Mar 302020
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Once you deploy Remote Desktop Services (RDS) for employee remote access, your next step will be to install user applications as well as all your line of business applications.

One of the most widely used applications suite is Microsoft Office, particularly Microsoft Office 365.

In order to deploy Microsoft Office 365 in a Remote Desktop Services environment, a number of requirements must be met. There is also special instructions which must be followed to properly deploy it.

This information also applies when you want to install Office 365 / Microsoft 365 to a shared virtual machine or a golden image for VDI (for VDI you can read my full guide “Deploy, Install, and Configure Microsoft Office 365 in a VDI Environment“).

After reading and completing the steps in this blog post and deploying Office 365, you can head over to my guide on how to Configure Office 365 in a Remote Desktop Services Environment using GPOs to pre-configure Microsoft Office and it’s applications for when your users log in.

What’s required

To deploy Microsoft Office 365 on a Remote Desktop Services Server, you’ll need:

  • A Remote Desktop Services Server (Configured and Running)
  • Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise (formerly named as Office 365 ProPlus)


Special attention must be paid to licensing. In order to properly license and activate Office 365, you’ll need one of the following products that supports Shared Computer Activation:

  • Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise (formerly known as Office 365 ProPlus)
  • Office 365 E3
  • Office 365 E5
  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium

All 4 of these products include and support “Shared Computer Activation“.

Microsoft 365 Standard, Office 365 Business, Office 365 Business Premium, and Office 365 Business Essentials cannot be used as they do not include or support Shared Computer Activation.

An exception is made for Microsoft 365 Business Premium which actually includes Microsoft 365 Apps for Business, but doesn’t support enabling “Shared Computer Activation” via Group Policy Objects and must be done using the XML configuration file method.

Installing Office 365

Once you have the proper licensing and you’re ready to proceed, you can start!

  1. First you’ll need to download the Office Deployment Tool from this link: You save this wherever.
  2. Create a directory that you can work in and store the Office 365 installation files.
  3. Open the file you downloaded from the Microsoft Download site, extract the files in to the working directory you created in step 2.
  4. Open a Command Prompt, and change in to that working directory.
  5. We’re now going to run the tool and download the x64 image using the xml that was extracted by running the following command:
    setup.exe /download configuration-Office365-x64.xml
    To download the 32-bit version or enterprise version, use one of the other xml files that are in the directory.
  6. There will be no output and it will take a while so be patient.
  7. Now we want to open the xml file we previously used (in our case “configuration-Office365-x64.xml”) and add the following lines to the file right above the final line (right above </Configuration>):
    <Display Level="None" AcceptEULA="True" />
    <Property Name="SharedComputerLicensing" Value="1" />
    These variables enable Shared Computer Activation and disable automatic activation. Save the file.
  8. We can now install Office 365 by running the following command:
    setup.exe /configure configuration-Office365-x64.xml

Office 365 should now install silently, and then afterwards you should be good to go!

When a user logs in for the first time it will ask them to activate on their account. The user must have a license attached to their Office 365 account.

For more information and advanced settings, you can see the Microsoft guide here:

You are now ready to proceed to Configure Office 365 in a Remote Desktop Services environment, so that everything is configured and ready to use when your users log in.

  63 Responses to “Install Office 365 in a Remote Desktop Services Environment”

  1. Oh how I wish I saw this before I tried running Office 365 in our Citrix environment (utilizes RDS). I got slapped in the face by the ProPlus license requirement. Now with the current situation crushing our retail business, I’m not sure when we’ll be able to upgrade those licenses so we can use Office 365 in Citrix.

    I still have a server in maintenance mode because I’m too sad to put it back in production without Office. At least it’s a VM so it’s protected from my tears that are all over its VMWare host.

  2. thank you for this. I lost my notes when setting this up a couple years ago, and this helped me get that info back without having to comb though MS articles. just an added comment to this. if adding to an image or (WVD), please note: do not launch any of the applications. just run updates as normal and close out the image. if you launch any of the applications it will break the licensing. you will have to uninstall, reboot, and install again. ( you may have to run the uninstaller assistant from MS)

  3. Glad it helped Caleb, and thanks for additional info! πŸ™‚


  4. The naming of the products has changed; Office 365 Business is now 365 Business Apps, etc.

    What will be the behaviour of Office without the lines below? I mean, automatic activation sounds fine to me.

    This method works on Windows Server 2019 RDS?
    We applied Office 2016 en 2019 succesfully with Exchange Online accounts on Windows 2016 RDS, this does not seem to work anymore on Windows 2019 RDS, is that correct?
    That means that on Windows 2019 you are forced to apply at leat Office 365 E3 in stead of just Exchange Online…

  5. Hi, im also seeing an issue with connecting Office 365 with Exchange online in RDS 2019 when using Roaming Profiles. cannot seem to get it to work.

  6. Hi Sean,

    What is the issue you’re experiencing, could you describe it?


  7. An update for the article.

    Microsoft 365 is now called Microsoft 365 Business Premium.

    Note RE licencing:

    The Microsoft 365 Business Premium plan is the only business plan that includes support for shared computer activation. There are other business plans, such as Microsoft 365 Business Standard, that include Microsoft 365 Apps for business, but, those business plans don’t include support for shared computer activation.

  8. James,
    ANY plan that includes the new verbiage “Microsoft 365 Apps” includes support for shared computer activation. More than one plan has this verbiage.

    From MS itself, “Microsoft 365 Apps is a version of Office that’s available through many Office 365 (and Microsoft 365) plans.”

  9. Worked perfectly Thank you

    Apps for business and Standard do not work Had to go to premium to get shared computer activation

  10. Hi Michael, glad to hear! Cheers!

  11. Looking for help –
    I’ve followed these instructions and still get an error that says that ‘Product we found in your account cannot be used to activate Office in shared computer scenarios’
    I’m using Premium/Standard (whatever Microsoft is calling it these days) and it matches both license type and installer with a working install on another server.
    Either I have installed it wrong or Microsoft has drastically changed license requirements in the last couple of months? I tend to point to me installing it wrong, but how can I tell?

  12. Hi Bruce,

    You need to find out if your product supports Shared Computer Activation. At a minimum Microsoft 365 Premium is required.

    If your using Premium, instead of the enterprise offerings, you’ll need to enable Shared Computer Activation using the XML file (versus the GPO method).

    If you’re using Standard, it does not support Shared Computer Activation.

    Hope this helps.


  13. That’s the confusion, of course – It lists as both Premium and Standard depending on where you view the license.
    Is there a way to verify that the ‘shared computer activation’ is active in O365? That’s my biggest worry, that I’ve done something wrong there and it’s not actually able to do that. The product is installed without an issue, using the XML file.

  14. Hi Bruce,

    It shouldn’t be listing both products. When generating the XML you need to make sure the product is the one the licenses are for.

    To check if Shared Computer Activation is enabled, open an Office app, then seldct File – > Office Account – > About Outlook.

    It should say that it’s enabled, if it is.

  15. Wanted to follow up and say we DID find we had the wrong license. Your instructions were very helpful and I appreciate the extra info. You put me in the right direction.

  16. Hey Bruce! Glad to hear you got it sorted out!


  17. Hi and thanks for a valuable post and answers!

    Our 5 users already have Microsoft 365 Business Standard and they want to use Office Apps on there own RDS server, do they need to upgrade all there licenses to Premium or is it ok to just have 1 licens with Microsoft 365 Business Premium on the RDS server?

    For what I understand it’s the Shared Activation that is important and with 1 license installed on the RDS this would be fullfilled but do we need to upgrade all the users licenses to Premium in this case?

  18. Hi Jonny,

    You’re welcome!

    Microsoft 365 is licensed per user, so each user will require a license. If you have 5 users, you will require 5 licenses.

    As for Shared Computer Activation (SCA), you’ll need Microsoft 365 Premium. Microsoft 365 Business Standard does not include Shared computer activation.

    In your situation that you described, you’ll need 5 Microsoft 365 Business Premium licenses for 5 users to use Share Computer Activation on RDS.


  19. According to this Microsoft information, Microsoft 365 Business Premium should also be able wo work on a RDS server:

  20. Hi JorgenW,

    That is correct. I’ve tried to clean up the wording to make it a little more clear in the post.


  21. […] you Deploy Remote Desktop Services (RDS) for employee remote access and Install Office 365 in a Remote Desktop Services Environment, your next step will be to configure it by deploying Group Policy Objects to configure Office 365 […]

  22. Just migrated users from E3 licenses to Business Premium – is there a way to flip the install of 365 pro Plus to shared activation on an existing terminal server that users are getting activations errors on now?

  23. Hi James,

    I’m not sure if the product has to be re-installed or not, but if it doesn’t, you’d need to enable Shared Activation via registry or do a “/configure” with a new XML file that has the strings in it.

    Essentially, business premium cannot use GPOs to configure SCA. You must do so using the XML on configure, or via a registry key.


  24. I have successfully set up 2019 RDS with MS 365 Business Premium licenses for about 15 users. It’s been running fine since last March. My only gripe (and users as well) is that quite often users will get “yellow triangle” next to their name in all remote Office apps. Effectively they loose ability to save docs into OneDrive. Most of the time all they need to do is just click on triangle and “sign in” again, a major PITA according to users. With MFA enabled it’s even more annoying. Any reason for this behavior?

  25. Hi Andrew,

    There’s a few reasons this could be happening:
    1) SCA isn’t configured and/or isn’t working
    2) You’re missing some GPO configuration to configure the users Office installs
    3) There could be some issues with your AD integration with M365, or issues with your Hybrid AD deployment.


  26. Thank you Stephen,

    1) SCA should be ok as many users are constantly working on our sessions host without any issues
    2) I’m going to have to re-check my GPO as this might be the key here, thanks!
    3) AD integration seems to be fine, it’s been working for sever years, before RDS implementation.

    I’m going to read through your “Configure Office 365 in a Remote Desktop Services Environment” article and see what I’ve missed


  27. Sounds good!

    If SCA isn’t working, it might still be activating the product in the traditional way, just an FYI.

    Cheers and Goodluck with the troubleshooting!


  28. Hi Guys got a question concerning the licence. You are mentionning Microsoft 365 Apps for business.

    Is it Microsoft 365 Apps for business or Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise that is required ?

    Because if it is Microsoft 365 Apps for business I could always combine it with the
    Microsoft 365 Business Basic licence which will give the Exchange mailbox and cost arround the same price as the Microsoft 365 Business Standard.

  29. Nice article.

    I was wondering, what would happen if you have an RDS session based server and 10 or so users Remote into it. Office 365 is installed but not in “shared computer” mode. All users have a Standard license which come with Office 365 and they are able to activate Office when they log into their session.

    This works but why is it wrong if you do not do a “shared computer” O365 deployment method? Just a regular install in an Admins session which also allow the other users to use Office when they login and activate.

    Know what I mean?


  30. Hi Jacob,

    I could be wrong but it may be a licensing requirement to use Shared Computer Activation in situations where a computer is shared by multiple users.

    Also, if you use Shared Computer Activation, the activation on the shared computer does not count towards the users allowed 5 device limit on their license.

    More information can be found here:


  31. Thanks. I could not find any documentation either only that you need to do it with the deployment method but it works without it?

  32. While it may appear to be working, I’d be concerned that it’s using up one of the users activations.

    I remember reading/hearing about issues in the past when someone tried to set it up this way, but I can’t remember what they were unfortunately.

  33. Hi… Thanks for the great article. I’m in the middle of the go-around with MS support right now… They seem to think that our standard licenses will work on our server for RDS….. but they won’t activate stating, obviously, that those licenses won’t work on a shared computer environment…. sitting on hold now…. FML

  34. I’m utterly stuck doing this on 2008R2

    I’ve got the last 2002 build of 365 that is meant to work on win7 and i understand 2008r2.
    It lets me install but it doesn’t do it in shared mode no matter what i do.

    Also done the one line registry hack to say multiuse

  35. Thanks have a situation where Office 365 deployed on RDS with 365 Apps for Enterprise

    We have users with work laptops given 365 + Project through an Azure Subscription Group, is there a way to make this work on the RDS, (User needs project and can use Project Web) Do i need to configure the ODT or is this a way to make this work? Thanks again , great site

  36. Hi Bill, I’m not 100 percent sure, but you should just be able to deploy it with the ODT and be good to go!

  37. This worked for me! Thank you for the easy to follow guide!

  38. Hi Stephen,

    Many of our customers work with Exchange Online Plan 1 licenses, therefore I am interested in Office 2019 en 2021.
    Testing Office 2019 and 2021 results in:
    – Windows Server 2016: supports Office 2016 and 2019
    – Windows Server 2019: does not support Office 2016 and 2019
    – Windows Server 2022: supports 2019 and 2021

    Howerver, states that both Office versions should work on Windows Server 2019 as well.

    What is your knowledge on this?

  39. Hi Mark,

    If you’re using Office Volume Licenses, then you’ll need to use KMS activation. As for the specific versions, I believe that both versions should run on Server 2019.


  40. this has been implemented. We have now run into a problem where we have MFA enabled, creating a user profile on terminal server 2019. Outlook shows the user address. When I hit Ok, it was supposed to go to MFA pop up (asking for more information). This fails. It goes straight to ‘troubleshoot’
    I’ve removed user MFA from Azure admin portal, waited for global replication and tried creating profile again, still same result. I have tried creating the profile manually from Control panel – Mail, Cert error appears. Cert is valid.

  41. Hi Mayson,

    This sounds like an issue specific to your environment. The only error or information provided is that a certificate error is occurring. I’d recommend making sure that any HTTPS scanning exceptions are configured for access to Microsoft’s activation servers.


  42. Trying to deploy this , switching from 2019 to 365.
    Outlook profiles are not loading. Had you seen this before?

  43. Hi Moises,

    I have not seen that before. Are the profiles and user data still in tact?


  44. Hi Stephen,

    We have a 2019RDS environment. The activation is working properly but we have an issue with our profiles. We are using roaming profiles but every time the user logs out and back in they have to re-enter their password (popup from microsoft). Is there a way we can safe this so we do not need to insert the password every time we login?

  45. Hi Mark,

    It sounds like there’s an issue for Office Activation if it’s prompting on each login. It also might not be saving their Office profiles properly. I’d recommend reading my blog post on Office 365 with SCA and confirm it’s configured properly as it sounds like there may be a misconfiguration on your side.


  46. Hi Stephen, The activation is working once you login but it does not save the credentials in RDS2019. I assume it is not saving the Office profiles properly. I have taken the steps as you described in SCA but unfortunately this is a time consuming and frustrating issue. Have you got any other tips you can share?

  47. Hi Mark,

    If it’s prompting for credentials, that means the activation is not functioning properly.

    There’s a few things to consider:
    1) SCA is not working, not configured, or not able to locate the roaming activation token.
    2) You have not configured the GPOs to auto-login the users using their Office 365 credentials.
    3) Azure AD Connect is not functioning properly or needs to be configured for SSO.

    Have you verified that the roaming profile tokens are being created and used? As a user, can you browse to where the token is stored and confirm its there?


  48. i did the installation of 0ffice 365 in my two RDS servers (we have a RDS farm with two servers), the account i used to do the O365 installation holds a premium license. I did the installation using the office deployment tool and enabled shared activation. User with standard office license get prompted for activation constantly. Does every user that wants to use office app needs to have a premium license?

  49. Hi Luis,

    Yes, every user using SCA requires a proper license that supports SCA.


  50. These instructions are spot on. Thanks

  51. Hi Stephen,
    Do you have any experience with per device licensing for Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise. Found an article from Microsoft regarding this ( I want to use this kind of licensing to deploy a single RDP server for 10+ users without upgrading to business premium plan. Do you Have any experience with this and know if it will work?

  52. Hi Stephen,
    I’m thinking of using device-based licensing for Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise to deploy a single RDP server for 10+ user to connect and have access to office programs. Do you have any experience with type of deployment?

  53. This and the subsequent GPO config guide helped me resolve an unpleasant surprise within an hour. Thanks Stephen!

  54. So I only need one license that supports shared machine activation and then each user can have a business basic license to use it on the RDS server?

  55. Hi Marlow, that is incorrect. Each user requires a license that is supported with SCA and RDS deployments.

  56. Great writeup, thank you, very helpful

  57. I have some issue on WIndows Server 2012R2 x64, what i know from your site M365 Business Premium allow to use and install when system use RDS. But unfortunately I get error after run setup (not enough disk space or lack of internet). I try with x64 and x86. What is important according to MS Microsoft 365 Business Premium have O365BusinessRetail product ID and in my opinion it’s not allowed to install that kind of product to install on servers.

    When I change product ID to O365ProPlusRetail then setup ends with success. I don’t know if in this scenario I can activate Office with Business Premium subscription. Right now I can’t check it because we didn’t bought it (yet).

    Also additional question, M365 since 2020 January not support Windows Server2012R2, what this mean? No updates?

  58. Hi Jacek,

    With M365 not being supported on Windows Server 2012, that means that they do not guarantee that the product will work properly on the platform, and that you may experience issues and that it’s not recommended to run it on that. There’s a chance that this is why you’re having issues installing it. Additionally, Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 are reaching their own End of Life in October 2023 (this year), so technically you should be migrating to a newer supported version ASAP.

    As for the versions: Yes, you should be able to deploy Microsoft 365 Business Premium on RDS (and VDI). I’m not sure what’s causing the issues in your environment. Are you using the ODT tool to deploy it?

    Keep in mind that the issue is because you’re attempting to run it in an unsupported configuration.


  59. “Windows Server 2012 R2 are reaching their own End of Life in October 2023 (this year)” – yes I’m aware of that and we are preparing for migration to Windows Server 2022.

    “Are you using the ODT tool to deploy it?” – yes I use that tool with both product ID’s, maybe I hade some error in XML file, because after change from O365ProPlusRetail to O365BusinessRetail setup was finished with success.

    “that means that they do not guarantee that the product will work properly on the platform, and that you may experience issues and that it’s not recommended to run it on that” – thanks for explanation, we plan to use it with ERP system (export data, simple filtering, simple formulas etc), so I think there should not apears any errors (hope so).

    I wait for reply from our software supplier, to be 100% sure, that Business Premium allow to use on RDS. One more time thanks for your help!

  60. Would it be possible to combine Microsoft 365 Business Basic & Microsoft 365-apps for business for each user? It would save about €5 per user per month compared to Microsoft 365 Business Premium.

  61. Hi Eugene,

    Unfortunately for SCA, you’ll need Microsoft 365 Business Premium at a minimum.


  62. Thanks for clearing that up! Licenses are always a challenge. With a small 3 full time and 2 part time employee business running a local RDS server with Office 365 (premium) is still cheaper than going full cloud. Being too small and too big at the same time is kinda annoying sometimes πŸ˜‰ Hopefully the cloud gets better at scaling and understanding medium businesses for what they are.

    Anyways, great site with nice tutorials!

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