Managing Windows Server 2012 (part 13) - Using Remote Desktop - Supporting Remote Desktop Connection clients

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8.3 Supporting Remote Desktop Connection clients

The Remote Desktop Connection client is the Remote Desktop Services client. It uses the Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) version 6.0 or later. Clients can use the Remote Desktop Connection client to connect to a remote server or workstation that has been set up to be administered remotely.

Remote Desktop Connection client

Most current versions of Windows include the Remote Desktop Connection client. The features you should be aware of when supporting RDC are the following:

  • Custom display resolutions allow for high-color and full-screen viewing. Resolutions of 1680 x 1920, 1920 x 1200, and higher are fully supported. To set the resolution from a command prompt or the Search box, add the /w and /h options, such as mstsc /w:1920 /h:1200. In an RDP file, you can set the screen size using desktopwidth and desktopheight, such as desktopwidth:i:1920 or desktopheight:i:1200.

  • Monitor spanning settings allow you to display remote sessions across multiple monitors. All monitors must be horizontally aligned and use the same resolution. The maximum resolution across all monitors shouldn’t exceed 4096 x 2048. To enable monitor spanning from a command prompt or the Search box, add the /span option, such as mstsc /span. In an RDP file, you can enable spanning by typing Span:i:1.

  • By default, data sent between the client and the server is encrypted at the maximum key strength supported by the client. If you configure RDP on your Remote Desktop Services server to require high encryption, a client can make a connection only if it supports 128-bit or higher encryption.

  • If a connection is interrupted or lost while you are performing a task, the client software attempts to reconnect to the session and, in the interim, processing continues on the server so that any running processes can be finished without interruption. If for some reason you are unable to log on remotely after you are disconnected, your logon session can be accessed by logging on locally.

Enhanced experience settings include font smoothing and display data prioritization. Font smoothing ensures that computer fonts appear clear and smooth (as long as the desktop has ClearType enabled). Display data prioritization gives priority to display, keyboard, and mouse data over other types of data, such as printing or file transfers. The default bandwidth ratio is 70:30. This means that display and input data will be allocated 70 percent of the bandwidth, and all other traffic, such as file transfers or print jobs, will be allocated 30 percent of the bandwidth.

You can adjust the data prioritization settings by making changes to the registry of the Remote Desktop Services server. Change the value of the following entries under the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\TermDD subkey:

  • FlowControlDisable

  • FlowControlDisplayBandwidth

  • FlowControlChannelBandwidth

  • FlowControlChargePostCompression

When working with flow control, keep the following in mind:

  • If these entries do not appear, you can create them. To do this, press and hold or right-click TermDD, point to New, and then tap or click DWORD (32-bit) Value.

  • You can disable display data prioritization completely by setting the value of FlowControlDisable to 1. If you do this, all requests are handled on a first-in-first-out basis and other registry settings are ignored.

  • You can set the relative bandwidth priority for display and input data by setting the FlowControlDisplayBandwidth value. The default value is 70. The maximum allowed value is 255.

  • You can set the relative bandwidth priority for other data, such as file transfers or print jobs by setting the FlowControlChannelBandwidth value. The default value is 30. The maximum allowed value is 255.

  • The bandwidth ratio for display data prioritization is based on the values you set. For example, if you set FlowControlDisplayBandwidth 200 and FlowControlChannelBandwidth to 50, the ratio is 200:50 (or 4:1), so display and input data will be allocated 80 percent of the bandwidth.

  • The FlowControlChargePostCompression value determines whether the bandwidth allocation is based on the precompression or postcompression data size. The default value is 0, which means that the calculation will be made on the size of the data before it is compressed. In most cases, this is the value you’ll want to use. This setting ensures the client doesn’t have to wait or perform compression calculations prior to sending data.

  • If you make any changes to the registry values, you need to restart the Remote Desktop Services server for the changes to take effect.

Resource redirection allows audio, mapped drives, ports, printers, and certain keyboard combinations to be handled by the client computer. If an application generates audio feedback, such as an error notification, this can be redirected to the client. Key combinations that perform application functions are passed to the remote server except for Ctrl+Alt+Delete, which is handled by the client computer. In addition, local devices such as drives, printers, and serial ports are also available. Because both local and network drives are available on the client, users can easily access local drives and transfer files between the client and the server.

Plug and Play device redirection extends the resource redirection features to allow locally connected and supported Plug and Play devices to be installed on and used with a remote computer. You can now redirect media players that support Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) and digital cameras that support Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP). Plug and Play notifications will appear in the taskbar on the remote computer. When you start a remote session for the first time after connecting a supported device locally, you should see the device get installed automatically on the remote computer. After the redirected device is installed on the remote computer, the device is available for use in your session with the remote computer. For example, if you are redirecting a Windows Portable Device (WPD) such as a digital camera, you can access the device directly from a remote application.

You can control Plug and Play device redirection on the Client Settings tab in the Remote Desktop Services Configuration tool (tsconfig.msc). Use the Supported Plug And Play Devices options. You can also control Plug and Play device redirection by using Group Policy. To do this, you can use the Do Not Allow Supported Plug And Play Device Redirection policy setting in the Administrative Templates for Computer Configuration under Windows Components\Remote Desktop Services\Remote Desktop Session Host\Device and Resource Redirection. Several related policy settings are found under Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\Device Installation\Device Installation Restrictions.

Running the Remote Desktop Connection client

As discussed previously, you now can open two administrator sessions on computers that run Windows Server 2012 without needing an RD CAL. The use of an admin or console session greatly enhances your capabilities as an administrator to successfully execute programs, applications, and processes that will not run in a virtual session.

There are several ways to start the Remote Desktop Connection client:

  • Run in admin mode Admin mode is used by administrators to enable full interaction with the console of the remote system. To run the client in admin mode, type mstsc /admin at the command prompt or in the Apps Search box.

  • Run in virtual session mode Virtual session mode is used by administrators as well as users to start a virtual session on a remote system. To run the client in virtual session mode, type mstsc at the command prompt or in the Apps Search box.

After the client is started, enter the name or Internet Protocol (IP) address of the computer to which you want to connect, as shown in Figure 13. If you don’t know the name of the computer, use the drop-down list provided to choose an available computer, or select Browse For More on the drop-down list to display a list of domains and computers in those domains.

Specifying the remote computer with which to establish a connection.
Figure 13. Specifying the remote computer with which to establish a connection.

By default, Windows uses your current user name and domain to log on to the remote computer. If you want to use different account information, tap or click Options and then enter your user name in the field provided. (See Figure 14.) To set the domain, you can enter your user name in the DOMAIN\USERNAME format, such as ADATUM\WILLIAMS. Select the Allow Me To Save Credentials check box to enable automatic logon if desired.


Even if you select the Allow Me To Save Credentials check box, you might be prompted to enter your password during the logon process depending on your network’s policies and the configuration of the Remote Desktop Services server.

RDC options.
Figure 14. RDC options.

There are six tabs you can use to change the client settings:

  • General You might want to use these options to save keystrokes by adding logon information. Rather than typing in your settings each time, you can save the connection settings and load them when you want to make a connection.

    To save the current connection settings, tap or click Save As and then use the Save As dialog box to save the .rdp file for the connection.

    To load previously saved connection settings, tap or click Open and then use the Open dialog box to find and open the previously saved connection settings.

  • Display The default settings for RDC are full-screen and high-color. You can modify these settings here.

    Use the Display Configuration option to set the screen size. The size options available depend on the display size on the local computer.

    Use the Colors option to choose the preferred color depth. The default is 32-bit highest quality color, but settings on the remote computer might override this setting.

  • Local Resources You can modify the way the resource and device redirection work, including audio redirection, keystroke combination redirection, and local device and resource redirection.

    By default, remote computer sound is redirected to the local computer. Using the Remote Audio option, you can change the default setting by selecting Do Not Play or Play On Remote Computer.

    By default, when you are working in full-screen mode, key combinations such as Alt+Tab and Ctrl+Esc are redirected to the remote system, and Ctrl+Alt+Delete is handled locally. Using Apply Windows Key Combinations, you change this behavior so that key combinations are sent to the local computer or the remote computer only. However, if you send key combinations to the remote computer only, you could get in a situation where you cannot log on locally.

    By default, local printers are connected automatically when users are logged on to the remote computer. This makes it easy to print to your currently configured printers when you are working with a remote system.

    By default, anything you copy to the remote computer’s clipboard is copied to the local computer’s clipboard. This makes it easy to copy from a remote source and paste into a local source.

    Tap or click More on the Local Devices And Resource panel to see additional options. By default, the additional options ensure that smart cards connected to a remote computer are available for use in your remote session. You can also connect serial ports, local disk drives, and supported Plug and Play devices to make them available for use. Drives and supported devices can be selected by name, or you can simply select the Drives and Supported Plug And Play Devices options to make all drives and devices available for use. Selecting drives allows you to easily transfer files between the local and remote computer. Selecting Plug And Play devices allows you to work with supported devices, including media players and digital cameras.

  • Programs You can configure the execution of programs when a session starts from this dialog box. Select the Start The Following Program On Connection check box, and then set the program path or file name and the start folder for the program.

  • Experience You can select the connection speed and other network performance settings. For optimal performance, choose the connection speed you are using, such as Modem (56 Kbps) or LAN (10 Mbps or higher), and allow only bitmap caching.

    Other options you can allow include Desktop Background, Font Smoothing, Desktop Composition, Show Window Contents While Dragging, Menu And Window Animation, and Visual Styles. If you select these additional check boxes, you cause additional processing on the remote system and additional network traffic, which can slow down performance. Desktop composition creates an enhanced desktop, as long as you installed the Desktop Experience feature on the Remote Desktop Services servers and clients that are using Windows Vista or later. Font Smoothing allows the client to pass through ClearType fonts, as long as Clear Type is enabled (which is the default setting).

    By default, Reconnect If Connection Is Dropped is selected. If the session is interrupted, the RDC will try to reconnect it automatically. Getting disconnected from a connection doesn’t stop processing. The session will go into a disconnected state and continue executing whatever processes the session was running.

  • Advanced You can select these options to control the use of server authentication and the Remote Desktop Gateway feature. By default, the RDP client is configured to warn you if the authentication protocols fail and automatically detect RD Gateway settings.

When you tap or click Connect, you are connected to the remote system. Enter your account password if prompted, and then tap or click OK. If the connection is successful, you’ll see the Remote Desktop window on the selected computer and you’ll be able to work with resources on the computer. In the case of a failed connection, check the information you provided and then try to connect again.

When you are working in full-screen mode, a connection bar is displayed at the top of the screen. On the left side of the connection bar is a push pin. If you tap or click the push pin, it unpins the connection bar so that the bar disappears when you move the mouse away. To make the bar appear again, you then need to point the mouse to the top part of the screen. On the right side of the connection bar are several other buttons. The first button switches you to the local desktop. The second button switches between full mode and tile display mode. The third button disconnects the remote session.

Disconnecting from a session does not end a session. The session continues to run on the server, which uses resources and can prevent other users from connecting because only one console session and two virtual sessions are allowed. The proper way to end a session is to log off the remote computer just as you would a local computer. In the Remote Desktop Connection window, tap or click Start and then tap or click the Shutdown Options button. In the shortcut menu, tap or click Logoff.


Don’t try to log off the remote session by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete and tapping or clicking Logoff. Doing this will log you off the console session on your local client but still leave the remote session running on the Remote Desktop Server.

9. Tracking who’s logged on

When you deploy Remote Desktop Services, you can use the Remote Desktop Services Manager to view and manage logon sessions. With Remote Desktop, you can use this as well, but you typically don’t need all the additional options and details. A more basic way to keep track of who is logged on to a server is to use the QUSER command. Type quser to see who is logged on to the system on which you are running the command prompt, or type quser /server: ServerName to see who is logged on to a remote server. Consider the following example:

tedg rdp-tcp#1 1 Active . 5/04/2014 11:42 AM
Wrstanek console 2 Active 2:27 5/04/2014 09:43 AM

Here, there are two active sessions:

  • TEDG is logged on to an active RDP session. The session ID is 1, meaning it is Session 1.

  • WRSTANEK is logged on locally to the console. The session ID is 2, meaning it is Session 2.

You can also use the Task Manager to view user sessions. Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete, and then tap or click Task Manager. In the Task Manager dialog box, tap or click the Users tab. Here, each user connection is listed with user name, status, CPU utilization, and memory usage by default. Other columns can be added by pressing and holding or right-clicking any column header and then tapping or clicking the columns to add. If you double-tap or double-click a user’s name, there’s an entry for each running process. Processes are listed by name, CPU usage, and memory usage.

You can also use Task Manager to manage remote user sessions:

  • To disconnect a user session, select the user entry, tap or click Disconnect, and then tap or click Disconnect User when prompted to confirm the action.

  • To log off a user, select the user entry, tap or click Logoff, and then tap or click Log Off User when prompted to confirm the action.

The difference between disconnecting a session and logging off a session is important. When you disconnect a session, the session goes into a disconnected state and continues executing current processes. If you log off a user, you end that user’s session, closing any applications the user was running and ending any foreground processes the person was running as well. A foreground process is a process being run by an active application as opposed to a background or batch process being run independently from the user session.
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