Windows Server 2003 : Supporting and Troubleshooting Terminal Server (part 5) - Managing User Sessions

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Managing User Sessions

Windows Server 2003 provides flexible and powerful ways to manage, troubleshoot, and optimize user sessions on terminal servers.

Managing Sessions and Processes

The Terminal Services Manager console provides the capability to monitor and control sessions and processes on a terminal server. You can disconnect, log off, or reset a user or session; send a message to a user; or end a process launched by any user. Task Manager can also be used to monitor and end processes—just be certain to select the Show Processes From All Users check box. If a terminal server is acting lethargic, use Terminal Server Manager or Task Manager to look at the processes being run by all users to determine whether one process has stopped responding and is consuming more than its fair share of processor time.

A variety of settings determines the behavior of a user session that has been active, idle, or disconnected for a period of time. These settings can be configured on the Sessions tab of the RDP-Tcp Properties dialog box in the Terminal Services Configuration console, shown in Figure 14. The settings can also be configured with Group Policy.

Figure 14. The Sessions tab of the RDP-Tcp Properties dialog box

Load-Balancing Terminal Servers

In previous implementations of terminal services, it was difficult to load-balance terminal servers. Windows Server 2003 Enterprise and Datacenter Editions introduce the ability to create server clusters, which are logical groupings of terminal servers. When a user connects to the cluster, he or she is directed to one server. If the session is disconnected and the user attempts to reconnect, the terminal server receiving the connection will check with the Session Directory to identify which terminal server is hosting the disconnected session, and it will redirect the client to the appropriate server.

To configure a terminal server cluster, you need:

  • A load-balancing technology, such as Network Load Balancing (NLB) or DNS round-robin. The load-balancing solution will distribute client connections to each of the terminal servers.

  • A Terminal Services Session Directory. You must enable the Terminal Services Session Directory, which is installed by default on Windows Server 2003 Enterprise and Datacenter Editions, using the Services console in Administrative Tools. It is best practice to enable the session directory on a server that is not itself running Terminal Server. The Terminal Services Session Directory maintains a database that tracks each user session on servers in the cluster. The computer running the session directory creates a Session Directory Computers local group, to which you must add the computer accounts of all the servers in the cluster.

  • Terminal server connection configuration. Finally, you must direct the cluster’s servers to the session directory, which involves specifying that the server is part of a directory, the name of the session directory server, and the name for the cluster (which can be any name you want, as long as the same name is specified for each server in the cluster). These settings can be specified in the Server Settings node of Terminal Server Configuration, or they can be set using a GPO applied to an OU that contains the computer objects for the cluster’s terminal servers.

When a user connects to the cluster, the following process occurs:

When the user logs on to the terminal server cluster, the terminal server receiving the initial client logon request sends a query to the session directory server.

The session directory server checks the username against its database and sends the result to the requesting server.

  • If the user has no disconnected sessions, logon continues at the server hosting the initial connection.

  • If the user has a disconnected session on another server, the client session is passed to that server and logon continues.

When the user logs on to a new or disconnected session, the session directory is updated.


Be sure to know the pieces that are required to establish a terminal server cluster. Should you decide to implement a terminal server cluster in your enterprise, you can refer to the Help And Support Center for detailed instructions for doing so.

Remote Control

Terminal Server allows an administrator to view or take control of a user’s session. This feature not only allows administrators to monitor user actions on a terminal server, but it also acts like Remote Assistance, allowing a help desk employee to control a user’s session and perform actions that the user is able to see as well.

To establish remote control, both the user and the administrator must be connected to terminal server sessions. The administrator must open the Terminal Server Manager console from the Administrative tools group, right-click the user’s session, and choose Remote Control. By default, the user will be notified that the administrator wants to connect to the session, and then the user can accept or deny the request.


Remote Control is available only by using Terminal Server Manager within a terminal server session. You cannot establish remote control by opening Terminal Server Manager on your PC.

Remote control settings include the ability to remotely view and control a session, as well as control whether the user should be prompted to accept or deny the administrator’s access. These settings can be configured in the user account properties, on the Remote Control tab shown in Figure 15, and they can be configured by the properties of the RDP-Tcp connection, which will override user account settings. Group policy can also be used to specify remote control configuration.

Figure 15. The Remote Control tab of a user’s properties dialog box

In addition to enabling remote control settings, an administrator must have permissions to establish remote control over the terminal server connection. Using the Permissions tab of the RDP-Tcp Properties dialog box, you can assign the Full Control permission or, by clicking Advanced, selecting a permission entry, clicking Edit, and assigning the Remote Control permission to a group, as shown in Figure 16.

Figure 16. The Remote Control permission

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