Updates

as soon as they are available, at least once a month, usually more often, no set schedule

on 2nd Tuesday of each month

twice a year, on 2nd Tuesday of March and September, 4 months before they hit Semi-Annual channel

twice a year, on 2nd Tuesday of January and July

Support

until next version, i.e. support for v2401 will end when v2402 comes out

2 months

6 months, until the next update, i.e. when 2403 comes out, support for 2309 ends

14 months

Notes

This is the default channel for all Microsoft 365 plans and recommended by Microsoft.






Beta

Current (Preview)

New Features and Updates

Includes features and updates still in development, installed on a weekly basis.

Features in final stage of development, a few times per month without set schedule.

Support

No support by Microsoft given.

until next version, i.e. when v2401 comes out, support for v2312 ends


Valid for all channels

Security and non-security updates (aka bug fixes) will be installed on a monthly basis, on the 2nd Tuesday of each month. Severe security issues or bugs causing major problems will be fixed outside scheduled updates.


Our recommendations

If you manage an application in Microsoft Access, you should be concerned about stability of the environment. Rule of thumb is that the majority of users should use the slowest update channels the business is comfortable with. This allows the majority of bugs to be found and fixed before the users get an update to their Access installations.


You may wish to consider having a few users of your application in an environment one phase newer than the general users, to allow identification of any application specific issues prior to the wider population rollout.


Insider channels should be used only in test environments and by a small group of selected users, such as IT staff or application developers.


 

How to join a specific channel

If not assigned differently by your administrator, new Office installations will always be in Current Channel. There are various methods to change from a channel to a different one.


1. Personal and Family Subscriptions only

Personal and Family Subscriptions have the option to join the Insider channels Beta and Current Channel (Preview) by the In-App Button:



For all other versions and channels, the following methods of switching between Update Channels are available.


Following registry script will add an In-App button to your version of Office (elevated permissions required):

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Office\16.0\common\officechannelexposure]
"insiderfast"=dword:00000001
"firstreleasecurrent"=dword:00000001
"current"=dword:00000001
"monthlyenterprise"=dword:00000001
"firstreleasedeferred"=dword:00000001
"deferred"=dword:00000001
OfficeChannelExposure
.zip
Download ZIP • 404B

Registry script as download:



The result after executing this script will be visible under File -> Account after Access is restarted:



Clicking the "Update Channel" button will show the channel choice, after confirming "I will manage my Microsoft 365 apps update channel":






3. Registry Command

The following command (when run from an elevated Command Line window) will prepare Office to setup the desired version next time an Office update is due, in this example "Current Channel (Preview)":

reg add HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\office\16.0\common\officeupdate /v updatebranch /t REG_SZ /d CurrentPreview

The update can be triggered manually from within Access (or other Office applications) under File -> Account -> Update -> Update Now.


For the list of channels see below.


Download ODT and extract to a folder of your choice. You will see setup.exe and some configuration samples (XML files) for different types of installations, with choice from 32-/64-bit, channel and Office product.


Run the setup command from either a command line window or Run (Windows+R):

setup.exe /configure configuration.xml

Configuration.xml holds instructions for ODT. It can be a valid XML file of any name.


Configuration sample for a new setup of Office Pro Plus 64-bit in Current Preview channel:

<Configuration>
  <Add OfficeClientEdition="64" Channel="CurrentPreview" >
    <Product ID="O365ProPlusRetail">
      <Language ID="en-us" />
    </Product>
  </Add>
</Configuration>

Configuration sample for updating the channel of an existing Office installation to Monthly Enterprise Channel:

<Configuration>
  <Updates Channel="MonthlyEnterprise" />
</Configuration>

XMLSamples
.zip
Download ZIP • 625B

XML sample files as download:



Microsoft also provides an Office Customization Tool (OCT) which allows you to specify a configuration and lets you generate and export the XML. The fastest channel supported by OCT is Current Channel Preview.


Note: This procedure will switch the update channel on your system temporarily until the next scheduled update, the next Patch Tuesday at the latest. To tell your system to stay in this channel you must execute the Registry Command (option 3).


Explanation of the important parameters


OfficeClientEdition The numbers "32" and "64" represent the x86 and x64 versions of Office.


Channel These are the channel IDs to use:


  • Current

  • MonthlyEnterprise

  • SemiAnnualPreview

  • SemiAnnual

  • CurrentPreview

  • BetaChannel


Product ID There's a long list of product IDs. These are relevant for Access:


M365

  • O365ProPlusRetail

  • O365BusinessRetail

  • AccessRuntimeRetail


Non-M365

  • AccessRetail

  • Access2019Retail

  • Access2021Retail

  • Access2019Volume

  • Access2021Volume


Language ID

The list of languages shows available languages/culture combinations for Office. The format of the list is ll-CC (language-CULTURE), e.g. en-US. The configuration file requires both language and culture in lower case, i.e. en-us.


5. Additional Options for Administrators

Administrators have more options to allow or disable channel updates using admin tools:

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7 commentaires


uhertogarjan
06 févr.

Thanks for the overview.


Do you have any idea why the ODT method would not persist? Everytime I used this method to install Office 365 Business, 32 bit, using the "SemiAnnual" update channel it would always automatically change to the "Current" update channel after a couple of days. Very annoying.


Also, using the XML configuration to update the existing installation with "SemiAnnual" as the channel ID simply does not change the update channel back.


So far method 2 and 3 do appear to work to update an existing installation. Going to keep an eye on the update channel the next couple of days to see if it changes back again.


J'aime
Peter Doering
Peter Doering
21 févr.
En réponse à

Indeed, I observed the same situation on Patch Tuesday last week, and was in touch with people at Microsoft since then. The behavior is by design.


Key to the situation is the registry command in option 3. This is executed automatically by option 2 and the reason, why both options worked for you.


ODT doesn't execute it automatically, therefore you have to run it manually, i.e. option 4 followed by option 3.


I've added a note accordingly. Thanks for heads-up! :-)

J'aime
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