An Overview Of Power Automate Desktop


Power Automate Desktop (PAD) is a powerful designer build by MSFT that helps to automate the daily mundane tasks. It provides a web recorder for recording web actions and a desktop recorder for recording desktop actions and replaying them. Both the web actions and desktop actions can be combined or run independently to finish your daily tasks.
  • It enables RPA (Robotic Process Automation) capabilities in Power Automate.
  • RPA makes it possible to automate the modern and desktop workflow process by recording the mouse and keyboard clicks and replaying them on both an on-demand and scheduled basis.
  • This PAD comes with a designer wherein you can drag and drop actions, or record the actions using browser Power Automate addon, and browser drivers and configure and replay the actions to perform a particular task such as interacting with cloud flow, read the reports from Shared Drive, get the latest trends from google, etc..
As you explore more, The possibilities are endless. This is a Microsoft tool that has Robotic Process Automation actions that orchestrate the tedious tasks to run either an attended or unattended mode.

Types of Power Automate Desktop Flows

There are again 2 versions or desktop flows ‘Attended’ and ‘Unattended’
Attended Flow
Unattended Flow
Requires users interaction
Doesn’t require user intervention
On-demand task runner
Runs as a background job
It takes the currents user session and the user account should match with the account configured the flow
This requires all the other users to sign out from the session. It can log on to the remote machine and performs the tasks and sign out of the remote machine.
Used for personal automation
Used for enterprise automation.

How it is different from Power Automate? 

As most of you might have already known, Power Automate is a SAAS (software as service) process designer which enables intelligent automation with a set of predefined actions. It has currently 450 + connectors that interact with various data sources to perform the tasks smoothly. For instance, sending an approval/notification when a new item is added or modified to SharePoint list, new records getting added to MSFT data verse, sending an alert when new forms survey is submitted, etc. This is initially introduced as Microsoft FLOW and later renamed Power Automate.

When to use PAD?

Please note that Power Automate Desktop is not the desktop version of Power Automate. you will still use the flow maker portal which is here for interacting with various cloud providers and their data sources. it is encouraged to use the PAD, where the power automate actions are not available. Some scenarios could be
  • Interacting with legacy systems and desktop applications to get the specific data and recording the data in excel or CSV,
  • Getting the service now metrics information for your Development Team and tracking them into CSV on monthly basis,
  • Getting the stock trends information and rolling up in your site,
  • Getting the news trends from,
  • Moving the files from FTP server to SharePoint site
  • Interacting with cloud flows to perform a specific task, like getting the usage or log information of important approval processes, and storing resultant CSV in a database for longer retentions, as the power automates by default can have 28 days of approval history. 

Cloud Flows vs Desktop Flows

Let's try to understand the differences between Cloud Flows and Desktop Flow
Cloud Flows
Desktop Flows
These are also referred to as connectors. These flows are designed using power automate portal
These flows are designed using Power Automate Desktop Designer and are designed in Desktop.
Preferred to be used when the APIs are available. As this is predefined action and no additional setup is required. An example would be SharePoint Get items action, OneDrive Get Files.
Preferred to be used when the APIs are not available. An example would be moving the files from Shared Folder to OneDrive or SharePoint. this can be also used to interacting with legacy systems where APIs are not available.
Building a custom connector is little tedious tasks and requires some programming knowledge.
The building's custom connector is simple. This can be easily done by recording the user actions and then configuring the actions to your need. the development and ROI of this custom connector are almost immediate.

End to End Architecture

Overall an End to End automation can be achieved using Power Automate Desktop. The below block diagram denotes the same.
An Overview of Power Automate Desktop


Below are the licensing options available for Power Automate Desktop. 
Power Automate Desktop Free version
Recently in the ignite session, MSFT has announced the Power Automate Desktop version which is free for Windows 10 users. More information can be found here. With the free version, it has its limitations. some of them are, the free version of PAD,
  • Cannot interact with cloud flows
  • Cannot interact with data connectors. example of data connectors are talking to on-prem SQL or Azure SQL
  • Cannot have AI builder features that have OCR, speech recognition, etc
  • Cannot be shared with others. It is intended for personal use, not for enterprise use. for instance if you have designed a desktop flow, that reads the data from excel shared in the network share and builds up a report, and you want your team members to take advantage, this is not possible with the free version. the same steps have to be repeated by your team member. 
Power Automate Desktop with Attended RPA Plan - Available at $40 USD per month
As the name states, it requires the user’s intervention to start the flow. Enables users to create unlimited flows, share the flows and connect with 450 + cloud connectors, extract information using AI. MSFT has a limited-time offer for these licenses and eligible customers can grab this offer for only $15 USD per month.
Power Automate Desktop with Unattended RPA plan: Available at $150 USD per month
As the name states, this can run in the background. This includes all the capabilities of the attended plan which can be run without user dependency.
More information can be found here.


Thus in this article, we have got a basic understanding of Power Automate Desktop, how it is different from Power Automate when to use it, and licensing need for PAD. In the next article, we will see how to install PAD on your windows 10 machine.