Change access levels

Go here to open the Visual Studio 2015 version of this topic.

Access levels allow groups of users to access features in Team Web Access (TWA) based on their license level when working in an on-premises deployment of Team Foundation Server (TFS). Certain features, such as authoring charts, test case management and team rooms, require Advanced access.

You only set access levels for on-premises TFS. For Visual Studio Online, account licenses control access to premium features.

As an administrator, you assign users or groups of users to one of the three levels of access—Basic, Advanced, and Stakeholder—based on the license that each user has. With the release of TFS 2013 Update 4, access level names have been renamed to align with Visual Studio Online license levels. Also, it’s important to note that service accounts are added to the default access level. If you set Stakeholder as the default access level, you must add the TFS service accounts to the Basic or Advanced group.

Access level

License required

Basic (previously Standard)

TFS client-access license (CAL) or Visual Studio Professional with MSDN subscription

Advanced (previously Full)

One of these MSDN subscriptions: Visual Studio Ultimate with MSDN, Visual Studio Premium with MSDN, MSDN Platforms, or Visual Studio Test Professional with MSDN.

Stakeholder (previously Limited)

No license required. Assign Stakeholder access to customers or stakeholders that you want to collaborate with but who aren’t on your team.

You can find out more about licensing from the Visual Studio and MSDN Licensing White Paper.

Add a user or group to an access level

If you’re managing access for a large group of users, a best practice is to first create either a Windows group or TFS group and add individual accounts to those groups.

  1. From the TFS home page (for example, http://myserver:8080/tfs), go to the server administration page.

    Go to the administration page

  2. Select the level and then add the user or group.

    Add the user or group

    If you don’t see the Access levels tab, you aren't a TFS administrator and don’t have permission. Here’s how to get permission.

Quick reference to access levels and features

The following table indicates which features users can access based on their access level. This information depends on your product version and is subject to change. These access levels reflect what is supported with TFS 2013.4 update. For a full comparison of products and features, go here.

Feature areas




View and edit all work items

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Standard Features (2)

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Agile boards

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Basic backlog and sprint planning tools

check mark(4)

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Agile Portfolio Management

check mark(3)

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Chart Viewing

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Chart Authoring

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Request and manage feedback

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Test case management

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Team rooms

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Administer account

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Advanced home page

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Advanced backlog and sprint planning tools

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Advanced portfolio management

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  1. With Stakeholder access, users can create and modify all work items, and can create and save queries on all work items under their My Queries folder. (This is a change from Limited access in which users could create and modify only those work items that they created and query and view work items they created.)

    Also, stakeholders can create and modify work items from Team Foundation clients such as Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Project, and Microsoft Feedback client.

  2. Standard features include access to the Home and Work hubs.

  3. Can view backlog pages and Kanban boards. Can add work items through the quick add panel, which are appear at the bottom of the list. Can’t move items on the page or use other features.

  4. Can view sprint pages and task boards. Can add work items, but can’t use other sprint planning tool features.

Basic access

With Basic access, you can manage work in a product backlog

Changing velocity changes forecast lines

…configure sprints with their own backlogs and task boards…

The sprint backlog shows items, tasks, and bugs

…and view work in progress on the Kanban board.

View of the Kanban board

Advanced access

Advanced access includes access to everything included with Basic access, plus additional features.

For example, with Advanced access, you can work with portfolio backlogs.

Drill down to backlog items, bugs, and tasks

You also have access to team rooms.

Team room with messages and links to events

And you can use web-based test case management tools.

New button in the test plan explorer pane

You can author charts to help your team visualize progress.

A view of 6 charts for a flat-list query

You can also request and manage feedback from customers.

Request feedback link on Home page

Stakeholder access

Users who have Stakeholder access can access team home pages, backlogs, and portfolio backlogs. They can view, create, and modify work items such as stories, features, bugs, and feedback responses. They can also view, create, and save queries and receive alerts when changes are made to work items.

Here’s what Stakeholder access looks like.

View work items that you have created

To learn more, see Work as a stakeholder.

To add a group of users to Stakeholder access

  1. Create either a Windows group or TFS group.

  2. Add the user accounts to the group you just created.

  3. Add the group to Stakeholder access.

    Limited access level, Add Windows user or group

Permissions and access levels

Of course, none of these levels of access expose information that you don’t have permission to view. Make sure your users have both the permissions and the access levels they need. If they’re members of the team, then they probably have the right permissions to use Basic and Advanced access.

Q & A

Q: Can I customize the Agile planning tools pages?

A: Yes. See Customize the Agile experience for a team project.

Q: What features are available to a user who belongs to two different groups?

A: If a user belongs to a group that has Basic access, and another group that has Advanced access, the user has access to all features available to Advanced access.

Q: Are service accounts assigned to an access level group?

A: By default service accounts are added to the default access level. If you make Stakeholder the default access level, you must add TFS service accounts to the Basic or Advanced group.

Q: Do service accounts require a license?

A: No. Service accounts don’t require a separate license.

Q: Where can I learn more about licensing and MSDN subscriptions?

A: You can find out more about licensing here.

Q: Where can I learn about the new features in TFS?

A: Learn all about what's new in TFS, Visual Studio, and ALM here.