What’s The Difference Between Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD)?

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written by craig beam posted on August 24, 2021

Difference Between Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD)

Microsoft has three major releases lined up for 2021. By the end of the year, we’ll have Windows 365, Azure Virtual Desktop, and Windows 11. While there’s not much confusion about Windows 11, the other two products have people scratching their heads. To many users, Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop are basically the same thing.

Seeing as there is a lot of overlap between Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop, one would be forgiven for making this assumption. This post explores the differences and similarities between the two Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solutions products to clear up some of this confusion.

Windows 365 Azure Virtual Desktop

Windows 365 vs. Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD)

Let’s start with the basics.

What is Windows 365? Launching in mid-July 2021, Windows 365 is a cloud-based service that gives users access to the whole Windows OS experience via the internet. Just like Office 365 allowed users to access Microsoft Office on the web, Windows 365 is bringing the entire Windows operating system to the cloud.

What is Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD)? AVD is a desktop and app virtualization service that runs on the cloud. Microsoft launched Azure Virtual Desktop in June 2021 to replace Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD). AVD will deliver a virtual desktop experience and remote applications to any device and can be configured to run on enterprise versions of Windows.

As you can see, it’s easy to look at these products and think of them as the same thing. Both Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop are cloud versions of Windows, also referred to as Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS). DaaS allows your employees to access the Windows-based applications they already use remotely. Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) are Microsoft’s DaaS options.

Both DaaS solutions are based on an Azure Virtual Desktop control plane. They also run on the Azure cloud infrastructure. But that’s about as far as the similarities go. Now let’s look at the differences between Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) more closely.

Architecture and Compute

As stated in the previous section, Windows 365 and AVD share the same global control plane. They also run on top of the same Azure cloud architecture. However, there are a few differences in how each of these services is deployed.

Windows 365 is a cloud-based Virtual Machine (VM) dedicated to a single user on a permanent basis. Since Windows 365 cloud PCs run in Microsoft’s Azure subscription, the user does not incur compute costs. Licenses are based on a flat fee, no matter how little or how much they use their cloud PC. And because pricing is not based on usage, cost-saving concepts such as auto-scaling and reserved instances are not applicable.

AVDs, on the other hand, use session host virtual machines instead of cloud-based computers. Unlike a Windows 365 Cloud PC, AVDs can be used as both pooled desktops and personal computers. Since these virtual machines run in the customer’s Azure subscription, the user incurs the cost of compute. That also means you can use auto-scaling to drastically reduce the cost of VMs in an AVD environment.


One of the most significant differences between Windows 365 and AVD is the pricing model. Windows 365 offers fixed pricing, despite being a subscription-based service. Users pay a flat fee every month, which may vary depending on the Cloud PC configuration they choose. Conversely, Azure Virtual Desktop pricing is based on consumption.

In other words, you pay for the Azure resources that you consume, which means that pricing is variable. Your AVD rates will also fluctuate depending on whether you’re using a combination of apps and desktop services or just the apps. Additionally, the type of Windows 10 or 11 license you have may also affect your rates.

System Administration

In terms of flexibility, system administration varies significantly between Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop. System admins get far more flexibility with the latter. With Azure Virtual Desktop, system administrators can choose the type of network routing, security preferences, and the type of storage that best suits their needs. Choose AVD if you need more flexible settings for your session host VMs.

Windows 365, on the other hand, is designed to make the IT admin experience as simple as possible. It uses the same set of tools to manage existing physical desktop assets and virtual PCs. Therefore, system administration experience with Windows 365 is almost similar to managing standalone desktop computers. Choose Windows 365 if you are looking for a simple cloud service solution that doesn’t need ongoing professional maintenance.

End-user Experience

When it comes to the end-user experience, there’s not much difference between Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop. If you have experience with AVD, you’ll find Windows 365 familiar since it’s built on top of AVD infrastructure. Both AVD and Windows 365 even use the same client app to connect to VM sessions. The app is available for Windows, Android, iOS, and an HTML client.

The most significant difference between Microsoft 365 and AVD when it comes to end-user experience has to do with self-service capabilities. User self-service is significantly limited with AVD. For instance, users can’t log off a hung session or restart their own desktop VM via the Azure Virtual Desktop client app. With Windows 365 cloud PCs, end users can restart their VMs without contacting customer support.

Microsoft Azure/Windows 365 Services & Support

So, what’s the difference between Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop? There are many dissimilarities between the two DaaS solutions. However, they all boil down to one key difference: Windows 365 cloud PCs are optimized for simplicity while Azure Virtual Desktops are designed with flexibility in mind.

With Windows 365, Microsoft wants to provide workers with a simple solution that allows them to use the Windows OS to work securely from any device. If you need more granular control of your virtual desktop experience, Azure Virtual Desktop is also a great option. An experienced Microsoft Azure partner such as MicroXpress can help you better understand your options.

Are you interested in leveraging Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) to empower your team? Get in touch with us today for more information on how to use Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop to reduce costs, eliminate downtime, and increase productivity within your organization.

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