How to change to the First Release Branch for Office 365

How to change to the First Release Branch for Office 365

In an earlier article I shared information about when different Office 365 subscriptions can expect to receive the Office 2016 updates on their systems.

I mentioned in that article that it is possible for subscribers to Office 365 ProPlus, which are typically Enterprise, Midsize and Education customers, to gain immediate access to the upgrade for Office 2016 however, it does require an administrator to flip the switch.

Although I am far from an Enterprise, Midsize or Education customer I do have an Office 365 Enterprise (E3) subscription that is part of my annual Microsoft MVP benefits. 

When Office 2016 was released yesterday I went in search of the new install so I could get my systems updated to Office 2016 however, I kept hitting a wall and all indicators showed I was "up to date".

Of course, that was accurate because I was running Office 2013 which is the latest version of Office for anyone on the E3 subscription plan. What I was unaware of, from a consumer perspective, was that  Enterprise plans are on the Current Branch for Business (CBB) update sequence which means the Office suite only gets updated about three times per year. This is deliberate to maintain stability and compatibility with applications and systems in use by those organizations.

So I went in search of the process for placing my own E3 subscription into the First Release Branch so I could update my systems to the latest Office 2016 bits. This process can be used by any Office 365 administrator to add individuals or their entire organization into the First Release Branch.

To get started browse to http://portal.office.com and log in with your admin credentials.

Once logged in click on the square grid in the upper left corner and then the Admin tile:

Office 365 Admin Portal

Now, in the left sidebar, click on Service Settings and then Updates:

Office 365 Admin Portal

Under the New features and updates you will find Standard selected by default for CBB. Below First release you will find two options available and they are self-explanatory.

Office 365 Admin Portal

Of course, once you select either of them you will get a standard warning dialog to make sure that is a change you want to make:

Office 365 Admin Portal

If there are multiple users you want to move over to the First Release branch you will see a dialog to add those users as a group:

Office 365 Admin Portal

Once you have made these changes users can access their Office 365 account page and access the First Release Branch for immediate download. It is available under the Try the next version of Office header.

Office 365 Program Download

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