How to Upgrade to the 2016 Version of Project Pro for Office 365

Project Pro for Office 365 is the subscription-based edition of Microsoft Project. It’s paid as a monthly service and can also be combined with a Project Online license to give you full capabilities of the online project and portfolio management (PPM) solution. You can also use Project Pro for Office 365 as a standalone desktop application, as well as to connect to an on-premises installation of Project Server 2013 or the upcoming Project Server 2016. The application runs as a click-to-run application, which means it can easily be installed from any Windows-based machine with Internet access. It also gives you the added benefit of allowing installation of the software on up to five devices. By default, Office updates are also downloaded and installed so the product is always up to date.

Several of our clients have had some confusion on how to obtain the latest version of Project with their existing deployment of Project Online. This article outlines the steps to follow in order to upgrade your Project Pro for Office 365 from the 2013 version (15.0) to the 2016 version (16.0). The process might be slightly different based on your tenant global administrator settings for deploying software to your organization, but this article should cover all scenarios.

Manage User Software in Office 365

The first setting you should have your global administrator for Office 365 check is whether Project is turned on to be managed through Office 365. This is accessed from the Office 365 Portal. You then go to Service Settings | User software and validate that Project is checked. If this isn’t selected, you will need to install the product using the “software deployment method,” which I describe shortly.


Service Branches

Next, you need to know what service branch you’re on. If you’re not using Office 365 Home and Personal subscriptions, then you’re on a branch called Current Branch, which receives monthly feature and security updates.

If you have Office Pro Plus from an enterprise Office 365 plan, then you have two available services branches: Standard Release (or Current Branch for Business) and First Release (or First Release for Current Branch for Business).

Standard Release is the default option where you and your users receive the latest feature updates when they’re distributed broadly to all Office 365 customers; this occurs three times a year. This gives you extra time to prepare your support staff and users for upcoming changes. For Office 2016 as well as Project 2016, this release will be on the Standard Release in February 2016 and users will start to get notifications to install it at that point.

If you want to get it now and not wait until February, then you need to be part of the First Release program. Your administrator can set select specific users for the First Release program or turn it on for the entire organization.

To access these settings, go to the Office 365 Portal and then go to Service Settings | Updates:



You can choose to manually install the program, or as a network administrator you can package up the installation for deployment to your users. Note that this installation is an upgrade and replaces your previous versions. You can’t install the 2013 and 2016 versions side-by-side. It’s also important to know that you must be running the Microsoft Office suite as a subscription as well; you can’t mix and match subscription installations and perpetual MSI-based installations of Office, Visio or Project.

Manual Install

After you join the First Release program, you can manually install the software yourself if you have administrator rights to install software on your machine. To manually install, sign into the Office 365 login page. Then go to the Settings (Gear icon) | Office 365 settings:


Choose Settings | Install and manage software:


Choose Project in the left-hand navigation under Software:


Scroll to the bottom and choose to Install Project 2016. Here, you can also change your Language and version (32-bit or 64-bit). After you make those selections, click the Install button:


Software Deployment

As a network administrator, you can choose to create a deployment package for your users to install rather than having them use the portal page. The following outlines those steps:

1. Download the Office Deployment Tool (Office 2016 version) from the Microsoft Download Center.
2. Double-click OfficeDeploymentTool.exe to extract the Setup.exe file and the sample configuration.xml file.
3. Use a text editor (like Notepad) to edit the configuration.xml file like this:

<Add OfficeClientEdition=”32″ Branch=”FirstReleaseCurrent”>
<Product ID=”ProjectProRetail”>
<Language ID=”en-us” />
<Updates Enabled=”TRUE” />
<Display Level=”None” AcceptEULA=”TRUE” />
<Logging Level=”Standard” Path=”%temp% />

Note: This installs the First Release for Current Branch, 32-bit, English version of Project Pro from the Office Content Delivery Network (CDN) on the Internet. It also automatically gets updated from the CDN when available. Learn more about configuration.xml settings in this reference article.

4. Copy setup.exe and configuration.xml to the computer where you want Office 2016. An Internet connection is required.

5. From an elevated command prompt, go to the folder where you copied the files and run the following command:

Setup.exe /configure configuration.xml

This copies the Project files to the computer and starts the installation.

I hope this article gives you enough information to get started in installing the 2016 version of Project Pro for Office 365. After February 2016, the update will be part of the Standard Release (or Current Branch for Business), and you’ll start getting notifications to install. You can now start enjoying all the new features in Project 2016, including resource engagements and multiple timeline bars.

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Written by Chad Olson

Director of Technical Services, Sensei Project Solutions

Chad has been involved in the Microsoft Project Server platform and related products since 2001. He has focused on the technical aspects of installation, design, architecture, configuration, and customized reporting. Chad has completed over 35 different customer engagements utilizing Microsoft Project Server that has spanned across many different vertical industries. He is very involved in keeping up to date with the latest technical news of Project Server, is connected with the Microsoft Project product team, and has presented at the Microsoft Project Users Group (MPUG). He has conducted training classes for administrators, report authors, and project managers on the toolset with processes and procedures for several clients.

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1 Comment
  1. Good article – definitely filled a gap.

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