How to Deploy Office 365 Applications From a Server Share

If you want to deploy Office 365 applications from a share on the network manually, by using scripting tools or just to save in internet bandwidth then you need the Office Deployment tool.

There are five basic steps to using the tool for deploying Office apps:

  1. Download and install the Deployment Tool
  2. Setup a server share to deploy the apps from.
  3. Edit the configuration file to choose what files you want to install or exclude.
  4. Use the tool to download the installation files to a server share.
  5. Run a command on the PC’s to install the apps.

Old School Office Installations

Gone are the days when we could deploy office using msi files, that’s unless you have an E3 or higher license which includes Office Pro Plus. If you really want to deploy office via a Group Policy then purchasing an E3 license and obtaining a key from a Volume licensing agreement is the only way to go.

You can still deploy the Office click to run version via group policy if you don’t have a fancy E3 or E5 license. The downside here is that your users must be local administrators on their devices for this to work. Obviously this is a big no no!

https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/Licensing/product-licensing/office.aspx

New School Office Installations

If you are lucky enough to have E3 or higher licenses assigned to your users then you can also use your included InTune license to automatically deploy Office Pro Plus. You can always buy the InTune licenses separately if you want too.

Read how to do that here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/enterprise/deploy-office-proplus-intune

Installing Office Click to Run from a Server Share

Lets get back on track and for those of us with a large deployment of Office 365 Business Premium or other similar subscription which includes the Click to Run version of office our options are:

  • Install the software manually as an administrator on each device.
  • Use our RMM tools to script the instillation from a server share. (Essentially launching the installation as a local Administrator)

I’m going to show how you can deploy office from a server share then later demo how to do this using an RMM tool.

Lets get started!

Download the Tool

Download the Office Deployment tool to your file server from here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=4911 the tool set includes a setup application and a configuration.xml file which is used to define what applications you want to download and how you want them to be installed to the PC’s.

Setup a Share

Next lets setup a folder share on the server from which PC’s on the network will install the software. In the lab i’m using \\dc2016\software and under that share I have a folder called office. Inside the office folder I have a folder for the deployment tool ‘OfficeDeploymentTool’.

Edit the configuration.xml File

Lets take a look at the available options in the configuration.xml file. Open up the file in notepad to view and edit the configuration.

Below is the default configuration. This file will download the 32 bit version of the Retail Office 365 Pro Plus which is licensed in the E3 and higher plans. The example file will also install Visio Pro retail.

There are three options below the program configuration:

Updates: Remove the comment tags <!– and –> to enable monthly automatic updates.

Display: Uncomment this option to automatically accept the license agreement so that it doesn’t get displayed during the installation.

Property: Uncomment this line to automatically activate office during the installation.

The example configuration file needs to be edited so that the office software is downloaded from the server rather than direct from the internet. To do this add the SourcePath attribute pointing to the server share.

<Add SourcePath=”\\dc2016\software\office” OfficeClientEdition=”32″ Channel=”Monthly”>

The first line we can configure includes the options for 32 bit or 64 bit versions of the office applications you are installing, the default is 32 to install the 32 bit edition. Next we specify how often the applications are updated. The Monthly channel is the default which means all new features and updates will be installed on a monthly basis.

In this example I am using Office 365 Business Premium licenses. For this I need to install the Business retail version of office so I set the Product ID to “O365BusinessRetail”. I also uncomment the additional configuration options so that office automatically updates on a monthly basis, accepts the license agreement and auto activates the application.

If you don’t want to install the latest updates as they get released you can delay updates by setting the channel to Targeted or Broad. Below is a table explaining the different update channels. Change the Channel attribute in the configuration.xml file to the ID below depending on what channel you want.

Channel Name ID Ideal For Updates Install
Monthly “Monthly” Suited for developers and support staff. The latest features are installed on a monthly basis.
Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted) “Targeted” Suited for a small portion of your user base to test applications work correctly The latest features are installed twice a year. ( March and September )
Semi-Annual Channel “Broad” Suitable for all users, this is the final update channel. The latest features are installed twice a year after the targeted channel receives the updates first. ( January and July  )

Specify Products

Use the table below to select the correct Product ID based on what licenses you are using.

Licenses Product ID
Office 365 ProPlus
Office 365 Enterprise E3
Office 365 Enterprise E4
Office 365 Enterprise E5
Office 365 Midsize
“O365ProPlusRetail”
Office 365 Business
Office 365 Business Premium
“O365BusinessRetail”

Excluding applications

You may have noticed that in my example configuration.xml file I have excluded “Lync” which means Skype for business will not be installed by using the line.

<ExcludeApp ID=”Lync”/>

You can remove this line if you do want to install S4B. Skype for business is being merged into Teams so I imagine Skype will eventually be retired. You can also exclude other applications from being installed by using the product ID’s below.

“Access”

“Excel”

“Groove”

“Lync”

“OneDrive”

“OneNote”

“Outlook”

“PowerPoint”

“Publisher”

“Word”

Download the Installation Files to the Server Share

Now that we have the configuration file setup for our needs we use the deployment tool to download the application installation files to the share. The deployment tool is used to first download the applications but is also used to install the software later on the PC’s

On the server open up command prompt or PowerShell and run the tool using “setup.exe /download“.

This will cause the deployment tool to download the installation files to the server share we set in the configuration.xml file. This process can take a few minutes and nothing will display on the screen letting you know its finished. Just leave the command prompt open until the command completes and moves to the next line.

Once the command completes we now see a new Office folder which includes our installation files.

Launch the Installation on a PC

Next we install the application onto a test PC to ensure everything works as expected.

To do this load up command prompt on a test PC and run the deployment tool from the share using the /configure option.

\\dc2016\software\office\officedeploymenttool\setup.exe /configure

This will launch the deployment tool and install office to the PC. You wont see any progress just leave the command prompt open until the command completes and moves to the next line.

After a few minutes you Office will be installed and when you open up word it will prompt you or the end user to sign in using their Office 365 username and password.

Once the user signs in Office will activate and everything is good to go!

Conclusion

The office deployment tool is actually a really simple tool. It’s such a shame that it cant be deployed via Group policy yet but using a 3rd party tool you can script the deployment to install office in the background.

Just remember if you try to run the deployment tool using a login script just remember it wont work unless users are local administrators.

I really hope Microsoft add the ability to run scripts in the context of an administrator account soon so that we can deploy apps automatically without the users having to be admins.


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Author: Ian@SlashAdmin

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