Microsoft introduces 'update under lock' so Microsoft 365 apps can be updated without users interruption

Microsoft 365 Office 365

Keeping software updated is not only an important part of keeping on top of security, but also making sure that you have access to all of the latest features and options. But installing updates can also be annoying and disruptive, with notifications interrupting workflow -- so Microsoft has come up with a solution.

The company has developed a new technique called "update under lock" that makes it possible to apply updates to Microsoft 365 apps while a machine is in idle or locked mode. Updates can be installed even if apps are running, and there are no notifications or disruptions to irritate users.

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While the prospect of disruption-free updating will appeal to larger organizations in particular, the new technique is something that all Microsoft 365 users can benefit from. The new update under lock feature uses Microsoft's Click-To-Run technology and eliminates the need for abrupt restarts. Importantly, it also helps to make updates more reliable by saving the app state before closing. 

Announcing the new update experience, Microsoft explains how it works:

If there are running Office apps, update under lock will try to shut them down only when safe to do so, apply the pending update, and restore any closed apps to their previous state. This process takes about four seconds.

A common scenario is for users to leave apps open on their device for extended periods of time. For example, if a user is working on a Word document at the end of the day, they may leave the document open and lock the device intending to continue working on it the next day. When users leave their documents open in this manner, it prevents Office from applying updates. With this feature, the user will come back to a machine in its previous state, but they will be running the latest bits.

Microsoft points out that apps will never shut down unless it is safe to do so. The company gives the example of there being unsaved changes or running macros as things that would block a shutdown; if apps cannot shut down safely, updates are applied normally.

Microsoft has also provided details of precisely which products are affected by this updating change:

Windows devices only for:

- Microsoft 365 subscriptions, Visio, Project, but not Microsoft Teams, which has its own update process

- Retail consumer/perpetual Office 2016, 2019, and 2021

 All devices, regardless of update endpoint, that are receiving updates from:

- 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 2202 or later

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