RDP: Using Remote Desktop with Dual Monitors | SplitView
Posted by jpluimers on 2010/10/04
Remote Desktop Protocol (aka RDP) introduced span support in version 6.1, and multimon support in vesion 7.
RDP consists of a server part called Remote Desktop Services, and a client part (MSTSC.EXE, currently called Remote Desktop Connection, previously caled Terminal Services Client).
Because of the server/client split, not all feature combinations are possible.
Hence below a table listing what is possible, and a short explanation of a few features.
From those, I use often: ‘span’, ‘multimon’ and ‘admin’ (previously called ‘console’).
My intention is to make this info as complete as possible; please comment on things that are wrong or incomplete.
|RDP||Introduced in||Commandline options||Server Supported in||Client Supported in||Client|
|Remarks||* Professional and up
** not in Vista Starter or Home versions
*** there is no Server 2008 SP1: it is SP1
|* all versions of Windows except 7 and Server 2007
** all versions of Windows
*** all versions of Windows except 2003 and XP x64
see KB969085 (MUI)
and KB969084 (RDP)
|5.0||Server 2000||No||No||No||No||2000 including all SPs||*|
|5.1||XP and XP x64||No||No||No||No||XP including all SPs*
XP x64 including all SPs
|**||95, 98 and 98 Second Edition, Me,
NT 4.0, 2000
(same as XP SP1)
|5.2||Server 2003||Yes||No||No||No||Server 2003 including R2 and all SPs||**||95, 98 and 98 Second Edition, Me,
NT 4.0, 2000, 2003
(same as XP SP2)
|6.0||Vista||Yes||No||Yes||No||Vista** including SP1 and SP2||**|| XP SP2 (and MUI);
Server 2003 SP1 or SP2 (and MUI);
Server 2003 x64 including SP1, R2 and SP2
|6.1||Server 2008||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Server 2008 including SP2***||***||XP SP2 (and MUI)|
Server 2008 R2
Server 2008 R2
|***||XP SP3 (and MUI*);
Vista SP1 or SP2;
Vista x64 SP1 or SP2
A few more notes:
- RDP 6.1 and 7.0 are not supported by these clients: Windows 2003 and XP x64
- Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 don’t support connecting to Windows 2000
(in practice, this usually works, but it is not supported)
- Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 share the same code base.
You can find the version of your client and server as follows:
- Client: %SystemRoot%\System32\mstsc.exe
- Server: %SystemRoot%\System32\termsrv.dll
Span versus multimon
Even though span and multimon sound similar, they are in fact very different.
Span was introduced in Windows Vista (which itself has really good multi monitor support).
It enables a spanned virtual display, which has a few documented limitations:
- All your monitors need to have the same resolution.
For me this is no problem, as both my laptop and my external monitors are 1920 x 1200 (even better than HD which is only 1080 pixels high; 120 pixels too short <g>)
- The maximum virtual resolution is 4096 (horizontal) by 2048 (vertical) pixels.
If your physical resolution is wider or higher your virtual display gets centered on your physical display, with black vertical or horizontal bands.
- Stacked monitors are not supported.
But in practice they do work.
Multimon was introduced in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.
It is true multi-monitor support:
- If your client has multiple monitors, you can use them all.
- You can use any resolution combination or monitor orientation you want.
The termserv blog on msdn has a nice example of what is possible.
- You need the Enterprise or Ultimate edition of Windows 7, or Windows Server 2008 R2,
If you have a lower edition of Windows 7, you can only use /span.
If you can’t use the multimon feature, you can buy Splitview, which enables similar functionality for almost all Windows versions (and many other desktop remoting protocols).
So both ways, you can have the same virtual multi-monitor experience as you would have with the same physical monitor setup would have on the server.
This enables you to move your Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 machines (VM’s ore physical machines) to a hosted service.
Which is great for a couple of reasons:
- You can move your development machines into a cloud setup
- You can move your development machines close to your servers (or in fact have development servers with central data to develop op)
- Locally you can create a very silent working environment: a laptop or low-power PC with some large screens suffices.
/console versus /admin
Windows Server 2003 introduced the /console switch.
That enabled you to connect to “session 0”, which back then was the console session.
Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 (sharing the code base of Windows Vista SP1), changed the way that these sessions work.
Session 0 is now reserved for services, and users logon to higher session numbers.
So /console is not supported any more.
However, Windows does remember which session belongs to the console logon.
So a new /admin switch got introduced with (for old Windows versions) will connect to Session 0, and (for newer Windows versions) connects to the session that belongs to the console.
I’ll end with a couple of links (on top of all the links above) that you might visit to fine tune your RDP experience:
- Using Remote Desktop with Dual Monitors | SplitView
- RDP7 improvements over RDP6
- RDP 7 feature explanation
- RDP 6 and up remote desktop prompt
- Windows 7 RDP FAQ
- RDCMan – manage multiple RDP Connections
- What Is New in Remote Desktop Services in Windows Server 2008 R2
- RDP Application best practices
- RDP Load Simulation tools