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Microsoft has rolled out a new update method called “update under lock” to update Office apps while a PC is in idle, locked mode or if the apps are running. If all goes smoothly, the process should take four seconds.  

Microsoft promises the new method for updating Microsoft 365 apps will mean “zero notifications, zero disruptions” to users and will reduce the need for forced updates. 

“Update under lock” tries to shut down Office apps when its safe to do so and then apply a pending update. It then restores closed apps to their previous state. All this should happen in seconds, according to Microsoft.

This should be useful when an employee leaves an incomplete Office document open overnight but locks their device until returning to finish it the next day. In the past, locking the device has prevented Office from being updated.    

“Update under lock” hopefully alleviates stress on admins whose users are sick of update notifications for Office apps. The feature uses Microsoft’s Click-to-Run virtualization and streaming technologies to deliver Office updates this way. 

The new updates won’t happen when, for example, macros are running or there are unsaved changes. Also, if apps can’t shut down safely, the updates are applied normally.

The new update method is for Windows devices only and customers with Microsoft 365 subscriptions, Visio and Project. It doesn’t apply to Microsoft Teams because it has its own update process. It’s also available for retail consumer/perpetual licenses for Office 2016, 2019, and 2021. 

And it’s available for all devices 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 2208 or later (coming Jan 2023)