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Virtual Desktop Infrastructure: HOW Summer Interns Will Get Things Done


VDI is a technology that allows a summer intern to access a virtual desktop environment from a personal or government computer. The NIH VDI solution you will be using will provide you access to

  • NIH email and standard NIH applications (Microsoft 365, web browsers, Adobe Reader)
  • Web conferencing tools (e.g., Webex, Zoom)
  • File-storage and -sharing tools like OneDrive and SharePoint
  • Scientific applications through Biowulf or an IC-computer (e.g., Matlab, graphpad, python)
  • NIH enterprise systems including Biowulf, QVR, nVision, and the NIH Library


Accessing VDI is a four-step process: (1) you need an Active Directory account in the NIH Enterprise Directory and the associated username and password, (2) your Active Directory account must be added to your IC's security profile, (3) you must set up multi-factor authentication so that you can use your personal computer to access the VDI, and (4) you will download/login to the VDI.

Skip directly to the Center for Information Technology (CIT) VDI How-to Documents

Getting an Active Directory (AD) Account in NED, the NIH Enterprise Directory

Your Administrative Officer (AO) in your Institute/Center (IC) will create a NED entry for you. The system will automatically generate an email request that you enter your own Personally Identifiable Information (PII) into NED. It will tell you how to do this.

If you are under age 18, the AO will request that you complete a paper copy of Form HHS 745 and mail it to your IC. This reflects the fact that minors must provide parental/legal guardian consent for them to undergo the necessary security screening, and the consenting process is not supported by the secure NED portal. TWO IMPORTANT NOTES: (1) The parent/legal guardian’s signature on Form HHS 745 must be notarized. (2) Do not send the form via email! Unencrypted email is not sufficiently secure for transmission of PII. Instead use the US Postal Service.

When your AO approves your NED record, three things happen: (1) A NED ID number and NIH Active Directory (AD) account are created for you. (2) The Office of Research Services, specifically the Division of Police Services, at the NIH is notified to conduct a security check against the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) database maintained by the FBI. (3) A list of required computer security courses you must complete (NIH Information Security Awareness Course and Securing Remote Computing) is sent to you. You can complete these from your personal computer.

When your NCIC check and required training are completed, your AD credentials (user ID and temporary password) are authorized. You can get the next steps going by calling the NIH IT Service Desk [301-496-4357 (local); 866-319-4357 (toll free); 301-496-8294 (TTY)]. The Service Desk will direct your ticket to an IT contact in your IC.

The IT contact in your IC will set up a video meeting with you to conduct Virtual Identity Proofing (VIP).  You will be asked to display two forms of acceptable identification. Acceptable forms of identification include

  • Driver’s license
  • Social security card
  • Passport
  • Birth certificate
  • School ID card with photograph

All documents must be unexpired, and at least one must be a photo ID. For a full list of acceptable identification documents see:

Once your identity is confirmed, your IT contact will 1) share your AD credentials (user ID and temporary password), (2) help you change your password, and (3) proceed with Microsoft Authenticator App registration as outlined in documents from CIT ( 

You will then be ready to follow additional CIT directions for downloading and logging into VDI!


You will need

  • A Windows or Mac computer (or a Chromebook) to access your VDI instance (NOTE: The desktop will be a Windows 10 machine.)
  • An iOS or Android device (tablet or phone) for the MFA process
  • Internet connectivity

Please notify your Summer Coordinator immediately if you do not have access to these resources. You will find a list of Summer Coordinators later in this handbook.

Lots of Help Will Be Available!

Some of you may be feeling a bit uncertain at this point. Our collaborators at the NIH Center for Information Technology (CIT) have devised comprehensive guides for the steps described above. They have created a multi-tiered team to handle your requests for help. And they have connected with IT specialists in the ICs to ensure you will have support for IC-specific applications.


The following CIT documents will help you master this process. We are confident you will quickly learn to feel at home with your Virtual Desktop.