Faster updates for Microsoft Office with Update under Lock

Microsoft has improved the updating of Office 365 for Windows to make it more seamless and hidden from view. ‘Update under lock’ means Office will be kept up-to-date in ways not previously possible.

Until now, Microsoft Office was updated to the latest version when all the Office apps were shut down, for example when the computer was started. 

(the change in Office update appears to coincide with a new color scheme from the familiar orange to a plain, boring white)

The updater downloads new parts of Office in the background then waits for an opportunity to install the changes without disrupting the customer.

That’s OK except for people who leave their computer on most of the time.  A common setup is to leave the machine running overnight with Windows locked or idle but apps & documents open, ready to restart work the next day.  When that happens, Office has no chance to update because there are documents, sheets or decks always open.

‘Update under lock’ tries to fix that by letting the Office update system quickly close the apps, update Office then reopen the apps and documents as they were before. That happens when Windows is locked or idle.

This might be a surprise to many people who assumed that Office updates always worked this way.

Updating under lock only happens, according to Microsoft, when it’s safe to close the Office apps.  Documents have to be saved and no macros running. The updating takes a few seconds, according to Microsoft.

Office update change applies to Windows releases of:

  • Microsoft 365 – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook etc. including Visio and Project.
    • NOT Teams which, for reasons passing any understanding, has its own updating system – sigh.
  • Office 2021
  • Office 2019
  • Office 2016 – Click to Run installations.

In other words, any Office for Windows that uses the ‘Click to Run’ installation method.

Microsoft has great confidence in ‘Update under lock’ because there’s no way to block it.  There’s no registry key or Group Policy to allow Admins to disable ‘Update under lock’.

There’s no indication of what Office update considers an ‘idle’ computer, in other words how long a machine has to be unattended.

Other Office updating options

This change doesn’t alter the choices for either forcing an update or pausing them for a short time.

Go to File | Account in any Office app (File | Office Account in Outlook) | Update options.

Choose from:

Update now – to force a download and update of all Office apps.

Disable update – stop updating.

Normally there’s no need to use either of these choices. Just let Office update when it can.

Is my Microsoft Office .MSI or Click to Run
Microsoft 365 semi-annual users forced to monthly updates
How to update your Microsoft 365 licence before going offline