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?
Office 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.
|Channel||Available to||Update level compared to main release|
|Office Insider||All Office 365 subscriptions||– 4 – 6 weeks|
|Monthly Channel (Targeted)||All Office 365 subscriptions||– 2 – 4 weeks|
|Monthly Channel||All Office 365 subscriptions||0 months|
|Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted)||Office 365 for Business with ProPlus||+ 2 – 6 months|
|Semi-Annual Channel||Office 365 for Business with ProPlus||+ 6 – 24 months|
|One-time purchase installation||One-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 installation||Volume License installations of Office Standard 2016, Office Professional Plus 2016||Little 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.
The 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
The 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)
The 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.
The 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
One-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 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.
For 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
When 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.
You can use the drop down lists in the “Language and install options” to select which version of Office you want to download and then click on the “Install” button to start the installer.
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.
Another way to switch between Release Channels after installing Office is by using the following commands within any of the Office 365 applications;
- File-> Office Account-> Office Insider-> Change Level
Switching between Release Channels: Office 365 for Business and University
When you are an Office 365 for Business or University user, the Channel that you are in is being determined by your Office 365 Administrator.
You can see which Release Channel you are in by going to the File-> Office Account section of any Office application itself.
Administrators can select in the Microsoft 365 Admin Center who will be in the Targeted Channel by going to;
- Settings-> Organization Profile-> Release preferences-> Actions-> Edit.
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 Microsoft 365 Admin Center by going to;
- Settings-> Services & add-ins-> Office software download settings
Choosing between the Monthly Channel or Semi-Annual Channel in the Microsoft 365 Admin Center.
Office 365 for Business: Software Deployment and Group Policy
Computer Configuration-> Administrative Templates-> Microsoft Office 2016 (Machine)-> Updates-> Update Channel
You can choose between the following values:
- Monthly Channel
- Monthly Channel (Targeted)
- Semi-Annual Channel
- Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted)
- Insider Fast
To let users switch to Office Insider builds themselves, just like for the Office 365 Home and Personal subscription, you can enable the Office Insider button with the following Group Policy setting;
Local Computer Policy-> User Configuration-> Administrative Templates-> Microsoft Office 2016-> Miscellaneous-> Show the option for Office Insider
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.