Windows Server 2003 : Supporting and Troubleshooting Terminal Server (part 1) - Installing and Configuring a Terminal Server Environment

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1. Installing and Configuring a Terminal Server Environment

There are several key considerations related to the deployment of a Terminal Server environment.

The Terminal Server Component

Terminal Server can be installed using the Add/Remove Windows Components Wizard, which itself is found in Add Or Remove Programs, or by using the Configure Your Server Wizard, which can be launched from the Manage Your Server page. It is best practice to configure stand-alone member servers as terminal servers, not domain controllers. Hardware recommendations can be found in the Help And Support Center.


Because applications on a terminal server will be provided to multiple users, perhaps concurrently, certain registry keys, files, and folders must be installed differently on a terminal server than on a non–terminal server. You should always use the Add Or Remove Programs tool in Control Panel to install an application on a terminal server. Add Or Remove Programs will automatically switch the terminal server into installation mode prior to launching the application’s setup routine. While in installation mode, the terminal server manages the configuration of the application appropriately so that the application can run in multiuser mode.

Occasionally, an application, patch, or other installation-related process cannot be initiated via Add Or Remove Programs. For example, a vendor might provide an online update feature for its application and this capability cannot be launched from Add Or Remove Programs. In such cases, open a command prompt and issue the change user /install command prior to invoking the installation or patch process. Once the process has completed, issue the change user /execute command. Also note that some applications require compatibility scripts to modify their installation behavior on a terminal server.

It is best practice to install Terminal Server prior to installing any applications that will be run in multiuser mode. Similarly, prior to removing Terminal Server from a server, you should uninstall all applications that were installed in multiuser mode. If you must install additional applications on an existing Terminal Server, be sure to reset (log off) any current user sessions using Terminal Server Connections and to disable new connections using the change logon /disable command. Once applications have been installed, use the change logon /enable command to allow new connections once again. The Remote tab of System Properties, shown in Figure 1 will also allow you to enable and disable terminal services connections.

Figure 1. The Remote tab of System Properties

When installing Terminal Server, you will be given the choice of Full Security and Relaxed Security. Full Security, the default, protects certain operating system files, registry keys, and shared program files. Older applications might not function in this more secure configuration, at which point you might opt for Relaxed Security. The setting can be changed at any time using the Server Settings in the Terminal Services Configuration console, shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Server Settings in the Terminal Services Configuration console

Many administrators misunderstand the use of the Terminal Services Home Folder. This setting, which can be configured as part of the user account, as shown in Figure 3, or through Group Policy, determines the location of a folder that is used by Terminal Services to store user-specific files for multiuser applications. It does not affect the storage location for user data files. By default, the Terminal Services Home Folder is created as a folder named Windows in the user’s profile. To manage where user data is stored, configure a user’s standard Home Folder setting on the Profile tab of the user account, or use the best practice of redirecting the My Documents folder.

Figure 3. The Terminal Services Home Folder setting of a user account

Installation of Remote Desktop Connection

The Remote Desktop Connection (Mstsc.exe) is installed by default on all Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP computers. The Remote Desktop Connection client supports all 32-bit Windows platforms and can be installed with Group Policy on Windows 2000 systems, or with other software deployment methods on earlier platforms. Once installed, the client can be tricky to locate in the Start menu: look in the All Programs\Accessories\Communications program group, and then do yourself a favor and create a shortcut to the client in a more accessible location.


After a 120-day evaluation period, connections to a computer running Terminal Server will not be successful unless the terminal server can obtain a client license from a Terminal Server License Server. Therefore, as part of your terminal server deployment, you must install a Terminal Server License Server, preferably on a server that is not itself a terminal server.

Use Add Or Remove Programs to install Terminal Server Licensing. You will be asked whether the server should be an Enterprise License Server or a Domain License Server. An Enterprise License Server is the most common configuration—the server can provide licenses to terminal servers in any Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003 domain in the forest. Use a Domain License Server when you want to maintain a separate license database for each domain, or when terminal servers are running in a workgroup or a Windows NT 4.0 domain.

Once installed, Terminal Server Licensing is managed with the Terminal Server Licensing console in Administrative Tools. The first task you will perform is activating the Terminal Server License Server by right-clicking the Terminal Server License Server and choosing Activate Server. Once the server has been activated, client license packs must be installed. The Help And Support Center includes detailed instructions for this process. Terminal Server Licensing supports two types of client access licenses (CALs): Per Device and Per Session. Both types of CALs can be managed by the same Terminal Server License Server.


Terminal Server Licensing is maintained separately from server and client access licenses (CALs) for Windows Server 2003. Terminal Server CALs are licenses for the connection to a user session on a terminal server—you must still consider licensing requirements for the applications that users access within their session. Consult the applications’ End User License Agreements (EULAs) to determine appropriate licensing for applications hosted on a terminal server.

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