Why am I not getting the latest updates for Office 365, Outlook 2019 or Outlook 2016?

I sometimes see announcements about new features being added or fixes being made to Office 2016. However, I don’t seem to get them.

When I compared my build number of Outlook 2016 to the one of a friend, I saw that his was newer. I chose File-> Update Options-> Update Now and I got the message “You’re up to date!”

How can I force Outlook to install the latest updates?

Update Now buttonOffice 365 has multiple update channels. Based on which channel you are in and which license you have, you’ll get certain updates sooner or later than others.

Depending on your subscription and installation type you can control which channel you are in.

Available Office Update Channels

The following Office Update Channels, newest to oldest, are available.

ChannelAvailable toUpdate level compared to main release
Office InsiderAll Office 365 subscriptions– 4 – 6 weeks
Monthly Channel (Targeted)All Office 365 subscriptions– 2 – 4 weeks
Monthly ChannelAll Office 365 subscriptions0 months
Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted)Office 365 for Business with ProPlus+ 2 – 6 months
Semi-Annual ChannelOffice 365 for Business with ProPlus+ 6 – 24 months
One-time purchase installationOne-time purchase installations of
Office Home & Student 2016/2019, Office Home & Business 2016/2019, Office Professional 2016/2019
Little to no feature updates. Mainly bug fixes and security updates.
MSI-based installationVolume License installations of Office Standard 2016, Office Professional Plus 2016Little to no feature updates. Mainly bug fixes and security updates.

Which Channel am I in?

You can see which Channel you are in by going to; File-> Office Account

Next to the About Outlook button, you’ll find which version and build number you are currently using and which Update Channel you are in. If nothing is specified, you are in the Monthly Channel.

If you don’t have this section at all, you are using an MSI-based installation.

Office Updates - Channel name and version number

Monthly Channel

Office 365 buttonThe Monthly Channel is the official up-to-date stable release of Office 365. This is where you want to be as someone that just wants to use the latest version of the Office software.

As the name suggests, updates are released once a month and can contain new features that have been publicly tested by the Office Insiders and people in the Monthly Channel (Targeted).

Monthly Channel (Targeted) and Office Insider

Offiec 365 - Office Insider buttonThe Monthly Channel (Targeted) and Office Insider Channel releases give you early access to changes and new features that will most likely make it into the Monthly Channel release in about 1 or 2 months time.

The Monthly Channel (Targeted) gets about 2 releases per month and are quite stable. The Office Insider channel is a bit more experimental and thus less stable and gets about 4 releases per month.

Office Insider builds are not as experimental as the Fast Ring Windows Insider builds. The Monthly Channel (Targeted) releases can be best compared with the Release Preview Ring and for Office Insider the Windows Insider Slow Ring is a closer match.

Either way, they can definitely be more buggy than the Monthly Channel build. They also can contain changes and new features that haven’t been publicly documented yet or are changed again before the build is becoming the Monthly Channel build.

So if you don’t want to waste your time with these kind of surprises, it is best to remain in the Current Channel.

Semi-annual Channel (Targeted)

Office 365 - Semi-Annual (Targeted) Channel buttonThe Semi-annual Channel (Targeted) contains the new features and fixes that will ultimately be added to the Semi-annual Channel.

Two months after a Semi-annual Channel release has been made available, the Semi-annual Channel (Targeted) will be set to the then Monthly Channel until another Semi-annual Channel release is made available. Therefor, this release can be up to 4 months behind the Monthly Channel. Updates for this channel are being released once a month.

This build is recommended to be assigned to a select amount of people within a corporation that has decided to use the Semi-annual Channel.

Semi-annual Channel

Office 365 - Semi-Annual Channel buttonThe Semi-annual Channel will only receive 2 updates per year and will receive the updates with a delay as well.

Before an update is released to the Semi-annual Channel, it is being held in the Semi-annual Channel (Targeted) for 4 months which itself is at least 2 months behind the Monthly Channel. This means that the Semi-annual Channel can be 6 to 24 months behind the Monthly Channel.

This Channel is recommended for environments that can’t receive updates and feature changes all the time. This release is supported for 18 months after its release.

Detailed information about the Semi-annual Channel can be found in the TechNet article: Overview of update channels for Office 365 ProPlus.

One-time purchase installation

Office One-Time Purchase buttonOne-time purchase installations are non-subscription based editions of Office 2016/2019 suites. These include Office Home & Student 2016/2019, Office Home & Business 2016/2019 and Office Professional 2016/2019 as well as the standalone applications of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher and Access.

Updates are being released monthly via the same way as Office 365 installations (so not via Windows Update) but these usually only contain fixes and not new features that are being made to Outlook/Office users that are using it as part of an Office 365 subscription. So feature wise, it will remain pretty much the same as when Office 2016/2019 was first released.

MSI-based installation

Office Volume License buttonMSI-based installations are “traditional” Office installations that are only available to Volume License subscribers. These installations aren’t updated via Office 365 but via Windows Update.

Updates are being released monthly but these usually only contain fixes or changes that have been reported or requested by Volume License customers. Feature wise, it is even more behind than the Semi-annual Channel, especially when compared to features that depend on Office 365.

Security Updates

Office Security Updates buttonFor all channels, any security updates will be released once a month. For the Semi-annual Channel, these updates will not be combined with any additional changes or features unless required by the security update.

Switching between Release Channels: Office 365 Home and Personal

Office 365 for Home buttonWhen you are an Office 365 Home or Personal subscriber, you can switch between the Insider or Monthly Channel release by downloading the Setup Installer via the advanced section of the Office 365 Software portal.

Instead of using the direct link mentioned above, you can also find it in the following way;

  1. Go to Office.com and click on “Sign in” in the top right corner to logon or if you aren’t logged in yet.
  2. Click on the “Install Office” button in the top-right corner.
  3. Click on the “Language, 32/64-bit, and other install options” link left from the Install button.
  4. Use the drop down lists in the “Language and install options” to select which version of Office you want to download.
  5. Click on the “Install” button and run the downloaded installer.

Office 365 Home and Personal - Other versions of Office

Note: You don’t have to uninstall your current Office 365 for Home or Personal installation first. The installer will automatically upgrade or downgrade your Office 365 installation.

After installing the Office Insider version, you can switch between the Insider Monthly Channel (Targeted) releases in Outlook by choosing;

  • File-> Office Account-> Office Insider-> Change Level

Join Office Insider - Change Office Insider level

Switching between Release Channels: Office 365 for Business and University

Office 365 for Business buttonWhen you are an Office 365 for Business or University user, the Channel that you are in is being determined by your Office 365 Administrator.

Aside from within the Office Account section of any Office application itself, you can also see which Channel has been made available to you by going to your Office 365 for Business or University Software portal.

  1. Logon to Outlook on the Web (OWA).
  2. Click on the “Office 365” text in the left top corner.
  3. Click on “Installs Office apps” and select: “Other install options”.

Office 365 ProPlus First Release
If your Administrator has placed you in one of the Targeted Channels, then you’ll see the above notification on your download page.

Administrators can select who will be in the Targeted Channel by going to;

  • Settings-> Organization Profile-> Release preferences-> Actions-> Edit.

Office 365 Admin Center - Settings - Apps - Organization Profile - Release preferences
Enabling Targeted Channel in the Office 365 Business Admin Center.

In addition to choosing whether to use the Targeted Channels, Office 365 Administrators for tenants that have licenses that include Office 365 ProPlus can select whether to use the Monthly Channel or the Semi-annual Channel in the Office 365 Admin Center by going to;

  • Settings-> Services & add-ins-> Office software download settings

Office 365 Admin Center - Settings - Apps - Software Download Settings
Choosing between the Monthly Channel or Semi-Annual Channel in the Office 365 for Business Admin Center.

Office 365 for Business: Software Deployment and Group Policy

Group Policy Editor buttonAll these software deployment settings can also be controlled via customized installers and/or Group Policy settings;

Computer Configuration-> Administrative Templates-> Microsoft Office 2016 (Machine)-> Updates-> Update Branch

You can choose between the following values:

  • Monthly Channel
  • Monthly Channel (Targeted)
  • Semi-Annual Channel
  • Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted)
  • Insider Fast

To set these values directly via the Registry instead of a Group Policy see: Switching between Office 365 for Business, Office Insider and Office Insider Fast without re-installing.