Rambling about Remote Desktop Connection aka Terminal Services

Remote Desktop Connection (aka Terminal Services) is a marvellous way of connecting to remote Windows computers. Okay, it isn’t completely cross-platform (server and client) and open source like VNC. It won’t get you onto the console like PCAnywhere (unless you’re already logged on at the box). But it’s free (for Windows users) and very fast (a major downfall of vanilla VNC over slower connections… say, anything less than oooh, about a T3).

It used to be that Microsoft guarded its Terminal Services technology like it was golddust. (Maybe they had paid Citrix a lot of dosh for the technology?) Even the TS client could only be obtained by running a special program on the server, which produced installation floppy images. When you installed, it saved your registration name/company back to the floppies, and chastised you if you tried to install again (“I’m gonna let you do it, but I’m very suspicious”), refusing thereafter to let you enter a different name. For a while, as far as my work installation of TS client was concerned, my name was Stanley.

Thankfully that’s all different now. Microsoft have realised it’s a way of selling more Windows licences. It’s been renamed to Remote Desktop Connection and comes built into Windows, though it may not get installed at setup time by default.

What’s super-dooper handy is XP Pro (and higher — but not XP Home) can be setup so you can connect into them from afar using Remote Desktop (Control Panel -> System -> Remote -> Allow users to connect remotely to this computer). Unfortunately it kicks off any user who is physically using the box when you do this on XP SP2, which allows a single user only. There is a hack for this to allow multiple users, though strictly speaking it’s a bit naughty, breaking the conditions of the EULA.

If Remote Desktop client is not already on your machine, here’s how to install it off the Windows CD. Or you can download it — this is intended for earlier versions of Windows, but should work in XP. It has the added bonus of being a better featured TS client than the old version of the TS Client, with mucho options, and a neato fullscreen mode.

(When I installed it the other day onto Win2K, I couldn’t find the icon afterwards and it doesn’t have its own directory. The icon is squirreled away in Accessories / Communications, or otherwise if you can’t find it, the EXE to run is %SystemRoot%\System32\mstsc.exe).

There’s an official Mac client too. And for Linux users wanting to connect to Windows, there’s a Linux client.

This page has general help in using it. It’s also possible to set up your server to connect via the web — useful if you’re battling with firewalls that preclude using a conventional client.

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1 thought on “Rambling about Remote Desktop Connection aka Terminal Services

  1. mgm

    Terminal Services can connect to the console of Windows 2003 Servers.

    While XP Home does not support Remote Desktop
    it does support the similar Remote Assistance. Remote Asistance does connect to the console
    but requires someone on the console to accept the connection.

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