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 is applies to when you want to install Office 365 to a shared virtual machine, or a golden image for VDI.

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 Office 365 ProPlus licensing


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

  • Office 365 ProPlus
  • Office 365 E3
  • Office 365 E5
  • Microsoft 365

All 4 of these products include Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus, which includes “Shared Computer Activation“.

Office 365 Business, Office 365 Business Premium, and Office 365 Business Essentials cannot be used as they do not include Office 365 ProPlus.

An exception is made for Microsoft 365, but doesn’t support enabling “Shared Computer Activation” via Group Policy Objects.

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:

Let me know if it worked for you, leave a comment!

  9 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! 🙂


  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.”

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