Deploying Office on the desktop with Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 has handy functionality to help administrators roll out software to Windows 10 machines that are connected directly to Office 365. One of these tools is the ability to roll out Office desktop software automatically. Here’s how you make it happen.

You’ll firstly need to have licensed Microsoft 365 in your tenant. Next, you’ll need to have user Windows 10 machines directly joined to Office 365.


You’ll then need to login to the Office 365 portal as an administrator and navigate to the Admin center as shown above.


In the Admin center you’ll find a Device actions tile as shown above.

In that tile you’ll see an option Manage Office Deployment. Select that.


If this is the first time you have configured these deployment options you’ll need to select the + Add a group at the top of the page.


In this case, the All Users group will be selected but you could certainly target the deployment at specific groups of users.

Click the Select button at the bottom of the page to continue.


Next you want to install or uninstall Office for the selected group of users. Here, we’ll select Install Office as soon as possible.

Click Next to continue.


Check that the configuration is correct and select the Confirm button at the bottom of the page.


Select Close on the next dialog to continue.

If you now move to the user’s Windows 10 machines that is connected to Office 365 and launch the Task Manager you’ll be able to see how the process is executed on the desktop.


After a short time you’ll see an Office Deployment process kick off.


A short time later you’ll see a Microsoft Office Click-to-Run (SxS) process commence.


You may see multiple versions of this process running throughout.


Next, you’ll see the Microsoft Office Click-to-Run Integrator process kick off.


If you continue to monitor the running processes you’ll see installation processes for Office applications like OneDrive and Skype for Business run.


When the user runs an Office application for the first time they will prompted to Accept some terms and conditions then continue as shown above.


When the Office software launches it will automatically be logged in as the user so there is nothing more for the user to do.

The whole deployment process is completely silent and user receives no prompts until they run an Office application for the first time. If you want to see what’s happening you’ll need to look in the Windows Task Manager as shown here.

So, if you use Windows AutoPilot you can also deploy Windows 10 automatically to a desktop. Thus, with Microsoft 365, an administrator can automatically deploy both Windows 10 and Office software to an Office 365 user’s desktop without the need to even see the desktop or the user!

This is just the beginning of what you can do with Microsoft 365 so stay tuned for more articles on how using Microsoft 365 makes it easier for IT Administrators.

Changes for Findtime


One of the best Outlook add-ins and a great service from Microsoft was Findtime. It basically allowed you to easily schedule meetings amongst multiple people, within and outside Office 365.


If you however visit Findtime today and try and sign up you’ll be greeted with the above message.

Basically, if you are a new user you can no longer sign up to Findtime. However, if you are an existing user of the service you’ll still be supported.

Although it says that FindTime will continue to be supported and that there will be some exciting news soon, I hope it won’t be too long, otherwise FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) will start to creep in about the future of FindTime.

Getting an early look


With things changing so fast these days it is important to keep ahead of the curve, especially if your job is to manage IT for an organisation. Office 365 makes this process pretty simple.

If you want to get access to the latest desktop software firstly login to your Office 365 tenant as an administrator. Then navigate to the Admin center as shown above. In the top right of the dashboard you should see a section Office software.


Inside the Office software section you will find an option, Software download settings, which you should select.


This will now show you a number of software options as shown above.


If you scroll down a bit you should find the option about when to get the latest features. Here you can select Current or Deferred channel as shown above. To get the latest software select Every month (Current channel) and save the changes.


You’ll then need to head back to the Admin center and do a search for First Release which is in the Organization profile area as shown above. Ensure that you enable the appropriate users for First Release and save any changes. For more information on First Release see:

Set up the Standard or First Release options in Office 365


First Release users should now see, when they install the desktop software and look in File | Account as shown above, that they are now on the Office Insider program.

For more information see these links:

Be an Office Insider

How Office 365 commercial customers can get early access to new Office 2016 features

Overview of update channels for Office 365 ProPlus

Version and build numbers of update channel releases for Office 365 clients

Office 365 client update channel releases

Need to Know Podcast–Episode 141

Marc is back from Microsoft Ignite Australia with a load of information and experiences from one of the biggest Microsoft events of the year. He shares his thoughts and feedback on the experiences, the sessions, presenting as well as the social side. He also has some interesting statics to share about the conference so stay tuned. We’ll also cover off the latest Office 365 and Azure news to get us back on track with our regular updates. Also don’t forget to let us know what you think about the new and improved intro. Marc’s done a great job so don;t hesitate to give him a shout out and let him know. He always likes to hear from listeners.

Don’t forget to send us your feedback at

You can listen to this episode directly at:

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Don’t forget to give the show a rating as well as send us any feedback or suggestions you may have for the show.





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Office 2013 via Office 365 is going away

A key date that is fast approaching is the removal of availability and support of Office 2013 from the Office 365 portal. As detailed here:

Office 2016 is the recommended version of Office 365 ProPlus and includes all the latest upgrades and new features. As we announced in September 2015, when we released Office 2016, beginning March 1, 2017, the Office 2013 version of Office 365 ProPlus will no longer be available for installation from the Office 365 portal. Beginning March 1, 2017, your users will no longer see Office 2013 as an option for download through the Office 365 portal, and admins will no longer have the option under Software download settings in the admin portal to choose to enable Office 2013. In addition, we will no longer provide feature updates for this version, nor provide support.

The requirement to upgrade an old version of Office on the desktop has been detailed previously and I detailed it here:

Questions about Office 2016 via Office 365

Probably the major point with Office 2016 is that it doesn’t support connection to Exchange 2007. This is typically going to affect those users still running SBS 2008, so you have been warned.

Part of the subscription features of Office 365 means that subscribers have access to the latest software. They should now ensure that they have upgraded any previous versions to the latest that Office 365 offers.

As mentioned in my article, users have 12 months from the release date of new software to upgrade to the latest version of the software. Failing to do so will result in their current version going into ‘reduced functionality mode’ where they can only carry out basic functions such as as read and open.

If a user has Office 2013 from Office 365 they will not be upgraded automatically, they will need to install the software manually. For answers to more questions about Office from Office 365 I urge your to read the above articles and make the change over as soon as possible.

Key Office 365 Pro Plus dates

If you are still using Office 2013 from Office 365 you need to be aware of some upcoming key dates.

As I have previous detailed at:

Questions about Office 2016 via Office 365

Q. Am I required to upgrade from Office 2013 on my desktop to Office 2016 if my Office 2013 was installed from Office 365?

Yes, however you have 12 months to complete that transition. That means you must upgrade your Office 365 Office 2013 to Office 2016 by the 22nd of September 2016. After that date any existing Office 365 Office 2013 installation will reverted to “reduced functionality mode”, basically read only.

So the clock started ticking on September 22nd 2016. Now because different Office 365 plans received Office Pro Plus at different times, and because there are different update channels:

Office update branches renamed to channels

Now from what I see in the Microsoft KB article:


and I quote:

“Users who are running the 2013 version of Office 365 ProPlus after February 28, 2017 will have to upgrade to the latest version of Office 365 ProPlus to continue to receive support from Microsoft.”

I would therefore suggest that now is the time to start planning and testing the upgrade to Office 2016 if you are using Office 2013. This applies not only to stand alone desktops but also to installations on terminal servers.

This is all part of the new paradigm of regular updates that we see with most software. If you are on a subscription you need to keep up to date to receive all the benefits. I appreciate that the ‘old’ culture was to stay on the same release for a bazillion years BUT the new world order is constant updates (think mobile apps).  That’s why you pay the subscription, to have access to the latest features! So if you haven’t upgraded DON’T leave it until the last minute!

You have been warned.

Using the Office Deployment Toolkit

One of the most common questions I see around Office 365 is how to deploy Office applications to desktop using a single download or from a central network repository. To this you’ll need to use the Office Deployment Toolkit.

The first step is in this process is to download the appropriate version. The 2016 version is available here:

Office 2016 Deployment Tool

If you want to use this tool to deploy software across a local network the suggestion is that you download and install the tool on a suitable machine with enough disk space and that is available and connected to all machines on the network.


Once you have downloaded and installed the tool you should see just two files as shown above. It is also a good idea to share the location of the Office Deployment Toolkit across your network so connected machines can run the setup.exe program remotely to actually install the software.

The next step then is to create a network share into which the downloaded Office desktop software will be located on this machine.

In that directory you will find a file called configuration.xml. If you open this file you will see something like:


This contains information about the version of the Office software that will be downloaded and deployed. What you see here is only a very basic version of what the possible options are for the configuration file. You find the full list of options and parameters for this configuration file here:

Configuration options for the Office Deployment tool

However, I would suggest that an easier way to generate the appropriate configuration file for your environment is to visit:


This web based tool allows you to enter in all the parameters you require and then for the configuration file to be built out for you automatically on the right. You can then simply copy and paste, email or download the result.

Take this and use it to overwrite the default configuration file provided.


You then need to go to the command prompt and navigate to the directory into which you downloaded the Office Deployment Toolkit. You then need to run the command:

setup.exe /download configuration.xml

This will then download the specified Office software to the location on your machine as specified in the configuration.xml file.

It is important to note here that you are downloading a full version of the Office desktop software every time, not just updates. You can rerun the command at any point with updated configuration parameters if required.


Once the command has completed, if you view the location where the files have been downloaded you should see something similar to that shown above.

You’ll also notice that I have different versions of Office software available thanks to also selecting to make first release versions of the software available.

With the Office software now downloaded to a shared network location, from a connected workstation you can map to the network location for the Office Deployment toolkit setup files and run the command:

setup.exe /configure configuration.xml


You should then see the Office software installation process commence.

The installation will use the parameters you have previously defined in the configuration.xml file.

The configuration.xml file also controls how updates are handled. Use the element to set attributes. For example:

If you wish to install Office software from Office 365 onto a Remote Desktop Server (RDS or Terminal Server) environment you MUST use the Office Deployment Toolkit to do this. You will also need to specify the following in the configuration.xml file:

Of course, you also need the appropriate version of Office 365. This is E3 or better. Business Premium suites are NOT licensed to have Office software installed in a RDS environment.

There are plenty of options available to you in configuration.xml to manage deployments, updates and removals so be sure to take a look at all the options. However, I recommend you use:

to actually create the configuration.xml file you need.

Using the Office Deployment Toolkit is a quick and easy way to deploy and control Office software from Office 365 from a central network repository. It not only saves you bandwidth but also time.