Get Started with Virtual Smart Cards: Walkthrough Guide

Applies To: Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2

This topic for the IT professional describes how to set up a basic test environment for using TPM virtual smart cards.

Virtual smart cards are a technology from Microsoft, which offer comparable security benefits in two-factor authentication to physical smart cards. They also offer more convenience for users and lower cost for organizations to deploy. By utilizing Trusted Platform Module (TPM) devices that provide the same cryptographic capabilities as physical smart cards, virtual smart cards accomplish the three key properties that are desired by smart cards: non-exportability, isolated cryptography, and anti-hammering.

This step-by-step walkthrough shows you how to set up a basic test environment for using TPM virtual smart cards. After you complete this walkthrough, you will have a functional virtual smart card installed on the Windows computer.

Time requirements

You should be able to complete this walkthrough in less than one hour, excluding installing software and setting up the test domain.

Walkthrough steps

  • Prerequisites

  • Step 1: Create the certificate template

  • Step 2: Create the TPM virtual smart card

  • Step 3: Enroll for the certificate on the TPM Virtual Smart Card


This basic configuration is for test purposes only. It is not intended for use in a production environment.


You will need:

  • A computer running Windows 8.1 or Windows 8 with an installed and fully functional TPM (version 1.2 or version 2.0).

  • A test domain to which the computers listed above can be joined.

  • Access to a server in that domain with a fully installed and running certification authority (CA).

Step 1: Create the certificate template

On your domain server, you need to create a template for the certificate that you will request for the virtual smart card.

To create the certificate template

  1. On your server, open the Microsoft Management Console (MMC). You can type mmc from the Start menu to access the MMC.

  2. Click File, and then click Add/Remove Snap-in.

  3. In the available snap-ins list, click Certificate Templates, and then click Add.

  4. Certificate Templates is now located under Console Root in the MMC. Double-click it to view all the available certificate templates.

  5. Right-click the Smartcard Logon template, and click Duplicate Template.

  6. On the Compatibility tab, under Certification Authority, click Windows Server 2003.

  7. On the General tab:

    1. Specify a name, such as TPM Virtual Smart Card Logon.

    2. Set the validity period to the desired value.

  8. On the Request Handling tab:

    1. Set the Purpose to Signature and smartcard logon.

    2. Click Prompt the user during enrollment.

  9. On the Cryptography tab:

    1. Set the minimum key size to 2048.

    2. Click Requests must use one of the following providers, and then select Microsoft Base Smart Card Crypto Provider.

  10. On the Security tab, add the security group that you want to give Enroll access to. For example, if you want to give access to all users, select the Authenticated users group, and then select Enroll permissions for them.

  11. Click OK to finalize your changes and create the new template. Your new template should now appear in the list of Certificate Templates.

  12. Select File, then click Add/Remove Snap-in to add the Certification Authority snap-in to your MMC console. When asked which computer you want to manage, select the computer on which the CA is located, probably Local Computer.

  13. In the left pane of the MMC, expand Certification Authority (Local), and then expand your CA within the Certification Authority list.

  14. Right-click Certificate Templates, click New, and then click Certificate Template to Issue.

  15. From the list, select the new template that you just created (TPM Virtual Smart Card Logon), and then click OK.


It can take some time for your template to replicate to all servers and become available in this list.

  1. After the template replicates, in the MMC, right-click in the Certification Authority list, click All Tasks, and then click Stop Service. Then, right-click the name of the CA again, click All Tasks, and then click Start Service.

Step 2: Create the TPM virtual smart card

In this step, you will create the virtual smart card on the client computer by using the Tpmvscmgr command-line tool, (Tpmvscmgr.exe).

To create the TPM virtual smart card

  1. On a domain-joined computer, open a Command Prompt window with Administrative credentials.

  2. At the command prompt, type the following, and then press ENTER:

    tpmvscmgr.exe create /name tpmvsc /pin default /adminkey random /generate

    This will create a virtual smart card with the name TestVSC, omit the unlock key, and generate the file system on the card.

    For more information about the Tpmvscmgr command-line tool, see Use Virtual Smart Cards and Tpmvscmgr.

  3. You will be prompted for a PIN. Enter at least eight characters and confirm the entry. (This PIN will be used later in the walkthrough.)

  4. Wait several seconds for the process to finish. Upon completion, Tpmvscmgr.exe will provide you with the device instance ID for the TPM Virtual Smart Card. Store this ID for later reference because you will need it to manage or remove the virtual smart card.

Step 3: Enroll for the certificate on the TPM Virtual Smart Card

The virtual smart card must be provisioned with a sign-in certificate for it to be fully functional.

To enroll the certificate

  1. Open the Certificates console by typing certmgr.msc on the Start menu.

  2. Right-click Personal, click All Tasks, and then click Request New Certificate.

  3. Follow the prompts and when offered a list of templates, select the TPM Virtual Smart Card Logon check box (or whatever you named the template in Step 1).

  4. If prompted for a device, select the Microsoft virtual smart card that corresponds to the one you created in the previous section. It displays as Identity Device (Microsoft Profile).

  5. Enter the PIN that you entered when you created the TPM virtual smart card, and then click OK.

  6. Wait for the enrollment to finish, and then click Finish.

The virtual smart card can now be used as an alternative credential to sign in to your domain. To verify that your virtual smart card configuration and certificate enrollment were successful, sign out of your current session, and then sign in. When you sign in, you will see the icon for the new TPM virtual smart card on the Secure Desktop (sign in) screen or you will be automatically directed to the TPM smart card sign-in dialog box. Click the icon, enter your PIN (if necessary), and then click OK. You should be signed in to your domain account.

See also