Switching between Office 365 for Business, Office Insider and Office Insider Fast without re-installing

Unlike Office 365 for Home, I can’t seem to switch between the Office 365 Insider release builds via File-> Office Account-> Office Insider when using Office 365 for Business. Instead, I need to use custom installers to achieve this.

As I test the various Office release channels, I prefer not to reinstall but to simply update; Go from the oldest release channel and switch to a newer each time.

Is there any way to still be able to switch between Office 365 for Business channel releases by using Group Policy or editing the Registry?

Office 365 - Office Insider buttonIt is indeed a bit odd that when you are using Office 365 for Business, you can’t change between the Office Insider levels from within an Office application as you can with Office 365 for Home.

Instead, Microsoft suggests to create custom installers to switch to Office Insider Fast builds.

However, you can still use one of the other (and easier!) deployment methods available to quickly change between the Office channel releases without custom installers or needing to completely uninstall Office 365 from your computer first.

Update Channel Group Policy setting

Group Policy Editor buttonWhen you have Office 365 for Business installed on a Professional or Enterprise edition of Windows, then you can use a (local) Group Policy to switch between the release channels including Office Insider Fast.

Once you’ve added the Administrative Template files (ADMX/ADML) for Office 365, Office 2019, and Office 2016 to you computer’s PolicyDefinitions folder you can set the following policy;

  • Local Computer Policy-> Computer Configuration-> Administrative Templates-> Microsoft Office 2016 (Machine)-> Updates-> Update Channel

Setting your Office 365 channel release via a local Group Policy. (click on image to enlarge)
Setting your Office 365 channel release via a local Group Policy. (click on image to enlarge)

Valid values, from the newest channel release to the oldest build, with their corresponding update channel name are;

  • InsiderFast
    Office Insider
    (aka: Office Insider Fast)
  • FirstReleaseCurrent
    Monthly Channel (Targeted)
    (aka: First Release for Current Channel or Office Insider Slow)
  • Current
    Monthly Channel
  • FirstReleaseDeferred
    Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted)
  • Deferred
    Semi-Annual Channel

Update Now buttonSimply set the preferred value in the Group Policy editor and then close all your Office applications and wait a few minutes.

Now when you open an Office application and go to File-> Office Account-> Update Options-> Update Now, it will update (or downgrade) your Office installation to the latest version of that release channel.

Note: Your Office 365 administrator must have enrolled you in the proper release channel for some builds to be available to you. However, if the Office Insider Slow release is available to you, the Office Insider Fast release is available to you as well.

Updatebranch Registry value

Registry Editor buttonIf you can’t set Group Policies, you can achieve the same by setting (or creating) the Updatebranch Registry value on your computer.

Key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\office\16.0\common\officeupdate
Value name: updatebranch
Value type: REG_SZ

Just like the Group Policy values, you can set the following strings (from newest release channel to the oldest build);

  • InsiderFast
  • FirstReleaseCurrent 
  • Current
  • FirstReleaseDeferred 
  • Deferred

Setting your preferred Office channel release via the Registry. (click on image to enlarge)
Setting your preferred Office channel release via the Registry. (click on image to enlarge)

You can also download the file below to set a preferred release channel by importing the corresponding reg-file.

Download: office365updatebranch.zip

After implementing the Registry value, the same instructions as for the Group Policy method apply to update or downgrade your Office 365 installation.

Should it be easy to switch Office Insider Fast for Business?

Office 365 for Business buttonAs the Office Insider Fast release channel is relatively new, maybe the in-app Office Insider switching option is still coming to Office 365 for Business at a later time when Microsoft is more comfortable with this release channel themselves.

On the other hand, it could also be that Microsoft wants to discourage business users to switch to the Office Insider Fast branch themselves as there are various deployment methods available for a company to control which release channel they or specific users are in, including the Office Insider Fast release channel.

Being able to switch yourself is of course much more convenient when you are the one that needs to test the release channels for your company or when you want to check whether a certain issue has been resolved in a later release.

Note: The methods described above can also be used to quickly switch over a certain user when you want to deploy a certain fix that he or she really needs but is not yet available in your default/corporate release channel.

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