Starting with iOS 11, all iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV (Gen 4+) devices can be added to Apple Business Manager – regardless of how they were purchased – using Apple Configurator 2.5 or later.
That means even if you didn’t buy your devices directly from Apple, a Device Enrollment enabled reseller, or an authorized cellular carrier, you can still add them to your Apple Business Manager account and assign them to your mobile device management (MDM) solution using Apple Configurator 2.
Adding your devices to Apple Business Manager makes deployment much easier, especially as your business scales, by opening the door to time-saving capabilities like zero-touch deployment and App Store application management. Better yet, once your devices are listed in Apple Business Manager, you can act on them using your third-party MDM solution for even more powerful device management functionality.
In this guide, we’re going to take a step-by-step look into how you can add devices to Apple Business Manager. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- A Primer on Apple Configurator 2
- Step 1: How to Create a Wi-Fi Profile
- Step 2: How to Add Devices to Apple Business Manager
- Step 3: How to Assign Devices with Apple Business Manager
A Primer on Apple Configurator 2
Before we explain how to add devices to Apple Business Manager, we should get familiar with the platform that makes it possible: Apple Configurator 2. In this section, we’ll take a quick look at what Apple Configurator 2 is, what it can do for you, and how you can use it. We’ll also differentiate Device Enrollment Program (DEP), Apple Configurator, and Apple Business Manager from one another.
What’s Apple Configurator 2?
Essentially, Apple Configurator 2 is a platform that lets you create and install configuration profiles on your company devices so you can make sure that every device has the right settings, apps, and data before you roll them out to your employees. In most cases, this requires physically connecting devices to a Mac to begin configuring them, but you can also leverage Configurator with your existing MDM solution to get the most out of its capabilities, like automatically pushing batches of devices through Setup Assistant, or manually adding devices to Apple Business Manager.
Disentangling DEP, Apple Configurator, and Apple Business Manager
We should take a moment to clarify the difference between DEP, Apple Configurator, and Apple Business Manager.
- DEP (Device Enrollment Program) was primarily used to automatically enroll new iOS and macOS devices that were purchased from Apple or Device Enrollment enabled resellers. DEP has since been replaced by Apple Business Manager, so the capability is now commonly referred to as “Automated Device Enrollment” within Apple Business Manager. You can read more about this in the Automated Device Enrollment (DEP) section of our guide to device enrollment.
- Apple Configurator 2: Unlike having devices automatically added to DEP, Apple Configurator 2 lets you add iOS and tvOS devices to Apple Business Manager, no matter where you bought them. This is done by leveraging Apple Configurator 2. DEP enrollment, on the other hand, primarily concerned devices that were purchased from Apple or DEP enabled resellers.
- Apple Business Manager is a portal that IT administrators use to manage iOS, macOS, and tvOS devices from one place. It can be used with an MDM solution to configure device settings and buy and distribute apps and books. You can learn more about this in our guide to Apple Business Manager.
Because the uses and definitions of DEP, Apple Configurator, and Apple Business Manager overlap in some places, it’s easy to mix them up. Just remember that if you want to add devices to DEP using Apple Configurator, what you're really talking about is adding devices to Apple Business Manager for Automated Device Enrollment. Since some people still use DEP terminology, we’re going to use it throughout this article to minimize confusion, but we’ll place it alongside newer terminology so it’s always clear what we’re referring to.
Requirements for Apple Configurator 2
In order to use Apple Configurator 2, you need a Mac running on macOS 10.14 or later. You also need any relevant cords for the devices that you want to configure since Configurator requires most devices to be physically connected (though some, like the Apple TV 4K, can connect wirelessly).
Here’s a list of the devices that you can use Apple Configurator 2 with:
- iPod touch
- Apple TV (3rd generation) profile installation only
- Apple TV (4th generation or later)
Add Devices to Apple Business Manager with Apple Configurator 2
There are some important considerations when manually adding iOS, tvOS, iPadOS devices to Apple Business Manager (formerly DEP):
- The device must be reset: In order for the device to be supervised, added to Apple Business Manager, and enrolled via Automated Device Enrollment (formerly DEP), the device must be reset during the process.
- The process is “provisional” for 30 days: Once you add these devices to Apple Business Manager, you have a 30-day provisional period to remove them from your MDM and Apple Business Manager. This period begins after the device is activated, and once the 30 days are up, the device can only be released through Apple Business Manager.
An important note: if your devices were purchased from Apple under an Apple Customer Number or from a Device Enrollment enabled reseller, it’s typically easier to work with those organizations to have the devices added to your Apple Business Manager account automatically. However, any devices that weren’t purchased from Apple or Device Enrollment enabled resellers won’t be automatically added to your account. Instead, with Apple Configurator 2, you can manually add them to Apple Business Manager and assign them to your MDM solution.
You may have noticed that macOS devices weren’t on the Apple Configurator 2 supported device list. If you have any questions about adding your macOS devices to Apple Business Manager, contact your Device Enrollment enabled reseller or Apple Business Sales representative.
Now that we have an understanding of how Apple Configurator 2 works, let's take a look at how you can use it to add devices to Apple Business Manager.
How Do I Add a Device to Apple Business Manager Using Apple Configurator 2?
In this section, we’re going to break down what you need to do to add devices to DEP using Apple Configurator and assign them to your MDM solution. Keep in mind that, as we mentioned earlier, DEP has been replaced by Apple Business Manager.
We’ll organize the process into three steps:
- Create a Wi-Fi Profile: In the first section, we’re going to make sure the device in question can access Apple’s activation servers by creating a Wi-Fi profile for it. This is done in Apple Configurator 2 and does not require connecting the device to a Mac.
- Add Devices to Apple Business Manager: In the second section, we’re going to add devices to Apple Business Manager and complete a few setup tasks. To add devices to DEP, Apple Configurator 2 will be used, which requires connecting your device to your Mac. If you need to backup important information on your device, now is the time to do it. It will all be erased in the next step.
- Assign Devices with Apple Business Manager: In the third section, we’re going to assign the device in Apple Business Manager by changing the server from Apple Configurator 2 to your MDM server. Then, we’ll check your MDM to make sure that the device was properly assigned. After this point, you can proceed with device setup or remote management.
1. Create a Wi-Fi Profile
A Wi-Fi profile is required for your devices to reach Apple's activation servers. To add devices to DEP, Apple Configurator 2 must be used to create a profile that lets the device connect to the internet. But before you can do any of this, you need to download Apple Configurator 2, if you haven’t already. You can do this in three easy steps:
- Click this link, or open the Mac App Store, and search for Configurator.
- Log in to your Apple ID and complete the download.
- Open Apple Configurator 2, and proceed to the next section.
As we mentioned earlier, Apple created Apple Configurator 2 to assist with several aspects of locally configuring devices. One of these aspects is the creation of Wi-Fi profiles. We’ll walk you through how these are created next:
1. Inside Configurator, click File, then New Profile from the menu bar.
2. Inside the General section, Fill in the following profile details.
- Name: For example: "Wi-Fi Profile"
- Identifier: Leave as is. This code is unique to the profile making future updates identifiable.
- Organization: Your company name.
- Description: Provide a brief description. For instance: "WiFi Provisioning Profile."
- Automatically Remove Profile: Set this option to After Interval and set 0 days, 1 hour.
3. Click the Wi-Fi payload option on the left-hand side, and select configure.
4. Input your organization's valid Wi-Fi network details.
5. Select File, then Save from the Menu bar and save the file. Note the location of where this file is saved for the following steps.
2. Add Devices to Apple Business Manager
Now that we have Configurator downloaded and our Wi-Fi profile has been created, we can move on to the next step. To add devices to DEP, Apple Configurator 2 will be used. It’s important to note that the devices you want to add will be erased as you follow the steps in this section. This is required and cannot be skipped. That said, if your device contains any important information, then it will need to be backed up before you proceed.
Once you’ve backed up any information you want to keep, you need to connect your device to your Mac and open Apple Configurator 2. If you’re trying to connect an Apple TV 4K (which does not have a physical port to connect to), then you’ll have to follow this Apple Support article on wireless connection. For your other Apple devices, just follow the steps below.
Note: After you complete the following steps, do not proceed with the initial device Setup Assistant unless you first complete the steps in the “Assign Your Devices in Apple Business Manager” section (which is coming up right after this one).
1. Click on the device inside of Apple Configurator 2, and click Prepare.
2. Select Manual Configuration and uncheck Activate and Complete Enrollment.
3. Select New Server from the MDM Server dropdown and click Next.
4. Enter any text into the Name field and leave the MDM Server URL unmodified. Click Next.
5. You will receive an error, as shown below, which should be ignored. Click Next.
6. Click Next on the anchor trust window.
7. Sign in to your Apple Business Manager account using your Managed Apple ID and password. Click Next.
8. Click Generate a new supervision identity. Click Next.
9. Optional: Select which setup screens you prefer to skip during device setup. You can also leave this default if desired. Click Next.
10. Select the Wi-Fi Profile that we created earlier and then click Prepare.
11. Authenticate using your macOS credentials at the prompt to modify certificate trust settings and click Update Settings.
12. Leave the device plugged in and allow the process to complete. If prompted that the device is already setup and must be erased, click Erase to continue.
Again, do not proceed with the initial device Setup Assistant without following the next steps first. The device may need to be erased again if the next steps are not performed prior to device setup.
3. Assign Your Devices in Apple Business Manager
Now that we saw how to add devices to DEP using Apple Configurator (now Apple Business Manager), we can move on to assigning them to an MDM. Here’s what you need to do:
1. Log in to Apple Business Manager and go to the Device Assignments section.
2. Click the Search Devices option in the upper left-hand corner, paste in the serial number of the device we just added to Apple Business Manager. Click Search.
3. Click the MDM Server dropdown and switch it from Apple Configurator 2 to your MDM server. Click Done.
4. You will receive a confirmation screen that the device has been assigned. Click Done.
5. Login to your MDM and confirm that the device has been listed. These steps will vary depending on your MDM solution. If you use Kandji, open up the Kandji Web App and go to Devices > Auto-Enroll Devices. Confirm that you see the desired device listed. If you don't see the device listed, click Sync Now in the top right-hand corner to force Kandji to check for newly added devices.
Once confirmed, proceed with the device setup. Properly configured devices will present a "Remote Management" prompt during setup.
Apple Configurator 2 is an indispensable tool for any company that didn’t purchase its devices from Apple or Device Enrollment enabled resellers. As we mentioned earlier, to get the most out of its capabilities you can integrate it with an MDM solution, like our product Kandji. With powerful and time-saving features like one-click compliance, zero-touch deployment, and plenty more, Kandji keeps your Apple devices safe and secure from deployment to retirement.