Even more changes to Microsoft AutoUpdate preferences

Microsoft AutoUpdate 4MacAdmins have grown accustomed to Microsoft adding new, useful managed preferences to AutoUpdate and Office over the years.

So it comes as a surprise when widely used preferences are removed seemingly on a whim with no warning.

Recently I’ve written about two unexpected changes to Microsoft AutoUpdate (MAU):

Yesterday a member in the MacAdmins Slack spotted a new Microsoft document that contains even more changes to MAU preferences.

Read on for a little commentary plus what I think are the most noteworthy changes…

The new documentation:

The Good

I’ll start with what I see as a positive. There are some good details included in this document that I haven’t seen before.

Several keys include examples of what unexpected behavior might be seen if the preference is configured incorrectly.

The document also lists preference keys MAU writes to disk but that should not be managed in a configuration profile.

These are both great things to have officially documented.

The Bad

Microsoft has deprecated the HowToCheck value of Manual. It still works for now, but this is a signal that there will be no official way to keep MAU installed and not have it take automatic action at some point in the future.

Note: Even though Manual setting is deprecated, MAU continues to honor it for the time being. Setting to Manual results in MAU not offering updates automatically.

This is going to complicate things for MacAdmins who prefer to update Office via another tool like Munki.

The Ugly

The long tenured UpdateCheckFrequency key has been deprecated in favor of a new key, UpdateCheckInterval for what appears to be a very trivial reason.

Deprecated. Incorrectly named. Changed to UpdateCheckInterval to describe its function more accurately.

I have to wonder, was there really any confusion of the original key’s function?

When discussing this change two colleagues wrote:

this is what Microsoft is spending their time on… being pedantic about Frequency vs. Interval lol

Seriously gotta love the time spent on little nitpicky things VS y’know reducing user annoyance and making it easier for us to manage.

Unfortunately the documentation doesn’t make it clear if the former key is still supported and if so, for how long.

Noteworthy changes

  • AcknowledgedDataCollectionPolicy no longer supports the RequiredAndOptionalData value.
  • HowToCheck has deprecated the Manual value, but it is still honored for now.
  • EnableFallbackChannel appears to be a new key of which I can find no prior reference.
    • “Allows Microsoft AutoUpdate to look for updates in Current channel if the specified channel (Beta, Preview, Custom) doesn’t have manifests for the registered applications available.”
  • DisableOptInNotification appears to be a new key of which I can find no prior reference.
    • “When Set to TRUE, prevents Opt-In notification/pop-up window from showing even when HowToCheck is set to Automatic.”
  • The Applications dictionary’s LCID entry is now deprecated.
    • “Identified Language Code to be used to locate language-specific update manifests. No longer applicable.”
  • App Domain, part of the Applications dictionary, appears to be a new key of which I can find no prior reference.
    • “Used by MAU to search extra information for update paths.”
  • HideOnGui, part of the Applications dictionary is not new, but I can’t find any prior discussion of it.
    • “When set to TRUE in the application record, application won’t be displayed on MAU GUI.”
  • UpdateReadyReminderIntervallInHours appears to be a new key of which I can find no prior reference.
    • “Used by Microsoft 365 apps in determining how frequently update ready message bar should be displayed.”
  • AppCustomPref is not brand new, but new enough to list. It has been discussed in the MacAdmins Slack since early this year and relates to licensing.
    • “MAU uses this information to offer correct product updates.”
  • ExtendedLogging is by no means a new preference key, but I don’t remember seeing this note before:
    • “MAU Log will only maintain the last 1MB. Setting this might cause the local log file to lose details.”
  • UpdateCheckInterval is a new key that replaces the original UpdateCheckFrequency
    • “Specifies the number of minutes between checking for updates. Default is set to check every 13 hours.”
  • UpdaterOptimization has been around for a couple years, but two new values are revealed: Network and None
  • GuardAgainstAppModification appears to be a new key of which I can find no prior reference.
    • “Setting this preference to TRUE keeps a clone of an application in cache location always. Needed as some security apps were modifying installed apps under /Applications folder, causing updates to fail.”

With the rate Microsoft is deprecating preferences in AutoUpdate, it wouldn’t surprise me to see more changes later this year.

Going forward, it is probably a safe bet to assume that if a configuration profile suddenly seems to stop working, it is probably Microsoft’s fault and not yours.

Please use caution when referencing any old discussions, blog posts or community documentation in the near future.

It will take a while to update the community’s Office for Mac Preference Keys document (which dates back to 2017) and the ProfileManifests entry which powers ProfileCreator and iMazing Profile Editor with all of these changes.

Please join us in the #microsoft-autoupdate channel on the MacAdmins Slack for more discussion.

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