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How to run ArcGIS Pro on Azure Virtual Desktop

Azure Virtual Desktop allows users to run programs like ArcGIS Pro without having to install the software on their own computers. This is an ideal solution for Mac users (because ArcGIS only runs on Windows) and for folks whose computers don’t have a lot of processing power or storage space. Campus IT hosts the main information page about Azure Virtual Desktop, but right here is where you’ll find instructions for how to run ArcGIS Pro on Azure.

Important notes

  • This option is only available to members of the UMass community. You must have a UMass NetID to use Azure Virtual Desktop.
  • Azure Virtual Desktop will time out after a period of inactivity (about 15 minutes). To avoid losing data and progress on your project, don’t leave your session unattended for more than a few minutes.

Step 1: Request access to Azure Virtual Desktop

Fill out IT’s Request Access form to register your UMass NetID.

This step only needs to be done once. If you’ve already requested access, you can skip to Step 2.

Step 2: Connect to Azure Virtual Desktop

We recommend installing a remote desktop app on your computer and connecting to the internet with an ethernet cable (not wi-fi). This will make your connection more stable and quicker, and your GIS experience a lot more enjoyable.

Preferred method: connect via Microsoft Remote Desktop

Alternative method: connect via a web browser

Step 3: Set up your workspace in OneDrive

ArcGIS Pro project folders, data, maps, and files must be stored in OneDrive. Attempting to save them to “Windows (C:)” or “Temporary Storage (D:)” will result in work lost after you close AVD.

  1. Using File Explorer, navigate to OneDrive\Documents, and create a directory to store your GIS files. We suggest using multiple folders to store different types of GIS-related files.

Step 4: Turn off OneDrive syncing

OneDrive syncing must be paused for the duration of your work session using ArcGIS Pro. If not, OneDrive may attempt to sync files that the software is processing, potentially resulting in lost or corrupted data.

Before opening ArcGIS Pro:

  1. From the UMass Desktop, right- click on the blue “OneDrive” icon in the lower right corner of the screen.
  2. Pause OneDrive syncing for the duration of your work. We recommend starting with 8 hours, as a two-hour pause may be too short for one session. If the two hour option is selected, OneDrive will attempt to sync after 2 hours have elapsed, potentially corrupting your data if you are still using ArcGIS Pro.

After completing your GIS work:

  1. Save your files, close ArcGIS Pro, and resume OneDrive syncing using the same process used for pausing it.
  2. Wait for your data to complete syncing before logging out of Azure Virtual Desktop.

Step 5: Activate extension licenses

In order to use most of the tools in ArcGIS Pro, you’ll need to activate their extensions. There are 100 floating licenses for all the virtual desktops at UMass, and you need to “check out” a license every time you start Azure Virtual Desktop.

  1. Use the search bar in the lower left corner, or File Explorer to open up ArcGIS Pro.
  2. Once ArcGIS Pro opens, Click on “Settings” in the lower left corner of the ArcGIS Pro home screen.
  3. Click on “Licensing.”
  4. Click on “Configure your license.”
  5. Click on any empty boxes to add a checkmark and activate the relevant license. We recommend checking all available boxes. 
  6. Click “Ok” to close the licensing dialog and apply the changes.

You’re now ready to start working with ArcGIS Pro! Click on “New” to create a new project, or “Open” to continue working on an existing project.

Reminder: when you’re done with your GIS work, make sure to turn on OneDrive syncing and wait for your data to complete syncing before logging out of Azure Virtual Desktop.

Last Updated on February 1, 2023