How to: SharePoint 2016 Updates

This article shows how you can update SharePoint 2016 using Cumulative Updates. The information in this document don’t apply to SharePoint 2013 or earlier versions.

    |    Andreas Glaser

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This E-Book explains the update process for SharePoint 2016 in a simplified but comprehensive way.

There is lots of great information out there but often located at many different places: TechNet, Videos, Blogs or even comments in blog posts. It takes time to find them and bring them in the right relation to each other.

My goal is to give you an easy way to get started.

All information is linked with resources if you need additional, more detailed explanations. Here’s a list of people that are experts and published most of the information:

  • Stefan Goßner, Senior Escalation Engineer for SharePoint Products and Technologies
  • Neil Hodgkinson, Senior Program Manager O365 CXP CAT
  • Bob Fox, Senior Supportability Program Manager CSS Serviceability
  • Karl Reigel, Senior Premier Field Engineer US PFE

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1. Overview

There are 3 important types of updates [1]:

  • Service Packs
  • Cumulative Update
  • Public Updates

The naming varies across different resources and the term "Cumulative Updates", which is known from SharePoint 2013, has been replaced by "Public Updates" if you read Microsoft’s documentation.

Stefan Goßner still uses the term Cumulative Updates and if you read his blog it becomes clear that there is a difference between the updates which are released.

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1.1 Service Packs

Service Packs include older Service Packs, Cumulative Updates, Public Updates and new fixes or features.

Microsoft has no plans to release Service Packs for SharePoint 2016 so you should install Cumulative Updates and Public Updates instead. [5]

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1.2 Cumulative Updates

SharePoint 2016 Cumulative Updates
What is it?

It’s a rollup update which means that the newest CU includes new fixes and all previous fixes (CUs as well as Public Updates) that were released after a major version e.g. RTM or SP1.

Microsoft uses the name Public Update for this rollup update but the name Cumulative Update makes more sense.

Time of release

Cumulative Updates are released every month.

Do I need it?

Yes! Usually you install them:

  • At least every 2 years so you are eligible for Microsoft’s product support (read more at section 1.5 Product Support Limitations).
  • If the CU fixes a specific problem you have.
  • If the CU enables support of newly released software e.g. a new major version of SQL Server.

Usually you need to have the latest Service Pack installed (if available) to install the newest CU.


You always have to download 2 (!) files:

  • A language independent file which fixes core components.
  • A language dependent file which fixes language specific components.

But here is the trick: This file is multilingual which means that it doesn’t matter which language you select on the download page. Your download will include fixes for all(!) SharePoint languages. Just select a language on the download page you can read.

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1.3 Public Updates

Some of the Cumulative Updates mentioned in the previous section include security fixes. If a CU contains a security fix the language independent file (which fixes core components) is made available through Windows Update so it can reach a much wider audience:

SharePoint 2016 Public Updates via Windows Update

SharePoint 2016 Public Updates
What is it?

A Public Update is the exact same language independent file which is part of a CU. The only difference is that it is made available through Windows Update because it contains a security fix.

So, does it make sense to talk about CUs and PUs?

Because it is the same language independent file... and because TechNet only uses the term Public Update for all updates. It is up to you but in my opinion it makes sense:

  • The word cumulative better matches its content, a monthly rollup update. You can skip it if you don’t need it.
  • The word public better matches an update offered through Windows Update, which includes a security fix.
Time of release

All information from the previous section about Cumulative Updates applies..

Do I need it?

All information from the previous section about Cumulative Updates applies.


All information from the previous section about Cumulative Updates applies.


Via Windows Update.

Note: You don’t have to download the language dependent file if you install a PU through Windows Update. Different components of SharePoint server can have different patch levels.

Let me give you a few examples when to install which update:

SharePoint 2016 Updates
Date Cumulative Update Public Update via Windows Update
August Available Available
July Available Available
June Available Available
May Available Available
April Available Available
March Available Available
February Available Available
January Available Available
December Available Available
November Available Available
October Available Available
September Available Available
August Available -
July Available Available
June Available Available
May Available Available
April Available Available (Only Office Online Server, not SharePoint 2016)
March Available -
February Available -
January Available Available
December Available -
November Available -
October Available Available (Only Office Online Server, not SharePoint 2016)
September Available Available (Only Office Online Server, not SharePoint 2016)
August Available -
July Available Available
June Available -
May Available -
April Available -

  • If you installed SharePoint 2016 RTM you need to install May 2018 PU. You don’t need to install another CU if it doesn’t fix a problem you have.
  • If you installed SharePoint 2016 RTM and you plan to install May 2018 CU you only need to install this Cumulative Update. You don’t need to install any other CU or PU.

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1.4 Feature Packs

A Feature Pack is just a "fancy name" for a cumulative update [6].

A Feature Pack includes lots of new functionality and that's why Microsoft talks about a Feature Pack instead of a Cumulative Update.

There are 2 feature packs right now:

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1.5 Product Limitations

If you need product support from Microsoft you must have a specific patch level before Microsoft starts helping:

"All SharePoint Server 2016 builds will be supported for at least one year from its release date. Microsoft will update the minimum supported build of SharePoint Server 2016 on each anniversary of General Availability (GA). Customers must be running that build or higher to remain supported. If a customer contacts Microsoft support and their farm is not running the minimum supported build or higher, they will be asked to upgrade to that build before support can be offered." [7]

SharePoint 2016 Support End Date
SharePoint Server 2016 Support End Date (Last checked May 2017)
RTM (16.0.4351.1000) - April 2017 Public Update April 30, 2018
May 2017 Public Update - April 2018 Public Update April 30, 2019
May 2018 Public Update - April 2019 Public Update April 30, 2020
May 2019 Public Update - April 2020 Public Update April 30, 2021
May 2020 Public Update - April 2021 Public Update April 30, 2022
May 2021 Public Update - all future Public Updates April 30, 2026

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1.6 What's my Patch Level?

I wrote in a previous section that "different components of SharePoint server can have different patch levels". But how do you reliably get the patch level of your SharePoint farm?

Stefan Goßner has a very detailed article [8] about all the different version numbers you can find in SharePoint.

There is only one reliable way to know the correct patch level of your SharePoint environment:

  • Info retrieved from: ServerVerionInformation table in config database
  • Info updated by: Patch Install
  • Updated by all patches: Yes
  • Version number same as KB article: Yes
  • Reliably shows patch installation: Yes

Go to: Central Administration > Upgrade and Migration > Check product and patch installation status

SharePoint 2016 current patch level via Central Administration

Patch Level Example

If you install January 2017 Public Update through Windows Update on SharePoint 2016 RTM, you’ll have the following patch level:

SharePoint 2016 current patch level via Central Administration

As you can see in the picture above the January 2017 Public Update offered through Windows Update is exactly the language independent file of the January 2017 Cumulative Update. The language dependent file of the January 2017 Cumulative Update is not installed via Windows Update.

If you want to install the complete January Cumulative Update, you can download the language dependent file and install it on your own:

SharePoint 2016 current patch level via Central Administration

If you decide to install March 2017 Cumulative Update next you’ll see the following patch level:

SharePoint 2016 current patch level via Central Administration

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2 Requirements

2.1 Hardware Requirements

Please make sure that you meet SharePoint 2016 hardware and software requirements [9] and that you run SharePoint servers with enough available hard disk space and RAM.


2.2 Account Requirements

Before you update SharePoint, you need to make sure you use an account that meets the following requirements [10]:

  • securityadmin fixed server role on the SQL Server instance
  • db_owner fixed database role on all databases that are to be updated
  • Local administrator on the server on which you run Windows PowerShell cmdlets

Usually the SharePoint Setup Administrator meets these requirements. It’s the account you used to install and configure SharePoint in the first place.


2.3 Update Requirements

Make sure that:

  • All farm servers are operating properly.
  • All databases are active and operating properly.


2.4 Zero-Downtime Requirements

If you want zero downtime during your update you need to make sure that:

  • All web servers are load balanced together and are in rotation with the load balancer.
  • You use redundant servers for each role in your SharePoint farm.

You don’t need to use the MinRole feature but you need to make sure your servers and all your services are highly available.

Here is an example [11] if you use the MinRole feature:

SharePoint 2016 update scenario and example

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3 Update Process

The update process includes 2 steps [12]

  • Patching: In a simplified way patching means installing files.
  • Upgrade: In a simplified way upgrade means running the "SharePoint 2016 Products Configuration Wizard".

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3.1 Patching

The patching phase includes updating files on your SharePoint server:

  • Binary files and .dll files are copied to different directories
  • Windows services or IIS websites are stopped so files can be replaced

Patching causes server downtime which begins after starting the hotfix executable and ends when the executable has finished. Due to the amount of .msp files in each update this phase could result in a long downtime.

Patched SharePoint servers still respond to user requests even if they weren’t upgraded yet. They’ll run in backward compatible mode if the database schema is older than the patch level of the server. [14]

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3.2 Build-to-Build Upgrade

You need to run the "SharePoint 2016 Products Configuration Wizard" on all SharePoint servers to finish the installation. The final upgrade phase will e.g.

  • modify databases,
  • update objects in the farm, and
  • update site collections.

It will also upgrade SharePoint processes and modify e.g. files inside the _app_bin directory of each Web Application so you need to run it on every SharePoint server.

Upgrading doesn’t cause downtime in SharePoint 2016 while it did in SharePoint 2013.

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Update Strategy, Deployment Cycle and Example Installation

Get the Complete E-Book - How to: SharePoint 2016 Updates

  • Understand the update process and strategy + which updates you need
  • How Zero-Downtime patching works
  • How to update an example environment step-by-step