Microsoft virtual desktop licensing guide

Microsoft licensing is convoluted, particularly for VDI. This guide navigates Windows virtual desktop licensing, how to reduce licensing costs, and what’s legal and what’s not.

Microsoft’s licensing rules are notoriously difficult to understand, particularly when you are talking about virtual desktop environments. There are different rules for running Windows on a virtual desktop than on a physical PC, and those rules have caveats depending on the type of device.

Software Assurance (SA) customers, for example, get to run virtual desktops at a lower cost than non-SA customers as part of their enterprise licensing agreement. However, IT shops running thin clients need to buy a Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) license. Microsoft licensing also prohibits virtualizing Internet Explorer, but application virtualization tools -- including Microsoft App-V -- can technically virtualize it. And client hypervisors add another kink in the chain with different requirements as well.

In this guide, we help you understand Microsoft VDI licensing and applications licensing, and lay out what you can and can't legally virtualize.

Licensing Windows virtual desktops | Licensing Microsoft applications |
Microsoft licensing news



Windows VDI licensing changes: How the CDL will -- or won't -- help you

Companies will now have to purchase a Companion Device License for each end user device that connects to a virtual desktop in the office. This could add costs for many organizations, but you could get around that requirement by using Windows on ARM.

Microsoft virtual desktop licensing costs still hinder virtual desktop adoption

By making virtual desktop licensing expensive, Microsoft prevents customers from lowering desktop management and Windows upgrade costs, while protecting its Windows profitability.

Mastering the dark art of Windows virtual desktop licensing

Finding a reasonably priced way to license Windows virtual desktops can be difficult. Here are some tips on how to go about licensing without overspending.

Options for licensing Windows in virtual scenarios

Microsoft insists on licensing its desktop OSes only for physical devices. The company generally pushes customers toward the virtualization benefits they can get through Software Assurance (SA). Find out about options you may not know about and ways to bypass SA's requirements.

Windows ThinPC strips down Windows 7 for old PCs

Windows ThinPC (WinTPC)is a stripped-down version of Windows 7 that runs on old Windows XP machines that don't have the memory or CPU resources to support a full Windows 7 version. But it isn’t for thin clients and it has limitations.

Is Citrix’s client hypervisor better than VDI for virtual desktops?

In this article on running virtual desktops using client hypervisors, vendors say running Windows on a bare-metal client hypervisor costs less than with VDI because the OS runs directly on hardware. But there are licensing stipulations IT pros need to be aware of.

Microsoft licensing and virtualization: Taxation needn't be taxing

When you understand Microsoft's licensing policies, the so-called "Microsoft tax" disappears and the company's "virtualization discount" becomes available.


To hell with Microsoft’s rule against IE virtualization

Microsoft doesn't support IE6 virtualization, but some IT shops violate their End User License Agreements to run virtual Internet Explorer because the benefits outweigh the risk.

Obey Microsoft licensing rules and run IE6 on Windows 7

It's still illegal to use application virtualization to run Internet Explorer 6 apps on Windows 7, but new software skirts Microsoft's rules and runs IE6 apps in IE8 browsers.

Licensing options for accessing Microsoft Office remotely

How do you license applications running in a virtual machine or in a Terminal Services (TS) session? Some users assume that once they license Remote Desktop Services (RDS) to run an application like Office, they're home free. Or they think that because they've licensed Office on their work computers, they have a right to access it remotely. But it isn't that simple.

How Office 365 is changing the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement

The release of Office 365 will bring many changes to Microsoft's premiere volume licensing agreement, including a more diverse application selection and Office subscriptions.

Microsoft bundles App-V with Remote Desktop Services

IT shops that upgrade to Windows Server 2008 R2 will get a bonus from Microsoft. The software vendor will include its application streaming technology in the license for free. However, this license change only allows use of App-V on a Remote Desktop Session host server.


Windows 8 VDI licensing for BYOD adds costs, complexity

Microsoft updated its VDI licensing for the bring your own device (BYOD) era, but the new Companion Device License could add costs for companies that already had to purchase Software Assurance.

It’s official: Microsoft overhauls virtual desktop licensing strategy

IT shops with Software Assurance will find virtual desktop licensing more affordable, thanks to changes in Microsoft licensing. Now, Microsoft SA customers don't have to buy a separate license to access Windows in a VDI environment.

Microsoft VDA licensing in effect, client hypervisor rules stay murky

Microsoft activated its latest virtual desktop licensing plan on July 1, 2010. Non-SA customers will have to buy a Virtual Desktop Assurance (VDA) license, while SA customers don't have to purchase a separate license.

Microsoft shuts down IT pro requests for IE virtualization

Microsoft won't support virtualizing IE, even with its own App-V tool. Read about how they stopped one application virtualization company from offering IE on the Web.

IT pros fume over Microsoft rules against IE virtualization

Microsoft prohibits virtualizing Internet Explorer, but is the company reading its own application virtualization rules correctly?

Will MinWin and a Hyper-V client hypervisor debut in Windows 8?

If a Hyper-V client and MinWin, a stripped-down version of Windows that consists of only the basic components of the operating system, appear in Windows 8, they could resolve Microsoft's argument against licensing virtualized Internet Explorer.

Dig Deeper on Terminal Services and Remote Desktop Services

Enterprise Desktop
Cloud Computing