What the heck happened – My largest user group changed from Semi-Annual Channel to Monthly Channel?


Regarding Office 365 ProPlus updates, some IT admins want total control (which often turns out to be the illusion of control). Some follow the recommended practices, which is receiving updates via CDN (Content Delivery Network). Below is a scenario that can happen to YOU if you are managing Office 365 Pro Plus updates locally.

Here’s what can get you in trouble:

You have some local folders/shares that your XML files point to for UpdatePath, and most of your user population is on the Semi-Annual Channel, which gets feature updates twice a year.

One morning you come in and say “<Expletive deleted>, all my users are on Monthly Channel. I don’t want them to get feature updates that often. What happened!?!?!?!?”

Well, here’s what probably happened: Someone (I’m sure it wasn’t you…) or some process accidentally dropped an updated build for Monthly Channel in the folder/share that you have specified as the Update Path for the Semi-Annual Channel.

When you choose to manage the updates on your own, you are responsible for keeping track of which channel is where. If the Office 365 ProPlus client checks its UpdatePath and sees a build number more recent than the client has installed, it updates to that build REGARDLESS of what channel is in the UpdatePath or what channel was originally specified during setup.

If you get your updates from CDN, then the CDN maintains the channel specified during setup, and does not change it unless an admin runs another setup configuration or applies a different Group Policy. If you get the updates from CDN, you don’t have to worry about the client changing channels, if you manage the updates yourself you DO have to worry about getting that right.

If you want to see the described behavior above for yourself, it is simple to reproduce, just follow the steps below:

NOTE: Only perform this on a test computer for demonstration purposes, DO NOT perform this in production. It will yield undesirable behavior.

  1. Remove any existing version of Office using Control Panel – Programs and Features.
  2. Create a C:\ODT folder.
  3. Download the Office Deployment Tool from https://www.microsoft.com/download/details.aspx?id=49117 to the C:\ODT folder.
  4. Run the Office Deployment Tool executable, deploying it to the C:\ODT folder.
  5. Save Config1.xml and Config2.xml listed below into the ODT folder.
  6. Create an C:\O365PPSetup and a C:\O365PPUpdate folder.
  7. Open an Administrative Command Prompt and run “Setup /download config1.xml” without the quotes. (This will download the Office build to the specified folder).
  8. When the command prompt returns after the download has finished, run “Setup /configure config1.xml” without the quotes.
  9. Check Excel Version (Go to File – Account and note the Channel and Version).
  10. Run “Setup /download config2.xml” without the quotes.
  11. Manually trigger an Office Update from File – Account – Update options.
  12. After the update check Excel Version and note both the channel and version have changed.

This demonstrates how an admin must be extremely careful if they are managing updates locally on their own rather than just getting updates from the CDN (Content Delivery Network).

Config1.xml

<Configuration>
  <Add OfficeClientEdition="32" Channel="Broad" SourcePath="c:\o365ppsetup" Version="16.0.9126.2259">
    <Product ID="O365ProPlusRetail">
      <Language ID="en-us" />
      <ExcludeApp ID="Groove" />
      <ExcludeApp ID="Lync" />
    </Product>
  </Add>
  <Updates Enabled="TRUE" UpdatePath="c:\o365ppupdate" />
  <RemoveMSI All="TRUE" />
  <Display Level="Full" AcceptEULA="TRUE" />
</Configuration>

Config2.xml

<Configuration>
  <Add OfficeClientEdition="32" Channel="Monthly" SourcePath="c:\o365ppupdate">
    <Product ID="O365ProPlusRetail">
      <Language ID="en-us" />
      <ExcludeApp ID="Groove" />
      <ExcludeApp ID="Lync" />
    </Product>
  </Add>
  <Updates Enabled="TRUE" UpdatePath="c:\o365ppupdate" />
  <RemoveMSI All="TRUE" />
  <Display Level="Full" AcceptEULA="TRUE" />
</Configuration>

NOTE: At the time this post was written the version number listed in Config1.XML was 1 version older than the latest build. Over time as new versions come out the delta between current and the version specified get greater. To update the version number, you can create a similar file using http://config.office.com making sure not to get the latest version for the first step or just use it to check the version number and modify the Config1.XML accordingly.

 

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