Microsoft Azure for Free?

Adam Listek

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Microsoft Azure is a robust platform that enables a developer to take advantage of many cloud services and capabilities. As with any service, and especially cloud services, costs can quickly add up depending on one’s needs.

What are the free options out there, and how can you best take advantage of them to learn and use all Azure’s capabilities?

There are three ways that Microsoft Azure offers free services for account holders.

Except for always free services, both limited time Azure Free Accounts, and Azure Dev/Test Pricing do have caveats but offer free benefits if you meet the criteria.

Limited Time Free Azure Account

Like many cloud services, Azure offers a free trial to entice potential customers into using the Azure cloud. Azure provides a generous free tier of $200 in Azure Credits for the first 30 days and a limited quantity of additional free services for 12 months.

An Azure Free Account is only available to Azure’s new customers, those who have not paid for or used Azure before.

Services can be created in any region that supports the service. Additionally, multiple instances are allowed to be established as long as the total is within the permitted limits.

Microsoft Azure Portal showing the Free Services Available
Microsoft Azure Portal showing the Free Services Available

Microsoft Azure Portal showing the Free Services Available

What is Free for 12 Months

  • 5,000 transactions with Text Analytics standard instance
  • 20,000 transactions of Anomaly Detector standard instance
  • 500 pages of Form Recognizer S0
  • 2,000 transactions with Ink Recognizer S0
  • 50,000 transactions with Personalizer S0
  • 10,000 transactions of Content Moderator standard instance to moderate or review
  • 10,000 predictions with Custom Vision standard instance including one training hour and two projects with 5,000 training images each
  • 5,000 transactions with Computer Vision for each S1, S2, and S3 tier
  • 10,000 Text Request transactions with Language Understanding (LUIS)
  • Three days free per month of QnA Maker
  • 30,000 transactions with Face standard instance
  • 2 million characters of any combination of standard translation and custom training with Translator
  • 128 GB of Managed Disks as a combination of two 64 GB (P6) SSD storage, plus 1 GB snapshot and 2 million I/O operations
  • 5 GB of LRS-Hot Blob Storage with 20,000 read and 10,000 write operations
  • 5 GB of LRS File Storage with 2 million read, 2 million list, and 2 million other file operations
  • 250 GB of SQL Database standard S0 instance with 10 database transaction units
  • 15 GB of bandwidth for outbound data transfer with free unlimited inbound transfer
  • 750 hours of Azure B1S General Purpose Virtual Machines for Microsoft Windows Server
  • 750 hours of Azure B1S General Purpose Virtual Machines for Linux
  • 1,500 hours of dynamic public IP addresses for use with B1S Virtual Machines listed above

What Happens When an Account Goes Over the Limits

Within the first 30 days, you have $200 to either additional purchase services or apply to an overage you incur when using products. For example, saw you use more than 750 hours of Linux VM’s, you can use the $200 to apply for any overages, as long as that overage is incurred within the first 30 days. After 30 days, the account will need to be switched to a pay-as-you-go account.

  • Unused credits cannot be rolled over at the end of the 30 days or transferred to another subscription
  • Within 30 days of sign-up or upon exhaustion of the credits, an account must be upgraded to a Pay-As-You-Go subscription.

It’s important to note that inactive accounts for greater than 90 days may have resources removed.

Of course, the $200 in Azure credits may not be used to purchase every product. Several different products are not allowed to have the credits applied and are listed below.

  • Azure support plans
  • Azure DevOps
  • Visual Studio subscriptions
  • Visual Studio App Center services
  • Express Route
  • Third-party branded products
  • Azure Marketplace Products
  • Separately licensed products from Azure such as Microsoft Azure Active Directory Premium

Always Free Services

Outside of an Azure Free Account, there are always free services that Azure offers to any Azure account holder. If you need additional services or usage exceeds the free limits, then with a pay-as-you-go account, the overages will be billed to that subscription.

Microsoft Azure Portal showing the Always Free Services Available
Microsoft Azure Portal showing the Always Free Services Available

Microsoft Azure Portal showing the Always Free Services Available

Azure Dev/Test Pricing

Azure offers discounted rates on Dev/Test pricing and monthly Azure credits to Visual Studio subscriptions. There are a couple of benefits to the Azure Dev/Test options

  • No Microsoft Software Charges on VM’s
  • Dev/Test Pricing Discounts
  • Windows 10 Virtual Machines & Windows Virtual Desktop service

Companies often offer visual Studio subscriptions to employees who need it, but if a subscription is required, the pricing starts at $1,199 and goes up.

If you are a Visual Studio subscriber, you have a few options available to you, depending on whether you are an individual versus a team. But if you are an individual, you get access to the following.

Keep in mind that the licensing terms for this are restricted for dev/test use only, and production instances are not allowed.

Managing Cost

Of course, you need to manage your cost-effectively and make sure that you aren’t going over this. Thankfully, you can quickly see how your costs are stacking up using the Azure Portal to check the Free Services section and see what is offered and how your usage is.

  1. Navigate to Subscriptions
  2. Select the subscription associated with the Azure Free Account
  3. Scroll the page to find the table showing the free service usage
Microsoft Azure Portal showing the subscription section and usage of free services.
Microsoft Azure Portal showing the subscription section and usage of free services. Source:

It’s also possible to create a usage report using PowerShell, which could help you automate your Azure account usage tracking.

It’s important to note that if you don’t see this table, then your viewing subscription does not have access to the 12 months of free services.


Azure offers many different free services for the first 12 months and in an always free state. With this freedom, it’s easy for new and existing developers to get started using Azure and test out or use Azure for smaller projects. Check out Azure today to see how you can take advantage of the many free and useful services available!

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