Supported identities and authentication methods

In this article, we'll give you a brief overview of what kinds of identities and authentication methods you can use in Azure Virtual Desktop.

Identities

Azure Virtual Desktop supports different types of identities depending on which configuration you choose. This section explains which identities you can use for each configuration.

Important

Azure Virtual Desktop doesn't support signing in to Microsoft Entra ID with one user account, then signing in to Windows with a separate user account. Signing in with two different accounts at the same time can lead to users reconnecting to the wrong session host, incorrect or missing information in the Azure portal, and error messages appearing while using MSIX app attach.

On-premises identity

Since users must be discoverable through Microsoft Entra ID to access the Azure Virtual Desktop, user identities that exist only in Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) aren't supported. This includes standalone Active Directory deployments with Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS).

Hybrid identity

Azure Virtual Desktop supports hybrid identities through Microsoft Entra ID, including those federated using AD FS. You can manage these user identities in AD DS and sync them to Microsoft Entra ID using Microsoft Entra Connect. You can also use Microsoft Entra ID to manage these identities and sync them to Microsoft Entra Domain Services.

When accessing Azure Virtual Desktop using hybrid identities, sometimes the User Principal Name (UPN) or Security Identifier (SID) for the user in Active Directory (AD) and Microsoft Entra ID don't match. For example, the AD account user@contoso.local may correspond to user@contoso.com in Microsoft Entra ID. Azure Virtual Desktop only supports this type of configuration if either the UPN or SID for both your AD and Microsoft Entra ID accounts match. SID refers to the user object property "ObjectSID" in AD and "OnPremisesSecurityIdentifier" in Microsoft Entra ID.

Cloud-only identity

Azure Virtual Desktop supports cloud-only identities when using Microsoft Entra joined VMs. These users are created and managed directly in Microsoft Entra ID.

Note

You can also assign hybrid identities to Azure Virtual Desktop Application groups that host Session hosts of join type Microsoft Entra joined.

Third-party identity providers

If you're using an Identity Provider (IdP) other than Microsoft Entra ID to manage your user accounts, you must ensure that:

External identity

Azure Virtual Desktop currently doesn't support external identities.

Service authentication

To access Azure Virtual Desktop resources, you must first authenticate to the service by signing in with a Microsoft Entra account. Authentication happens whenever you subscribe to a workspace to retrieve your resources and connect to apps or desktops. You can use third-party identity providers as long as they federate with Microsoft Entra ID.

Multifactor authentication

Follow the instructions in Enforce Microsoft Entra multifactor authentication for Azure Virtual Desktop using Conditional Access to learn how to enforce Microsoft Entra multifactor authentication for your deployment. That article will also tell you how to configure how often your users are prompted to enter their credentials. When deploying Microsoft Entra joined VMs, note the extra steps for Microsoft Entra joined session host VMs.

Passwordless authentication

You can use any authentication type supported by Microsoft Entra ID, such as Windows Hello for Business and other passwordless authentication options (for example, FIDO keys), to authenticate to the service.

Smart card authentication

To use a smart card to authenticate to Microsoft Entra ID, you must first configure AD FS for user certificate authentication or configure Microsoft Entra certificate-based authentication.

Session host authentication

If you haven't already enabled single sign-on or saved your credentials locally, you'll also need to authenticate to the session host when launching a connection. The following list describes which types of authentication each Azure Virtual Desktop client currently supports. Some clients might require a specific version to be used, which you can find in the link for each authentication type.

Client Supported authentication type(s)
Windows Desktop client Username and password
Smart card
Windows Hello for Business certificate trust
Windows Hello for Business key trust with certificates
Microsoft Entra authentication
Azure Virtual Desktop Store app Username and password
Smart card
Windows Hello for Business certificate trust
Windows Hello for Business key trust with certificates
Microsoft Entra authentication
Remote Desktop app Username and password
Web client Username and password
Microsoft Entra authentication
Android client Username and password
Microsoft Entra authentication
iOS client Username and password
Microsoft Entra authentication
macOS client Username and password
Smart card: support for smart card-based sign in using smart card redirection at the Winlogon prompt when NLA is not negotiated.
Microsoft Entra authentication

Important

In order for authentication to work properly, your local machine must also be able to access the required URLs for Remote Desktop clients.

Single sign-on (SSO)

SSO allows the connection to skip the session host credential prompt and automatically sign the user in to Windows. For session hosts that are Microsoft Entra joined or Microsoft Entra hybrid joined, it's recommended to enable SSO using Microsoft Entra authentication. Microsoft Entra authentication provides other benefits including passwordless authentication and support for third-party identity providers.

Azure Virtual Desktop also supports SSO using Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) for the Windows Desktop and web clients.

Without SSO, the client will prompt users for their session host credentials for every connection. The only way to avoid being prompted is to save the credentials in the client. We recommend you only save credentials on secure devices to prevent other users from accessing your resources.

Smart card and Windows Hello for Business

Azure Virtual Desktop supports both NT LAN Manager (NTLM) and Kerberos for session host authentication, however Smart card and Windows Hello for Business can only use Kerberos to sign in. To use Kerberos, the client needs to get Kerberos security tickets from a Key Distribution Center (KDC) service running on a domain controller. To get tickets, the client needs a direct networking line-of-sight to the domain controller. You can get a line-of-sight by connecting directly within your corporate network, using a VPN connection or setting up a KDC Proxy server.

In-session authentication

Once you're connected to your RemoteApp or desktop, you may be prompted for authentication inside the session. This section explains how to use credentials other than username and password in this scenario.

In-session passwordless authentication

Azure Virtual Desktop supports in-session passwordless authentication using Windows Hello for Business or security devices like FIDO keys when using the Windows Desktop client. Passwordless authentication is enabled automatically when the session host and local PC are using the following operating systems:

To disable passwordless authentication on your host pool, you must customize an RDP property. You can find the WebAuthn redirection property under the Device redirection tab in the Azure portal or set the redirectwebauthn property to 0 using PowerShell.

When enabled, all WebAuthn requests in the session are redirected to the local PC. You can use Windows Hello for Business or locally attached security devices to complete the authentication process.

To access Microsoft Entra resources with Windows Hello for Business or security devices, you must enable the FIDO2 Security Key as an authentication method for your users. To enable this method, follow the steps in Enable FIDO2 security key method.

In-session smart card authentication

To use a smart card in your session, make sure you've installed the smart card drivers on the session host and enabled smart card redirection. Review the client comparison chart to make sure your client supports smart card redirection.

Next steps