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Windows Server 2008 R2 : Understanding Remote Desktop Services (part 4)

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RemoteApp and Desktop Connection

Windows Server 2008–based Terminal Services introduced a new feature called RemoteApp (TS RemoteApp) or “Seamless Windows.” This feature allows applications that are accessed through Terminal Services to appear as if they are running locally on an end user’s machine. By using this feature, a user would run their remote application side by side other applications allowing them to minimize, maximize, and resize the application window as if it were a location application. In addition, if a user were to launch more than one RemoteApp, each RemoteApp would reuse the existing Terminal Services session.

In Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services, the RemoteApp feature has been expanded to include the ability to group and personalize RemoteApp programs, session-based desktops, and virtual desktops while making them available to users on the Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 Start menu. As a result, the expanded RemoteApp feature has been renamed to RemoteApp and Desktop Connection.

To deploy RemoteApp and Desktop Connection, an administrator must first deploy and configure both the RD Connection Broker and the RD Web Access role services. Then, once RemoteApp programs have been defined on a source, administrators can use the Remote Desktop Connection Manager tool to configure virtual desktops or define which RemoteApp sources will be used for RemoteApp and Desktop Connection.

Once configured by and deployed by administrators, users on Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 machines are able to use RemoteApp programs, session-based desktops, and virtual desktops that were defined as part of the RemoteApp and Desktop Connection. The items from the connection can be found by users on the Start menu. As changes are made to RemoteApp and Desktop Connection, such as adding or removing RemoteApp programs, these changes are then automatically reflected on the Start menu. Additionally, users can use the RemoteApp and Desktop Connection notification area icon in the taskbar to do the following:

  • See the connection status for RemoteApp and Desktop Connection.

  • Manage the connection status (disconnect) for RemoteApp and Desktop Connection if needed.

Granular Session Configuration Control

With the addition of many great features in Remote Desktop Services also comes the ability for an administrator to granularly control the configuration of Remote Desktop sessions. All the features available to the end user’s Remote Desktop session can be managed, limited, and overridden by the administrator. Configuring administrative settings through Group Policy or Remote Desktop Management tools can override/control most user-configurable settings. This can greatly benefit an RD Session Host server by freeing up valuable server resources for features that might not be required in an enterprise deployment, such as audio redirection or high-color resolution. With this granular administrative capability, the administrator can also improve RD Session Host server or virtual desktop security by requiring high encryption for sessions, force certain types of strong authentication, or even lock the session down to prevent users from making operating system changes.

Session 0 Isolation

In Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, and earlier versions of Windows, a console session was called Session 0. In addition to being an interactive logon session, Session 0 was also the session where all services were running. Unfortunately, having services run within the same session that hosted interactive logons presented a possible attack vector. Services run with elevated rights. Because of this, Session 0 services were a target for a malicious agent attempting to elevate their rights.

Microsoft addressed this threat in Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 (and carried over to Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2) by making Session 0 a non-interactive session. Now, when a user logs on to an interactive session, they are given Session 1, the next parallel user is given Session 2, and so on. As a result of this change, there are a number of consequences with how Remote Desktop for Administration works in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. These consequences are as follows:

  • No /console switch— The /console switch does not work when connecting to a Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop session.

  • Only two Remote Desktop sessions can connect at the same time— In Windows Server 2003, two Remote Desktop sessions and one remote console session were allowed at any given time. With the Session 0 change, there is now only a maximum of two parallel Remote Desktop sessions allowed in Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2.

  • Session 0 user interface (UI) interaction— What if a service presents a user with a UI to interact with? Because Session 0 is no longer interactive, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 allow the user to interact with the Session 0 UI in a special desktop.

  • Disconnected session dialog box— In the new Remote Desktop Connection client, there have been some changes in how a connection made to a Terminal Server with too many sessions is handled. In Windows Server 2003, the client just displayed a message: “The Terminal Server has exceeded the maximum number of connections.” Now, when there are too many parallel sessions, the client displays a selection dialog box that allows an administrator to disconnect an existing session.

  • Users are restricted to one session by default— By default in Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services, all users are restricted to one interactive session. This setting can be changed through the management console or Group Policy.


When connecting to a Windows Server 2003 Terminal Server, the /console switch can still be used.

Local Resource Redirection

Remote Desktop Services enables an RDC client to redirect many of the local resources so they can be easily used within a Remote Desktop session. Serial and printer ports can be made available in Remote Desktop sessions to allow a user to send RD Session Host server print jobs to locally configured printers, as well as access serial devices such as modems from within the Remote Desktop session. Audio can also be redirected from a session to local sound cards to enable sound from the Remote Desktop session to be heard from local speakers. Also, the Windows Clipboard can be redirected to allow cutting and pasting between the Remote Desktop session and the local workstation console.

Each of these resource redirections works only if the operating system and the RDC client on the end user’s workstation support these configurations. Some of these local resource redirections require user modification or reconfiguration for proper use.

The various redirection support features built in to Remote Desktop Services are described in the following sections.

Disk Drive Redirection

Local disk drives can be redirected to Remote Desktop sessions and appear in Windows Explorer as networked drives using the naming convention local drive letter on computer name—for example, C on workstation5. To access from a graphical window, simply browse the drive as you would a local or networked drive. Accessing this drive from the command prompt requires a little bit of education. Within a command prompt, the redirected local drives are referenced as \\tsclient\Drive letter. Directory listings can be created using this Universal Naming Convention (UNC), but for file transfer or quick browsing, a client should map a network drive letter to this local drive resource. To do so, follow these steps:

Open a command prompt.

Type net use * \\tsclient\c, where the local C: drive is the disk you want to access within the Command Prompt window. The local drive is automatically mapped to the next available drive letter, starting from drive letter Z: and working backward through the alphabet.

At the command prompt, type Z: and press Enter to connect directly to the mapped local drive and begin using this drive.

After you finish working with this resource, disconnect the drive by typing net use Z: /delete, where the Z: drive is the local mapped drive.

Close the Command Prompt window.


The preceding steps refer to a machine called tsclient. You should not replace this name with the actual machine account name. The Remote Desktop session recognizes the machine’s local disk resources only from within a command window as tsclient, so do not consider this a substitute for the actual machine name.

Printer Redirection

Locally defined print devices can also be redirected. This includes printers directly attached to the client workstation as well as network printers. When a client opens a Remote Desktop session that is configured to redirect Windows printers as well as LPT ports, the RD Session Host server attempts to install each printer for use in the Remote Desktop session.

In Windows Server 2003, managing printer drivers for printer redirection was the bane of administrators. Either a client’s printer had to be using a printer driver native to Windows Server 2003 or the printer driver had to be manually installed beforehand by an administrator. If neither of these were true, printer redirection would fail. In Windows Server 2008, a new feature called TS Easy Print was introduced to reduce the difficulties involved with managing Terminal Services printer redirection.

TS Easy Print (renamed RD Easy Print in Windows Server 2008 R2) enables users to reliably print from a Remote Desktop session to their printer on their client computer. RD Easy Print does this by accomplishing the following things:

  • It uses a universal printer driver. Because it is universal, this driver supports legacy and new printer drivers without the need for administrators to install these drivers on the RD Session Host server.

  • The RD Easy Print driver allows users to view their local printer driver’s printing preferences. This is accomplished because the driver acts as a proxy and redirects all calls for the GUI to the actual driver on the client side. The result is the RDC client actually just launches the GUI for the client-side printer on top of the remote session.

In Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services (and carried over to Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services), other changes were also introduced aimed at improving a user’s experience with printer redirection. These changes are as follows:

  • Scope limitations for redirected printers— In Windows Server 2003, if a user had multiple sessions open, all the redirection printers from all the sessions were visible to each individual session. Furthermore, administrators could see all the redirected printers for every user connected to a Terminal Server. In Windows Server 2008, the visibility of redirected printers is limited to the session where they are installed. With this change, the spooler service doesn’t need to enumerate as many redirected printers. This reduction both improves the time when a user tries to enumerate their printers during a session and during initial logon.

  • Per-session default printers— In Windows Server 2008 or later, a user’s default printer is on a per-session basis. This is a change from Windows Server 2003 where the default printer for a user was the same for all sessions.

  • Redirected printer names are shorter— In Windows Server 2003, redirected printer names were “%PRINTER_NAME% (from %CLIENT_MACHINE_NAME%) in session %Session_ID%.” In Windows Server 2008 or later, these names have been shortened to “%PRINTER_NAME% (%SESSION_ID%).”

Clients must meet the following requirements to use the RD Easy Print driver:

  • Using Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) 6.1 or later

  • Have at least Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 Service Pack 1 installed

Local Time Zone Redirection

Remote Desktop Services also supports local time zone redirection. This feature allows RDC clients connecting from a separate time zone to have the session time reflect the user’s local time, enabling users to more easily comprehend the times, especially when reviewing emails.

Plug and Play Device Redirection

Using Plug and Play Device Redirection, a user can redirect Windows Portable Devices that support the Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) and digital cameras that support the Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP). Plug and Play Device Redirection works so that when a terminal session is launched, a user’s plug-and-play devices are automatically installed on the RD Session Host server, virtual machine, or remote computer if just Remote Desktop for Administration is being used. After being connected, any plug-and-play notifications will then appear above the taskbar in the Remote Desktop session.

Users can also configure Plug and Play Device Redirection so that devices connected after a session has already been established are then redirected. To do this, a user would select the Devices That I Plug in Later check box in the Remote Desktop Connection client before connecting to a remote machine. Then after a device has been redirected, it will become available for use within the current session. For example, if a digital camera is redirected, that device would be directly accessible from an application such as the Scanner and Camera Wizard on the remote machine.


Plug and Play Device Redirection is not supported over cascaded Remote Desktop sessions. A cascading session is when a user connects to one remote machine and then from within that session connects to a second remote machine.

.NET Device Redirection

.NET Device Redirection allows a device that uses Microsoft Point of Service (POS) for .NET 1.11 to be redirected in a Remote Desktop session. This redirection feature is important to organizations that are deploying Remote Desktop Services to clients that use POS peripheral devices, such as bar-code scanners, biometrics, magnetic card readers, receipt printers, and so on.


.NET Device Redirection is only supported on Terminal Servers or RD Session Host servers running an x86-based version of Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2.

New Redirection Features

The following are new redirection features that are introduced in Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services:

  • Multimedia redirection— This feature redirects multimedia files and streams such that audio and video content is received in its original form from the server to a client. By doing this, multimedia content is then rendered using a client’s local media playback capabilities.

  • Audio input and recording— This feature enables audio recording support for remote clients using Voice over IP (VoIP) or speech-recognition applications.

  • Language bar redirection— Users can now control the language setting (for example, right to left) for RemoteApp programs using the local language bar.

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