In this article, we’ll look at the specifics of preparing and installing Office 365 (Microsoft 365) on a terminal server with the Remote Desktop Services (RDS) role for simultaneous use by multiple users. Office 365 ProPlus co-activation mode is used in RDS, VDI solutions, and in scenarios where several users take turns using one shared computer.
By default, a Microsoft 365 Apps license allows a user to install and activate Office 365 on a maximum of 5 devices. However, there are scenarios when a user does not have a personal computer and has to constantly work under his account on different computers (RDS, VDI hosts, shared computers, etc.). In order not to take into account the limit on the number of activations of Office 365 licenses for a user, you can install Office 365 on such computers, RDS servers in the shared computer activation mode.
- First of all, you need to keep in mind that the following Office 365 licenses (subscriptions) with desktop virtualization support are suitable for use on a terminal (RDS) server: Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise (aka Office 365 ProPlus), Office 365 E3 or Office 365 E5 ;
- Users must log in to a shared computer (RDS server) using their accounts to which Microsoft 365 Apps licenses are linked;
- The Remote Desktop Services role must be installed and configured on your server (this can be a stand-alone server or a server in an RDS farm with a Connection Broker). The RDS host must target the RDS licensing server, and the licensing server must have enough User or Device RDS CALs.
- All previous versions of Microsoft Office must be uninstalled before installing Office 365 ProPlus.
Installing Office 365 ProPlus on an RDS server in shared mode is performed from the command line using a special XML configuration file.
We have already said that to install modern versions of MS Office (Office 365 and Office 2019), instead of MSI installers, the Click-to-run (C2R) installation method is used. C2R Installer downloads installation files from the Internet (from the Microsoft Network CDN)
For custom installation of C2R versions of Office, you need to use a special deployment utility Microsoft Office Deployment Tool (ODT) — https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=49117.
Download and install officedeploymenttool… Sample XML files for configuring installation options for Office 365 and Office 2019 Enterprise packages appear in the installation directory, as well as the C2R installation file, setup.exe.
In the configuration file configuration-Office365-x64.xml, you can specify which Office 365 products to install. By default, all applications are installed, you cannot install certain Office applications from the graphical Click2Run Installer (more about this in the article “How to selectively install a separate application in Office 365/2019/2016”).
You can manually set the desired Office installation options in the configuration-Office365-x64.xml configuration file. However, it is much easier to generate XML with the desired installation parameters using Microsoft’s web tool – https://config.office.com/ (Office Customization Tool). Go to this page, select the settings for installing Office (architecture, language, which programs to install, whether you need to install Visio and Office, and a number of other settings). Be sure to under Licensing and Activation select Product activation – Shared Computer.
Save the resulting XML file as office365proplus_shared_rds.xml and open it in any text editor.
This XML file specifies the installation parameters for Office 365. Note the following parameter:
<Property Name="SharedComputerLicensing" Value="1" />
This parameter (co-activation of a computer) must be specified if you plan to use a copy of Office 365 for simultaneous work of several users (RDS server, VDI computer, shared computer, or regular Windows with the possibility of simultaneous RDP access). Without this setting, you only have to activate Office 365 for one user.
Put the RDS server in the application installation mode:
change user /install
change logon /drain
To install Office 365 on the RDS server according to the data specified in the configuration file, use the command:
setup /configure office365proplus_shared_rds.xml
Please note that in our case, the Office 365 C2R installer will download all necessary files from the Internet. However, you can pre-download the Office 365 installation files to a network location on your server file and use that as the source for the installation files. In this case, you can specify the installation source in the XML file.
Replace the line
<Add OfficeClientEdition="64" Channel="Current">
<Add SourcePath="\msk-fs01DistrOffice365" Add OfficeClientEdition="64" Channel="Current">
After finishing the installation, put the RDS host into normal mode:
change user /execute
How is an Office 365 user license activated? Each user will be prompted to sign in to their Office 365 account (email and password) the first time they launch any Office application. If you have set up synchronization between Office 365 (Azure Active Directory) and on-premises Active Directory, then if a user is logged on to a computer with an account that is already assigned a license in Office 365, their license is automatically activated.
Such user will receive a license token from the Office Licensing Service online activation servers with a validity period of 30 days. After 30 days, Office 365 will try to automatically renew the license token.
If you installed Office 365 without the SharedComputerLicensing XML option, you can change the Office365 installation type from the registry to re-arrange the entire package. To do this, in the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SOFTWARE Microsoft Office ClickToRun Configuration, change the Reg_SZ value of the SharedComputerLicensing parameter to 1.
Or enable a separate Group Policy setting Use shared computer activation from the Office Administrative GPO Templates under. Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Microsoft Office 2016 (Computer) -> License Settings.
If you do not do this, then when you start Office 365 applications, second users will receive an error:
This copy of Microsoft Office cannot be used on a computer running Terminal Services. To use Office on a computer running Terminal Services, you must use a Volume License of Office.