Studies on monocyte adhesion are frequently limited by spontaneous changes of CD11b and CD62L during cell purification. Most isolation protocols for flow cytometric analysis that overcome this problem cannot be used when large numbers of living cells are needed for functional adhesion assays. This study investigated whether magnetic cell separation of monocytes with a paramagnetic bead against CD33 is a feasible method combining high yield with a low degree of spontaneous activation. As determined by flow cytometry, isolation of magnetically tagged monocytes at 4 °C did not alter the expression of CD11b and CD62L when compared to whole blood controls. Warming the cells slowly to room temperature immediately before starting the adhesion assay in a parallel plate flow chamber at 37 °C prevented further upregulation of adhesion molecules due to rewarming. When adhesion of magnetically tagged monocytes was compared with untouched monocytes that had been isolated via depletion of contaminating leukocytes, videomicroscopy showed that labelling CD33 neither affected rolling nor firm adhesion to human umbilical venous endothelial cells under flow. Finally, the subsequent upregulation of tissue factor expression on adherent monocytes indicates that magnetically separated monocytes responded properly to activating stimuli during cell adhesion. We conclude that magnetic cell separation via CD33 represents a feasible method for cell separation whenever large numbers of non-activated monocytes are needed for adhesion assays under flow.