Learn the Windows Virtual Desktop setup process

Organizations looking to set up Windows Virtual Desktop machines can do so with Azure Resource Manager, but admins must ensure their environment has the necessary prerequisites.

Microsoft's desktop-as-a-service offering, Windows Virtual Desktop, can deliver a full virtual desktop or remote applications to enterprise users, but this technology is still maturing and some admins may not be familiar with the deployment process.

Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) runs completely on Microsoft Azure. Organizations pay as they go for the licensing and can easily grow and scale up based on demand.

The setup process can be tricky for virtual desktop administrators to navigate, especially considering Microsoft released the WVD product in September 2019.

Azure Resource Manager

In the past, the only way to manage and set up Windows Virtual Desktop was with a PowerShell script. This was the case until May 2020, when Microsoft released a new Windows Virtual Desktop capability to make life easier for IT administrators. WVD admins can now use the default Azure Resource Manager to perform numerous Windows Virtual Desktop setup and management tasks.

Now, IT admins can set up and manage Windows Virtual Desktops the same way they would manage and create any other virtual machine. This familiar virtual desktop management methodology makes the administrator experience a lot friendlier to new WVD admins. This video explains the Windows Virtual Desktops setup process with Azure Resource Manager, and what options IT has to manage the WVD machines.

What do administrators need to set up Windows Virtual Desktop?

To start Windows Virtual Desktops setup, administrators will need to have a few things in place. They must set up the following components in advance:

Azure Subscription

Of course, to create resources on Azure, any virtual desktop admin will need to set up an Azure subscription. It is easy to start a free trial subscription on the official Azure site. This way IT admins can try out WVD without committing to the subscription costs associated with the offering.

Active Directory

Next, IT admins will need an Active Directory (AD) in which the Windows Virtual Desktop can connect with a machine account. The virtual network (vNet) the WVD machines are in must be able to reach the Active Directory. There are three ways for virtual desktop admins to establish this connection:

  1. Use a VM with the Domain Controller role installed in the same vNet as the WVD VMs.
  2. Use an on-premises domain controller connected to the WVD Virtual Machines vNet through a VPN or express router.
  3. Use Azure Active Directory Domain Services.

Azure Active Directory

The simplest route for IT professionals to take is to set up Azure Active Directory synchronization between Azure AD and Active Directory.

Windows Virtual Desktops also requires an Azure Active Directory. The simplest route for IT professionals to take is to set up Azure Active Directory synchronization between Azure AD and Active Directory.


Windows Virtual Desktop requires an indirect license. For testing purposes, however, virtual desktop admins can create a WVD desktops without a license. In ordinary circumstances, a user on the Windows Virtual Desktop system must have one of the following licenses:

  • Microsoft 365 E3 or E5
  • Microsoft 365 A3, A5 or student use benefit
  • Microsoft 365 F3
  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium
  • Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5
  • Windows 10 Education A3 or A5
  • Windows 10 Virtual Desktop access

When all these items are in place, IT admins can set up and manage their Windows Virtual Desktops. In the video, the example setup process has all requirements in place.

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