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Update under lock: Microsoft is improving the Office app update experience

Software updates can be very annoying especially if they interrupt important workflows or impact your productivity. This does not only involve operating system updates but app updates as well. When it comes to Office apps, Microsoft is looking to tackle this problem through a new feature called "update under lock".

Microsoft Office logo full color on yellow background

Up until now, if you had an Office app like Excel open and you left it in its running state overnight, Microsoft could not update it even if there were some emergency fixes due. With update under lock, this process will become a lot more silent and streamlined.

Even if you leave an Office app open in an idle state or lock your PC, update under lock will close the app when it's completely safe to do, apply the update, and then restore the app to its previous state. Microsoft claims that this entire process will take around four seconds which means that there will be no disruption to workflows.

Update under lock builds upon Microsoft's Click-to-Run technology which is used to deliver updates to software like Office. Here is how Microsoft describes it:

Click-to-Run is a new way to deliver and update Microsoft Office to broadband customers. Click-to-Run uses Microsoft virtualization and streaming technologies.

Click-to-Run products use streaming. Think of this in the same way that you think about streaming video. You can watch the first part of the video before the whole file is downloaded. Similarly, with Click-to-Run, you can start using Office before the whole suite or product has been downloaded. While you are using your application, the rest of Office is being downloaded quietly in the background.

The latest enhancement applies to Microsoft 365 subscriptions, Visio, Project, and perpetual licenses of Office 2016, 2019, and 2021. Update under lock will apply to the aforementioned apps using the following delivery channels:

  • Current Channel: Version 2109 or later
  • Monthly Enterprise Channel: Version 2112 or later
  • Semi-Annual Enterprise Channel (Preview): Version 2202 or later  
  • Semi-Annual Enterprise Channel: Version 2208 or later (coming Jan 2023)

Microsoft has emphasized that this is a backend update to improve the delivery process so as such, there is no admin control that you can leverage to disable it.

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