Features and licenses for Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication

To protect user accounts in your organization, multi-factor authentication should be used. This feature is especially important for accounts that have privileged access to resources. Basic multi-factor authentication features are available to Microsoft 365 and Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) users and global administrators for no extra cost. If you want to upgrade the features for your admins or extend multi-factor authentication to the rest of your users with more authentication methods and greater control, you can purchase Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication in several ways.


This article details the different ways that Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication can be licensed and used. For specific details about pricing and billing, see the Azure AD pricing page.

Available versions of Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication

Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication can be used, and licensed, in a few different ways depending on your organization's needs. All tenants are entitled to basic multifactor authentication features via Security Defaults. You may already be entitled to use advanced Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication depending on the Azure AD, EMS, or Microsoft 365 license you currently have. For example, the first 50,000 monthly active users in Azure AD External Identities can use MFA and other Premium P1 or P2 features for free. For more information, see Azure Active Directory External Identities pricing.

The following table details the different ways to get Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication and some of the features and use cases for each.

If you're a user of Capabilities and use cases
Microsoft 365 Business Premium and EMS or Microsoft 365 E3 and E5 EMS E3, Microsoft 365 E3, and Microsoft 365 Business Premium includes Azure AD Premium P1. EMS E5 or Microsoft 365 E5 includes Azure AD Premium P2. You can use the same Conditional Access features noted in the following sections to provide multi-factor authentication to users.
Azure AD Premium P1 You can use Azure AD Conditional Access to prompt users for multi-factor authentication during certain scenarios or events to fit your business requirements.
Azure AD Premium P2 Provides the strongest security position and improved user experience. Adds risk-based Conditional Access to the Azure AD Premium P1 features that adapts to user's patterns and minimizes multi-factor authentication prompts.
All Microsoft 365 plans Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication can be enabled all users using security defaults. Management of Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication is through the Microsoft 365 portal. For an improved user experience, upgrade to Azure AD Premium P1 or P2 and use Conditional Access. For more information, see secure Microsoft 365 resources with multi-factor authentication.
Office 365 free
Azure AD free
You can use security defaults to prompt users for multi-factor authentication as needed but you don't have granular control of enabled users or scenarios, but it does provide that additional security step.
Even when security defaults aren't used to enable multi-factor authentication for everyone, users assigned the Azure AD Global Administrator role can be configured to use multi-factor authentication. This feature of the free tier makes sure the critical administrator accounts are protected by multi-factor authentication.

Feature comparison based on licenses

The following table provides a list of the features that are available in the various versions of Azure AD for Multi-Factor Authentication. Plan out your needs for securing user authentication, then determine which approach meets those requirements. For example, although Azure AD Free provides security defaults that provide Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication, only the mobile authenticator app can be used for the authentication prompt, not a phone call or SMS. This approach may be a limitation if you can't ensure the mobile authentication app is installed on a user's personal device. See Azure AD Free tier later in this topic for more details.

Feature Azure AD Free - Security defaults (enabled for all users) Azure AD Free - Global Administrators only Office 365 Azure AD Premium P1 Azure AD Premium P2
Protect Azure AD tenant admin accounts with MFA ● (Azure AD Global Administrator accounts only)
Mobile app as a second factor
Phone call as a second factor
SMS as a second factor
Admin control over verification methods
Fraud alert
MFA Reports
Custom greetings for phone calls
Custom caller ID for phone calls
Trusted IPs
Remember MFA for trusted devices
MFA for on-premises applications
Conditional access
Risk-based conditional access

Compare multi-factor authentication policies

Our recommended approach to enforce MFA is using Conditional Access. Review the following table to determine the what capabilities are included in your licenses.

Policy Security defaults Conditional Access Per-user MFA
Standard set of security rules to keep your company safe
One-click on/off
Included in Office 365 licensing (See license considerations)
Pre-configured templates in Microsoft 365 Admin Center wizard
Configuration flexibility
Exempt users from the policy
Authenticate by phone call or SMS
Authenticate by Microsoft Authenticator and Software tokens
Authenticate by FIDO2, Windows Hello for Business, and Hardware tokens
Blocks legacy authentication protocols
New employees are automatically protected
Dynamic MFA triggers based on risk events
Authentication and authorization policies
Configurable based on location and device state
Support for "report only" mode
Ability to completely block users/services

Purchase and enable Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication

To use Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication, register for or purchase an eligible Azure AD tier. Azure AD comes in four editions—Free, Office 365, Premium P1, and Premium P2.

The Free edition is included with an Azure subscription. See the section below for information on how to use security defaults or protect accounts with the Azure AD Global Administrator role.

The Azure AD Premium editions are available through your Microsoft representative, the Open Volume License Program, and the Cloud Solution Providers program. Azure and Microsoft 365 subscribers can also buy Azure Active Directory Premium P1 and P2 online. Sign in to purchase.

After you have purchased the required Azure AD tier, plan and deploy Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication.

Azure AD Free tier

All users in an Azure AD Free tenant can use Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication by using security defaults. The mobile authentication app and SMS methods can be used for Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication when using Azure AD Free security defaults.

If you don't want to enable Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication for all users, you can instead choose to only protect user accounts with the Azure AD Global Administrator role. This approach provides more authentication prompts for critical administrator accounts. You enable Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication in one of the following ways, depending on the type of account you use:

Next steps