Setting up single sign-on using Active Directory with ADFS and SAML (Professional and Enterprise) Follow

professional enterprise plans

Zendesk supports single sign-on (SSO) logins through SAML 2.0 if you're on the Professional or Enterprise plans. A SAML 2.0 identity provider (IDP) can take many forms, one of which is a self-hosted Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) server. ADFS is a service provided by Microsoft as a standard role for Windows Server that provides a web login using existing Active Directory credentials.


To use ADFS to log in to your Zendesk instance, you need the following components:

  • An Active Directory instance where all users have an email address attribute.
  • A Zendesk instance on the Professional or Enterprise plans.
  • A server running Microsoft Server 2012 or 2008. This guide uses screenshots from Server 2012R2, but similar steps should be possible on other versions.
  • A SSL certificate to sign your ADFS login page and the fingerprint for that certificate.
  • If you're using host mapping in your Zendesk instance, an installed certificate for hosted SSL.

After you meet these basic requirements, you need to install ADFS on your server. Configuring and installing ADFS is beyond the scope of this guide, but is detailed in a Microsoft KB article.

When you have a fully installed ADFS installation, note down the value for the 'SAML 2.0/W-Federation' URL in the ADFS Endpoints section. If you chose the defaults for the installation, this will be '/adfs/ls/'.

Step 1 - Adding a Relying Party Trust

At this point you should be ready to set up the ADFS connection with your Zendesk instance. The connection between ADFS and Zendesk is defined using a Relying Party Trust (RPT).

Select the Relying Party Trusts folder from AD FS Management, and add a new Standard Relying Party Trust from the Actions sidebar. This starts the configuration wizard for a new trust.


  1. In the Select Data Source screen, select the last option, Enter Data About the Party Manually.
  2. On the next screen, enter a Display name that you'll recognize in the future, and any notes you want to make.
  3. On the next screen, select the ADFS FS profile radio button.
  4. On the next screen, leave the certificate settings at their defaults.
  5. On the next screen, check the box labeled Enable Support for the SAML 2.0 WebSSO protocol. The service URL will be, replacing subdomain with your Zendesk's subdomain. Note that there's no trailing slash at the end of the URL.
  6. On the next screen, add a Relying party trust identifier of, replacing subdomain with your Zendesk subdomain.
  7. On the next screen, you may configure multi-factor authentication but this is beyond the scope of this guide.
  8. On the next screen, select the Permit all users to access this relying party radio button.
  9. On the next two screens, the wizard will display an overview of your settings. On the final screen use the Close button to exit and open the Claim Rules editor.

Step 2 - Creating claim rules

Once the relying party trust has been created, you can create the claim rules and update the RPT with minor changes that aren't set by the wizard. By default the claim rule editor opens once you created the trust. If you want to map additional values beyond authentication, refer to our documentation.


  1. To create a new rule, click on Add Rule. Create a Send LDAP Attributes as Claims rule.
  2. On the next screen, using Active Directory as your attribute store, do the following:
        1. From the LDAP Attribute column, select E-Mail Addresses.
        2. From the Outgoing Claim Type, select E-Mail Address.
  3. Click on OK to save the new rule.
  4. Create another new rule by clicking Add Rule, this time selecting Transform an Incoming Claim as the template.
  5. On the next screen:
        1. Select E-mail Address as the Incoming Claim Type.
        2. For Outgoing Claim Type, select Name ID.
    3. For Outgoing Name ID Format, select Email.
    Leave the rule to the default of Pass through all claim values.
  6. Finally, click OK to create the claim rule, and then OK again to finish creating rules.

Step 3 - Adjusting the trust settings

You still need to adjust a few settings on your relying party trust. To access these settings, select Properties from the Actions sidebar while you have the RPT selected.

  1. In the Advanced tab, make sure SHA-256 or SHA-1 is specified as the secure hash algorithm.
  2. In the Endpoints tab, click on add SAML to add a new endpoint.
  3. For the Endpoint type, select SAML Logout.
  4. For the Binding, choose POST.
  5. For the Trusted URL, create a URL using:
        1. The web address of your ADFS server
        2. The ADFS SAML endpoint you noted earlier
        3. The string '?wa=wsignout1.0'
    The URL should look something like this: https://sso.yourdomain.tld/adfs/ls/?wa=wsignout1.0. 
  6. Confirm you changes by clicking OK on the endpoint and the RPT properties. You should now have a working RPT for Zendesk.

Step 4 - Configuring Zendesk

After setting up ADFS, you need to configure your Zendesk instance to authenticate using SAML. Follow the steps in our documentation for enabling SAML. You'll use your full ADFS server URL with the SAML endpoint as the SSO URL, and the login endpoint you created as the logout URL. The fingerprint will be the fingerprint of the token signing certificate installed in your ADFS instance. In the Windows certificate utility, this is also referred to as the SHA-1 Thumbprint.

You can get the fingerprint by running the following PowerShell command on the system with the installed certificate:

C:\> Get-AdfsCertificate

Look for the thumbprint of the Token-Signing type certificate.

After you're done, the Security page in the Zendesk admin interface should look like this:


You should now have a working ADFS SSO implementation for your Zendesk.


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  • 0

    What if you need to do this setup for multiple organizations? Is there a better way to do this? From these instructions, it looks like you can only have 1 organization configured through ADFS?? Thoughts?

  • 0

    Hi Chris,

    There is a separate document on how to set up custom mappings between LDAP attributes and Zendesk using ADFS - That document covers connecting both a static text field and a group membership.

  • 1

    Hi Ben,

    With the new changes in SAML SSO requirements (, how do we implement this on ADFS end?



  • 0

    Hi Welly,

    If you followed this article, chances are this is already configured correctly.  For those that need to change it, I have found that going to the Endpoints tab of the Relying Party Trust settings window is where you would find any incorrect URLs that might be causing the wrong audience to be set.  I will create a ticket for you so we can check your specific subdomain to see if you are already sending in the proper audience.

  • 0

    We have ADFS up, and working for Zendesk. Is it possible to use this to sync users one time. We wanted to pre-load our users before we went active with Zendesk.

    I didnt want to have to setup JTW SSO to do this, since we already have ADFS setup and working.

    I tried to search for a document regarding this, but I could not locate one.


  • 0

    Hi Traci,

    Both SAML (ADFS) and JWT will only sync users on an individual basis when a user logs in. If you want to preload your users, I would suggest either using our Bulk Import feature or our Users API endpoint.

  • 0


    If I go the SAML (ADFS) route and do not submit the role as SAML attribute, will I be able to simply change the role of a user in ZenDesk user administration? We currently have ZenDesk auth, but plan to switch to ADFS. I wouldn't want to lock myself out (as default for SAML role seems to be End-user. 

  • 1

    Hi Martin,

    If you attempt to log in using SAML SSO as a user that already exists we will keep whatever role they currently have set if you do not pass in a role attribute. If it is a new user being created and you don't send a role attribute, we will default to end-user.

  • 0

    Hi, thanks for your answer. I have been in contact with support for another issue and would also like to add here as a suggestion that it would be great to have a possibility to add mappings from the AD to custom person fields in ZenDesk.

    I currently want to add the department and the job title of our end users, as this is handy when supporting our users. We do not want to have that many organisations in ZenDesk to map all the departments, and we use the tags field to assign values manually (so they would be overwritten on ADFS sync on login), so no way to add the job title.

  • 0

    Hi there, I've followed the instructions provided to configured Zendesk SSO with my client's ADFS servers, but the issue that we're running into, is that users once they've entered their login details, are being then forwarded directly to the Sign Out page.

  • 0

    Hi, that happened to me if the AD user had no email attribute (and no mailbox accordingly). Reason being that our admin users have no mail account.

    Might be that one can use the UPN instead (which should always be given).


  • 0


    I'm adding the https:///adfs/ls/?wa=wsignout1.0 URL as my logout URL. But its not log me out from the ADFS session. do you have any idea on this?

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