One thing you will notice if you are deploying Cloud PCs is that the Enrollment Status Page (ESP) from Windows Autopilot will or might appear when a machine is being set up. I’ve seen numerous instances where the ESP has failed causing the Cloud PC to lock out the user at the initial start. This is usually fixed by reprovisioning, but an unnecessary call to the service desk can cause frustration with your users and your administrators.
The ESP is not an important part of the Windows 365 provisioning in most cases, hence it can be disabled by a custom policy.
Create the policy
To create a custom configuration policy, go to the Microsoft Endpoint Manager admin center (endpoint.microsoft.com) and navigate to Devices > Windows > Configurations Profiles.
Select to create a new profile and select Custom as template.
Give your profile a name based on your naming convention and press Next.
Select to target All devices, but filtered to only target Windows 365 devices. You can read more about how to do that in this blog post about filters.
Finish the wizard by clicking Next until you reach the last step, then click Create.
You have now successfully created a configuration profile that will skip the ESP for all your Cloud PCs.
The ESP is something that in Windows Autopilot is very useful, but for Windows 365 it’s not crucial. This will also reduce the risk of random errors during provisioning.
Applications that are needed before the user starts working can be assigned using the assignments to “All Devices” and filter out your Cloud PCs since this will evaluate a lot faster than Azure AD groups.
There are a few ways you can access your Cloud PC. You probably have your favorite way to access your Cloud PC, but I though I would go through them all and the benefits with each.
Microsoft has also announced an upcoming Windows 11 feature called Windows 365 Switch which will be a native Windows 365 app in Windows 11. I will not cover that in this post since it’s yet to be released at the time of this blogpost.
Connecting to your Cloud PC through the browser is in my humble opinion the coolest way, and really convenient since you can then access your computer from what ever device you are using without any issues (as long as the browser is a modern browser like Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox). Okay, not any device, but Windows-, macOS-, ChromeOS-, or Linux-based device.
You access the Windows 365 service through https://windows365.microsoft.com and sign in with your account.
In this portal, you will see all Cloud PCs assigned to you.
To connect to the Cloud PC, you simply press “Open in browser” and the Cloud PC will open in a new tab.
You can also perform some remote tasks on the Cloud PC such as restart, restore, rename or troubleshoot. Or see System information.
The restart is exactly what it sounds like, you will remotely restart your Cloud PC. Restore can be used to go back to a previous point in time (I cover that in this blogpost).
Rename option will allow you to give your Cloud PC a new friendly name instead of the generated name.
If you as an end-user are experiencing issues with connecting to your Cloud PC, you can use Troubleshoot to see what’s causing the issues. It will check that the service is healthy and that there aren’t any connectivity issues.
If you click the “System information”, you will see some details about your Cloud PC such as device name and license.
Remote Desktop app
Working with your Cloud PC everyday, I would say that this is the best option to connect.
Simply download the Remote Desktop app from Microsoft for your desired operating system. For Windows I would suggest to use the desktop version and not the Microsoft Store version, the desktop version works a little bit smoother in my experience.
One thing that is good to keep in mind is that if you are using macOS, you cannot currently have multiple accounts in the Remote Desktop app.
When you have downloaded and installed the application and start it for the first time, you will be asked to sign in. Sign in with you account and the resources you have assigned to you will be added. These could be Windows 365 resources, but also Azure Virtual Desktop resources and published apps.
As you can see by the picture, running the app in Windows I can have multiple accounts and resources in the same place, giving me easy access to several environment.
To launch the Cloud PC, I simply dubble click on the computer icon, provide my credentials and I’m signed in.
I can choose to run this in a full screen experience or a windowed experience depending on my personal preferences.
Using the Remote Desktop app, you don’t get all the remote features as you do in the web-portal, but you have easier access to your Cloud PC on a daily basis.
Lastly, mobile app. There is a Remote Desktop app available for iPhone/iPad and Android devices which can be used to connect to your Cloud PC. I will show some screen shots from and iPhone which is maybe not the smoothest way to work with the Cloud PC due to the screen size. For this, and iPad would be a much better option.
To connect, click the + sign at the top right corner and select “Add workspace“. You will need to enter the subscription URL found here and then sign in with your account. One thing to keep in mind with the mobile app is that you can only have one account associated with the workspace, so no support for multiple accounts.
Once you have signed in, you will see all resources which are assigned to this account.
To connect, simply tap on the computer you which to connect to and enter your credentials when asked to and you will be connected to your Cloud PC.
You can now use your Cloud PC from your mobile device, and keep working where you left your desktop! This is a great option when you have to check something on the go, to simply just connect to your Cloud PC.
Feature vice, the mobile app is pretty limited but you can easily connect to your desktop. If you have a larger screen, the experience will be better so an iPad or Android tablet with a keyboard would be ideal even though it works surprisingly well using an iPhone as you can zoom in and out if needed.
One pretty neat feature with virtual clients is that you can have restore-points. If you have ever used Hyper-V, you have probably used or seen the checkpoints which you could use to go back to a previous state. This kind of feature is available in other virtualization platforms as well, but Hyper-V is the one I’m familiar with. Citrix, being an old player in the VDI game, also offers this feature.
The restore point option is now also available for Windows 365 and your Cloud PC. Meaning that if you mess something up or manage to delete something really important you had stored locally, you can roll your device back to a previous state. Please be aware that this is stilla preview feature, so the final feature might not be the exact same things as shown in this post.
You can restore either as an admin, or have your end-user do the action. To allow your end-users to do this, you need to configure this setting.
If you enable this for your users, they can restore on a much tighter intervall than you can as an admin. You as an admin have 12 hour restore points, but you can configure for your end-users to be able to configure to have restore points every 4 hours.
Of course, if a backup is restored from a restore point, any data stored on the Cloud PC between the current time and restore point time will be lost.
Setting up user initiated restore
To configure the restore point service, navigate to Devices > Windows 365 and select the User Settings tab.
Press “+ Add” and give your profile a name.
In the “Point in time restore service” part of the profile, check the check-box for “Allow user to initiate restore service” and then select the frequency for your restore points.
Hit Next and assign your profile to a group of users, I’m assigning it to the group I’m using for my provisioning profile.
Press next to review your settings and than create the profile.
The user restore point service will only be available to users included in the group you have assigned the profile to.
Restoring as an admin
As an admin, you can restore Cloud PCs on a 12 hour interval. You can restore the Cloud PC by going to Devices > Windows > Windows devices and find your Cloud PC.
Once looking at the device, you can choose “Restore (preview)” from the ribbon and it will show you all available store points.
Once you click “Select” and confirm that you want to restore, the restore is initiated. If you look under Devices > Windows 365 and the All Cloud PCs tab, you will see that restore is in progress.
To initiate a restore, I simply click the gear icon on the Cloud PC I want to restore and select “Restore (preview)“.
Once I click that, I get this screen telling me as an end-user what will happen and I need to confirm that I really want to restore and then select which point.
Once I’ve clicked restore the Cloud PC will get a banner saying “Restoring Cloud PC” and which indicates that the process has started. I will see the same thing if a administrator has initiated a restore for me as well.
Once the restore has completed, my Cloud PC is ready to use again and will contain the same data as it did at the point in time of the restore point I selected.
Updated on the 25 of September 2022 due to new functionality released to downgrade Cloud PCs
As you might know, the size of a Cloud PC is based on the license you have purchased and assigned to a user. However, sometimes you might assign a too small machine for a user which is causing performance issues for them. It could also be the other way around, that the user has a too powerful machine, which drives an increased cost for your organisation.
How your Cloud PC is performing is measured and presented to you under Reports > Endpoint Analytics in the Microsoft Endpoint Manager admin center (MEM). The report called Resource performance will show you how your Cloud PCs are performing, and if you need to upgrade any of them. (Note that it will take up to 24 hours before you can see data on your Cloud PC)
As you can see, the top two machines have a very low performance score, and if you look at the individual machines they have different needs for an upgrade, one needs more RAM and the other a better CPU.
There are however two caveats to re-sizing a machine.
You can upgrade or downgrade (only upgrade, not downgrade)
If you are using group-based licensing, this does not work
You can not resize Azure AD joined Cloud PCs
The benefit to resizing a Cloud PC compared to just assigning a larger license to the user is that the Cloud PC will remain, just the specification will be upgraded. So all user data is preserved, however, the user will get kicked out of the session while the resizing is happening.
Resize a Cloud PC
Resizing a machine is really simple, you simply navigate to the device in MEM and click the “Resize (preview)” button in the ribbon.
When you have clicked this button, a fly-out menu will open to the left showing you the different sizes. You will be able to see all sizes, but you can only select and apply the size that you have licenses for, so if you select a size you don’t have licenses for it will show an error message as in the picture below and you cannot continue.
You can upgrade vCPU, RAM, and disk space. However, you are limited to only downgrading vCPU and RAM, disk space will not be possible to decrease.
When you have selected the new license through the resizing portal and clicked Resize, the machine will re-provision itself which will take a while.
Once the machine has been reprovisioned, you will notice that you have the same stuff on your Cloud PC as before the resizing but with a different configuration.
So you have decided to get going with Windows 365 Enterprise? There are a few steps we need to take care of before you can start consuming the future!
What you will need:
Windows 365 licenses
Microsoft Endpoint Manager
Microsoft 365 licenses of some sort
An Azure subscription if you want to use an Azure V-net and not the Microsoft hosted network – optional
Windows 365 is a great way to get started with virtual clients, and it’s actually pretty simple to get going and administrate compared to Azure Virtual Desktop.
Windows 365 licenses
The first thing you need to take care of is obtaining Windows 365 licenses through your licensing partner or where you usually get your licenses. I will leave that one up to you!
There are several different licenses for Windows 365, and there is also a business version that I will not cover in this blog post.
Windows 365 licensing is based on what “size” of a machine you want, basically how many CPUs, the amount of RAM memory, and disk size. As I’m writing this, there are 3 different SKUs of CPUs you can select from (2, 4, and 8). In each SKU of CPUs, there are a few different options in RAM memory and disk size as you can see in the picture below. There is also actually a 1 vCPU version, but that one does not support Windows 11 so I wouldn’t recommend getting that one.
Selecting the correct size of the machine might be a little bit tricky, but Microsoft has actually created a simple cheat sheet you can use to get a feeling of what license to buy which you can find here Windows 365 size recommendations | Microsoft Docs. It’s actually a great guide to get a sense of what size to choose.
One great thing with Windows 365 is that you can upgrade the machines by upgrading the license assigned to the user. However, this does not work if you are using group-based licensing to assign licenses.
Licenses are assigned the same way you assign other Microsoft 365 licenses, either through the Microsoft 365 Admin center or the Azure AD, I will cover this further down
Microsoft Endpoint Manager setup
In Microsoft Endpoint Manager, navigate to Devices > Windows 365 which has now been enabled for you since you have purchased licenses.
To get going with a really basic setup using Azure AD joined and Microsoft hosted network, you only need to create a Provisioning policy and then you are ready.
Click on the Provisioning policies tab and select “+ Create policy”.
On the General step, give your policy a name and select which join type you want, in this example, I will use the Azure AD join and use a Microsoft Hosted network in Western Europe. Please do notice that Azure AD join is still in preview.
When you press next, you will get to select what image you will use. You can either use a gallery image or a custom image, and I will in this example use a gallery image by selecting Gallery image in the drop-down menu and then pressing select. I then get a list of all the available images in the gallery, and also the recommended size/license for each image. I select the image I want, in this case, the Windows 11 image, and press select followed by next.
The next step is to select the region and language for your machine. The default selection is English (United States). In this example, we will leave that to English and press next.
The next step is to assign this to a group of users. I’ve created an Azure AD group which I will assign this to called Windows 365 user, which I will use for my users located in Western Europe since my provisioning policy is creating a Cloud PC in the Western Europe Azure region.
After pressing next we can now review our settings and press Create.
There are a few ways of assigning licenses to a user, but in this instance, I will do this from within Microsoft Endpoint Manager.
Search and find the user you want to assign a license to by going to Users > All users on the left side navigation three.
When you have found your user, click on their name then select Licenses to see what licenses they have assigned.
By selecting “+ Assignments” we can add or remove licenses from the user. In this case, we want to add our Windows 365 license which you do by checking the checkbox next to the license, then pressing Save.
You have now successfully assigned a Windows 365 license to your user!
Make sure your user is a member of your provisioning policy group which we selected earlier. When you head back to Devices > Windows 365 and select the All Cloud PCs tab you can see that the provisioning process has started.
Assign configuration profiles and compliance policies
While we are waiting for our Cloud PCs to be provisioned, this usually takes a while, we can go ahead and make sure that we are assigning our configuration policies towards the Cloud PCs. We can either create new ones, specifically for the Cloud PCs, or reuse our existing ones. Since in this case, I’m treating a Cloud PC as any other PC, I will reuse the profiles I already have created for my physical PCs.
If you are assigning configuration profiles and compliance policies towards “All devices” you do not need to do anything. If you are using filters, you need to update your filters to also include Windows 365.
The first thing we need to do is to create a device group that dynamically adds our Cloud PCs by going to Groups in the left side menu and creating a new dynamic group.
We want to add a query looking for devices where the Device model contains “Cloud PC Enterprise”.
The query could look like this:
(device.deviceModel -contains "Cloud PC Enterprise")
When you have added your rule. Save the group and let’s head over to Devices > Windows and add that group to our configuration profiles and compliance policies where we target devices. We can also assign any applications which we deploy to devices using this group.