Don’t Get Blindsided by this Microsoft Rule Change

Home IT Asset Management Original Content Software

by | April 7, 2016

Microsoft is tightening its rules for licensing Windows in a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). In particular, it is eliminating a Windows licensing option called roaming rights.

Virtual desktops are a frequent source of disputes in license audits, so don’t wait. If your organization uses Microsoft VDI technologies, you need to assess your potential exposure to the new rules and rethink how you will license, control access to, and budget for virtual desktops now.

What are Virtual Desktops, and why are they used?

Many organizations deploy a virtual desktop infrastructure from vendors such as Citrix or VMware. Virtual desktops run Microsoft’s Windows operating system and applications (such as Office and line-of-business applications) in virtual machines hosted on servers and accessed remotely from terminals or other client devices.

Virtual desktops are deployed for several reasons: for example, many organizations use them to increase security, because the organization’s data can be kept within the data center where the virtual desktops run on centrally managed and secured servers.

Old Rule

Customers who bought certain Windows-related licenses with Software Assurance received Roaming Rights for Windows that were useful with virtual desktops.

Roaming Rights permitted unlicensed devices to access a virtual desktop under certain conditions. For example, a user whose work PC was licensed for Windows Enterprise with Software Assurance was allowed to use a home computer to access a virtual desktop. This was often useful for working from home and other off-site locations.

New Rule

Roaming Rights are being phased out, with termination occurring sometime between Jan. 31, 2017, and Jan. 31, 2019, depending on the type of license agreement and the termination date of that agreement.

What Can You Do?

As I mentioned before, virtual desktop compliance mistakes are a favorite target for Microsoft’s auditors. Here’s how to make certain you aren’t caught in their snare:

  1. Figure out how much time you have to prepare.

For example, an organization that renewed an EA in Feb. 2016 can continue to exercise the Roaming Rights that are part of that agreement, until the close of that agreement in Jan. 31, 2019. However, an organization renewing an EA in Mar. 2016 retains Roaming Rights only until Jan. 31, 2017.

  1. Rethink how you license and control access to virtual desktops.

With the removal of the Roaming Rights SA benefit, organizations have two choices:

Stick with Per-Device licenses. This approach requires the organization to block unlicensed devices from access to virtual desktops.

Transition to Per-User licenses. This approach requires your organization to buy the Windows Enterprise edition Per-User Upgrade or Per-User Virtual Desktop Access licenses (as applicable) for all users who access virtual desktops. In this case, you should then restrict virtual desktop access to only those users with these Per-User licenses.

  1. Rework your budget.

Per-User licensing is often the only realistic way to achieve full license compliance. On a per-unit basis, Per-User licenses are more expensive than their Per-Device license counterparts. The best policy is to alert your CIO and CFO about the upcoming price increase as far in advance as possible.


We’ve prepared a quick overview of Microsoft’s new VDI roaming rights policy, when it applies, and your options for dealing with it. You can request your complimentary copy here:

Or, if you want to quickly get up-to-speed on all the new Microsoft licensing rules and learn best practices for staying compliant without overbuying, register for one of our intensive, two-day Microsoft Licensing Boot Camps:


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

ITAM Channel brings the best news and views from the ITAM industry. Sign up for the newsletter and get them straight to your inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!