Strategies for Updating Office XP Installations

After a new release of a version of Microsoft Office, Microsoft makes available a series of software updates designed to help improve the security, performance, and reliability of the applications. Keeping clients in your organization up-to-date with the latest updates for Office XP is well worth the effort, and there are strategies you can use to make the patching process more efficient and consistent.

This article can help you determine what update strategy to use depending upon the type of update you are deploying and the current state of your administrative installation point.

 Note    Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) and the Windows Update Web site provide additional methods for deploying Office updates that are not documented here. See Using Windows Server Update Services and Microsoft Update for more information.

Types of updates

Microsoft releases several different types of software updates:

  • Service packs comprise a set of all hot fixes, security updates and critical updates released to date, and may also include additional bug fixes or customer-requested design changes or features. Because a service pack includes a new product version in the MSI file, it represents a new baseline version of the product.
  • Security updates are released between service packs and address product-specific, security-related vulnerabilities. These updates are rated based on their severity.
  • Critical updates are released between service packs and fix specific problems unrelated to security issues.

Software updates are released in two forms:

  • Binary patches, or client patches, replace only portions of the files that have been updated. For this reason, they are smaller and more efficient to distribute than full-file patches; however, they typically require that clients have access to the Office installation source, and they cannot be applied to an administrative image.
  • Full-file patches, or administrative patches, completely replace all files modified by an update. Prior to Office XP Service Pack 2, full-file patches were used exclusively to update an administrative installation point. Beginning with Office XP SP2, you can also apply full-file patches directly to client computers.

 Note   Some Office XP updates are released as IExpress packages. Unlike most Office XP software updates, these EXE files do not contain MSP files and are not released in an administrative form. They must be run directly on client computers. For more information, see Installing Internet Express Software Update Packages.

Establishing a baseline version

Another key part of keeping all clients up-to-date is to maintain a consistent baseline image of Office throughout the organization, regardless of the particular update strategy you follow. The release version of Office is a baseline, and each successive service pack represents a new baseline because it includes a new version of the product. The baseline image serves as the source for all users — users who are running Setup in maintenance mode, as well as new users who are installing Office for the first time.

To date, Microsoft has released the following baseline versions of Office XP:

  • Office XP (original release version, or RTM version)
  • Office XP Service Pack 1
  • Office XP Service Pack 2
  • Office XP Service Pack 3

These major updates, as well as any future service packs, are cumulative: they include all previous patches plus additional updates and fixes. To avoid creating synchronization problems between the client and the source, you must distribute service pack updates in one of the following ways:

  • If your administrative image is still at the RTM level, then you can distribute the client version of the service pack directly to users. Applying the patch does not change the product version in the MSI file on the local computer. Clients remain in sync with the RTM level source.
  • If your administrative image has been patched, then you should update the administrative image with the service pack and then recache and reinstall Office on client computers. This method establishes a new baseline on the client (because the product version in the MSI file is updated) and ensures that the client remains in sync with the source.

 Important    Beginning with Office XP Service Pack 3, the binary version of a service pack requires a source at the RTM level. You cannot apply the binary version of Office XP SP3 if the client computer is relying on an updated administrative image as a source — even if you have established SP1 or SP2 as a baseline throughout your organization.

Choosing the best update strategy

With any update strategy, the goal is to ensure that all users have the most up-to-date software, including critical security patches, while keeping them synchronized with the source for installing on demand or repairing or updating the applications. The strategy you choose for updating Office XP on users' computers depends on a number of factors, including the current state of your administrative installation point, your network resources, and the amount of control you have over users' desktop configurations.

The following table summarizes the recommended patching strategies for Office XP.

Scenario Recommendation
Deploying Office XP for the first time. Maintain your administrative image at the RTM level and distribute client patches to users.
Administrative image is at RTM level. Maintain your administrative image at the RTM level and distribute client patches to users.
Administrative image has been updated and you are now deploying a new service pack. Update the administrative image and promptly recache and reinstall Office XP on all clients.
Administrative image has been updated and you are now deploying an interim software update.

Update the administrative image and promptly recache and reinstall Office XP on all clients.

- or -

Distribute client patches to users until the next service pack is released.

You can find detailed instructions for maintaining an administrative image and distributing client updates directly to users in the article Distributing Office XP Client Updates to Users.

If you plan to manage software updates centrally from an updated administrative image, you can find more information in the article Updating Office XP Clients from a Patched Administrative Image.

Related links

In a managed environment, Microsoft recommends that you block users' access to Office updates on Office Online. By setting a single registry subkey or policy, you can prevent users from downloading client patches on their own yet still allow them to take advantage of all the other resources on Office Online. For more information, see Blocking Users' Access to Office Update.

The strategies for applying updates to Office XP or Office 2003 Multilingual User Interface Packs are identical to those for updating the core Office XP or Office 2003 installation. For more information, see see Distributing Multilingual User Interface Pack Updates in the Microsoft Office 2003 Resource Kit.