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Remote Desktop Connection: An authentication error has occurred. The Local Security Authority cannot be contacted

Fixing login problems with Remote Desktop Services

If you have having issues logging into a Windows Server with Remote Desktop Services, below are some things to try.  For example, some users have seen an error like this when trying to login “Remote Desktop Connection: An authentication error has occurred.  The Local Security Authority cannot be contacted”.

  • First, check if your issue is affecting all users or just one account – can the administrator login?
  • Does user have correct permissions to access the server via RDP – are they are member of the Remote Desktop Users group in User Permissions?
  • Does the Firewall allow RDP connections?  What port is used? Is a VPN connection required?
  • Login as computername\username (i.e. SERVER1\jdoe) instead if just typing jdoe at the RDP login prompt.  (this seems to be required if using the MAC RDP client).  Computername is the name given to the server, which you can see under computer properties
  • If only affecting one user, try to reset the users’s password and uncheck the box by “change password at next logon”.   In 2008 R2, login as administrator, open server manager (which may open automatically), expand tree on left side to get to users and groups, select users, right click on user name and say “set password” to reset password, then go in properties of user and uncheck change at next logon.  In 2012 R2, click on start button, type “computer management” which will open and expand tree on left side to get to users and groups as noted above.
  • Do not use the “user much change password at next logon” button in user properties.  Various comments and posts online indicate that changes in the windows authentication process in recent OS versions don’t allow expired users to change their password via RDP once it expires when Network Level Authentication or Credential Security Support Provider (CredSSP) is enabled.  This is only an issue trying to force users to change their password on a RDP session – it works fine from a console session if you are local to the machine. We have a separate blog post on this but try to uncheck this box by “user must change password at next logon” if it is currently checked. Remember to always create complex, strong passwords! (Users can manually change their password upon logon by pressing control-alt-end and following the change password prompts).
  • Reboot the server
  • Turn off Network Level Authentication temporarily and see if that allows the user to login.  Some older Remote Desktop Clients don’t support NLA as well as MAC clients may not.

 

 

 

Microsoft Licensing – Volume Licensing versus SPLA Licensing costs

We can provide most Microsoft software licensing on a monthly basis through the SPLA program.  These licenses are provided on a monthly basis and are easily provisioned.  In some situations, you can use your own valid Microsoft volume licenses but there are numerous restrictions.  For example, Microsoft Office does not have license mobility rights and can therefore not be used in a shared platform cloud environment.  If you want to use your own Microsoft Licensing (Office, SQL Server, etc.), you should use our Dedicated Server Hosting offering. We get many questions about Microsoft per user licenses (i.e. Remote Desktop Services CALs/SALs) and whether they are for concurrently users or named users – Microsoft only licenses RDS user licenses on a per unique end-user basis so every user that is defined on the server needs a license.

On a Dedicated Server (where the hardware is fully dedicated to you and the outsourcing language within the Microsoft Product Terms applies), you could use our licenses provided on a monthly basis via the SPLA program or install your own licensing.  (The SPLA pricing below also applies to both our cloud virtual servers and our dedicated server environments).  Here is some comparison of pricing as of January 2016.  Windows Server 2016 (coming out later this year) will be licensed “per core” instead of “per processor” which is how Windows Server has been licensed historically (SQL Server licensing changed from proc to core a few years back).

SPLA licensing:

  • Monthly basis with no commitment.
  • Windows Server CALs and SA not needed
  • Our SPLA pricing:
    • Windows Server Standard – typically included in our server costs.
    • RDS user license – $7.75/user
    • SQL Server Standard – $275 per 4 cores (sold at $137.50 per 2 cores with 4 cores minimum)
    • UPDATE – SQL Server 2016 is now available – same pricing of $275/month for 4 cores using our SPLA monthly licensing or purchase your own (retail pricing SQL Standard 2016 is approx. $7,500 – see link here).  https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/products/sql-server/purchasing.aspx

Volume Licensing:

  • Higher upfront cost with benefit of owning the licenses (does not include upgrades without SA)
  • SA (Software Assurance) recommended (comes in 2 year increments)
  • Additional cost and requirements of Windows Server CALs required for each user
  • Windows Server licensing minimum 2 proc/16 cores per server
  • Some Volume Licensing programs require a minimum purchase or minimum points

 

FOR EXAMPLE, if you are looking for a server licensed with Windows Server and 5 Remote Desktop users:

  1. Using our SPLA licensing:
    • Windows Server Standard licensing included in our hosting pricing
    • 5 RDS SALs (remote desktop services user licenses) – $7.75 each user
  1. Purchase Volume Licensing:
    • Windows Server License for 2 Processors (minimum) $1,171.55 with SA
    • Windows Server User CAL (per user) $52.03 with SA
    • Remote Desktop Services CAL (per user) $181.72 with SA
    • Plus cost of server ?

 

SAMPLE VOLUME LICENSING FROM LARGE RESELLER:

Windows Server: 2012R2 (each covers 2 physical Processors) plus 2yr SA included.  Windows Server 2016 licenses will be more expensive and core based.  Need to purchase Proc/Core license + CALs.

P73-05758 / Windows Server Standard / $1,171.55

R18-00143 / *Windows Server User CAL / $52.03

 

 

SQL Server Standard – pricing below is per 2 cores but minimum purchase is 4 cores – so total approx $6,571 without SA or $9,895 with SA.

7NQ-00563/ SQLSvrStdCore 2014 SNGL OLP 2Lic NL CoreLic Qlfd / $3,285.66  — Total of $6,571 for 4 cores without Software Assurance meaning no free upgrade to next version.

7NQ-00215/ SQLSvrStdCore SNGL LicSAPk OLP 2Lic NL CoreLic Qlfd / $4,947.81 – Total of $9,895 for 4 cores with Software Assurance

UPDATE: SQL Server 2016 is now available – retail pricing from Microsoft (see link below) for 4 cores SQL Server Standard is $7,434 or you can use our licensing via SPLA on a monthly basis with no long term commitment at $275/month for 4 cores.   https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/products/sql-server/purchasing.aspx

Remote Desktop Services CALs – required per unique end-user.  Per CAL price below with 2 yr SA

6VC-01152/ WinRmtDsktpSrvcsCAL SNGL LicSAPk OLP NL UsrCAL / $181.72

 

After the initial 2 years, you can purchase Software Assurance for additional 2 year terms (a rough estimate is 20% per year).

RemoteApp RDWeb website hosted on Windows Server 2008R2 does not work with Windows 10 Edge Browser

If you are using the RemoteApp RDWeb Access website feature (RDweb) in Windows Server 2008 R2 and have client/user PCs that have upgraded to Windows 10, read below. This does not apply if you are using full RDP desktop sessions to login and see a desktop which is what many/most people do – i.e. using RDP client to connect to a desktop session.

If users are accessing applications using the RD Web access website (i.e. https://IP or Hostname/rdweb ) to access applications instead of logging into the server via the remote desktop connection client, you will notice that the website doesn’t work from Windows 10 PCs using the new Microsoft Edge browser.  RemoteApp RDWEB hosted on a Windows 2008 R2 Server requires the client browser to have ActiveX enabled which basically limits usage to Internet Explorer (doesn’t work on Chrome, Firefox nor for MAC users).  (Note: Windows Server 2012R2 RemoteApp RDWEB no longer requires ActiveX).

Solution

The good news in this situation is Windows 10 still includes Internet Explorer and if you open the website using IE, you should be able to access it – see steps below.  In Windows 10, open IE separately and not within Edge (i.e. in Edge, you can click tools, and then say “open in IE” but don’t do it this way).  Follow the steps below to open IE, add rdweb URL to trusted sites in IE, then close IE and reopen IE, then it should work.

 

  1. CLICK START BUTTON and start typing “Internet Explorer” which should pop-up in search results and select – see screenshot below.  Don’t click the browser shortcut in taskbar because that will just open Edge.

Windows10startmenuforIE

2.  After IE opens, go to the url you use for RDweb.  Click Allow on popup to allow MS RDS web access – see screenshot.

RDweballowRDSWA

 

3.  Do not login yet – first we need to add to trusted sites in Internet Explorer (only need to do first time), then will need to exit all IE windows and start again.

4.  Under the tools icon, click internet options like this, which will open the Option windows, then go to Security Tab, Trusted Sites (the green checkbox), then click on the “Sites” button and then add the url which may be pre-populated – see screenshots.

TrustedSites

5.  Next, close all Internet Explorer windows and start over except this time login to the RDS site.

 

Sharing Public User folder in Windows Server 2012 R2

Users often ask if there is way to share documents between users on a remote desktop / terminal server running Windows Server 2012 R2.  There are multiple methods to accomplish this and below is one method to consider:

  1. All user (administrators and non-administrators) should have permissions to view the documents in the Public User’s “Public Documents” Folder.
  2. You can navigate to this folder by going to This PC -> Local Disk C: -> Users -> Public User
  3. For easy access to this folder, you can right click on the Public User’s “Public Documents” Folder, click on “create shortcut” and copy the shortcut to your desktop (or pin to start or both)
  4. OR when you right click, select “Include in library” and select “Documents” (or create new library) which will include a shortcut to this folder in your library.

Public_Folder_2012R2

 

 

Does your hosting provider offer remote desktop services licensing?

Although hosting providers are generally required to provide the Windows Server operating system license via the SPLA program on hosted servers, very few offer the Remote Desktop Services (previously Terminal Services) user licenses (aka CALs/SALs) to their customers. If you are using the Remote Desktop Services role, you are required to have RDS user licenses for each unique end user that uses RDS. The RDS CALs/SALs are not part of the Windows Server OS licensing and are applied separately. We provide the Remote Desktop Services licenses at $7.75 per user which can be increased in increments of one on a monthly basis. Contact us for additional information.

RemoteApp and options for MAC users

REMOTEAPP

 

For remote desktop (terminal server) application hosting where the user is logging into a full desktop session, MAC users should have a good experience and there are Remote Desktop Connection Clients that can be downloaded for MACs, iphone, and ipad. (The Remote Desktop Connection Client is preloaded on all Windows machines and doesn’t require a download to use it).  The Clients for MACs/Apple can be found here:  http://www.RiptideHosting.com/blog/remote-desktop-connection-client-for-macs/

 

RemoteApp is an optional feature of Remote Desktop Services where users are not provided a desktop session but rather can only open a specified application.  This feature doesn’t work well with MAC users in Windows 2008R2 due to the limitations below.  It should work better in Windows 2012R2 for MAC users but only if using the RDweb login option.   We have many MAC users using our Remote Desktop hosting although most are using full desktop sessions instead of RemoteApp.  There are other options instead of RemoteApp as described toward the end of this post.

 

With RemoteApp, you can distribute a RDP file to a user (Windows 2008R2 only – “RDP distributable file” – this option is not available in Windows 2012R2) or you can set it up for users to access the specified program  via a URL.  The user can open the specified application but does not get a full desktop session to save/share files, etc.

  1. RD Web URL – When enabled, you can access the RD Web Access Web site at https://IPaddress/rdweb .  In 2008R2, the website requires that the client browser has ActiveX enabled which basically limits usage to Internet Explorer and therefore excludes MAC users.  (as noted here — https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc731508.aspx).  In 2012R2, the RD Web Access website no longer requires ActiveX  and is supposed to work with many more browser options.  However, Server 2012R2 does require that the Active Directory Domain Controller role be installed to use RemoteApp whereas it is not required in Windows 2008R2.
  2. Create RDP file via the RemoteApp Wizard to distribute to users.  This works easily to create the file and other PC users should be able to open it easily.  MAC users generally have issues when they try to open the file where the system doesn’t recognize it.  Note: Windows Server 2012R2 no longer has this option to create the RemoteApp distributable file.

If you are going to use RemoteApp in 2008R2, contact us for additional instructions and tips that we can provide.

 

 

OTHER OPTIONS

 

  • User full desktop sessions but configure group policies to limit access to certain things, remove icons, prevent access to drives, etc.

How to create group policies in Server 2012R2 that only affect specified users

You can create local group policies that affect non-administrators only (or even specific users). This can be useful to keep non administrator users from doing things such as:

  • Power off the server
  • See or access certain files
  • Run or not run certain programs
  • See icons
  • Hide or Disable control panel items
  • And much more….

Modifying group policies via gpedit.msc will affect all users including the administrator so don’t apply restrictive policies this way otherwise you can lock out all accounts including the administrator which can’t be reversed (restore from backup is only solution then).  To create an individual group policy that can be applied to a specific user or group, such as all non-administrators, you can do that via mmc.exe as follows:

Create a group policy that affects only certain users:  (don’t change policies via gpedit.msc which will apply to all users include administrators)

  1. Run mmc.exe when logged in as the administrator
  2. It will open screen below and then click File -> “Add/Remove Snap-In”

mmc.exe_and_snap-in

  1. Select “Group Policy Object Editor” under the Available Snap-Ins column, and click Add
  2. Then click BROWSE and can select non-administrators group on the Users tab **** make sure to click browse and change it from just “local computer” to list specific group/users instead.  This will create a Group Policy Object called “Local Computer\Non-Administrators”.  The click finish.

add_snap-in

 

  1. Click OK on the “Add or Remove Snap-ins”  window
  2. Then you can expand on the Local Computer\Non-Administrators Policy header and go to User Configuration to make changes that should then apply only to non-administrators. – See some examples below of group policies you could user – there are a lot of them and this is just a sample.
  3. When finished, go File -> Save As and name it.  You can open this group policy from File -> Open in the future (or save it in a location you will remember like desktop where you can just double-click the .MSC file you saved to open it)  if you need to continue making modifications for this group later (open this file in the future instead of creating a new one)

 

Example of some group policies to consider

Many of these group policies will hide icons or remove access to a program/icon through one method but not necessarily all methods. Enabling some group polices is a good way to limit users’ ability to perform undesired actions but doesn’t result in complete lockdown.  You should always test the actions modified via group policy to verify that the desired result has been obtained.  [If you don’t want to provide a desktop session to users (and don’t need shared folders between users), you could look at having your application automatically start upon login (http://www.RiptideHosting.com/blog/how-to-launch-a-program-automatically-when-logging-into-remote-desktop-server/) (doesn’t work the same way in Server 2016 as in 2012R2) or RemoteApp / RDWeb. – note: RemoteApp requires the server to be joined to a domain]  Group policies vary between Windows Server editions so you may not see all of these.  This is just a small sample of the many group policies available.  There are usually many methods and policies available that could be enabled to get the result you are trying to get.  You should do some research and try various methods.

 

  • User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Control Panel\Hide specified control panel items – to hide control panel items in the control panel window. User canonical names such as Microsoft.WindowsFirewall, etc. Here is a list of canonical names for 2008 R2 which should be similar in 2012 R2: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/ee330741(v=vs.85).aspx
  • User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Control Panel\Prohibit access to control panel and PC settings – user can’t open control panel from start button
  • User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\File Explorer\Hide these specified drives in my computer – hides drives in my computer and file explorer. Remember that similar to many other policies, this hides the drives but doesn’t restrict access to them, but see below.
  • User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\File Explorer\Prevent access to drives from my computer – will still show contents of drives but should prevent access if double click on c: drive or other drive(s) specified.
  • User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Microsoft Management Console\Restrict users to the explicitly permitted list of snap-ins – enable to prohibit snap-ins
  • User Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\Prevent access to registry editing tools – removes access to regedit.exe (windows registry editor)
  • User Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\Prevent access to the command prompt – removes access to the command prompt
  • User Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\Don’t run specified Windows applications – to specify programs that can’t be run – for example, if you don’t want Internet Explorer to run, you can type in iexplore.exe in the field.
  • User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Windows Installer – prevent users from using Windows Installer to install updates and upgrades
  • User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Start Menu and Taskbar\Remove the action center icon – will remove the action center icon. There are many other polices listed in this same area to remove various icons, etc. that you can review.
  • User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Windows Updates\Remove access to use all Windows Update features – removes access to Windows Update. You will want to confirm that the Administrator account still has access to Windows Updates and that automatic settings are still enabled and working.
  • User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Start Menu and Taskbar\Remove pinned programs from the taskbar – Hides icons for Server Manager, Powershell and File Explorer

 

Other Comments

  • Although not a group policy, you may want to modify Task Scheduler to disable the Server Manager pop-up at logon. Open Task Scheduler and navigate to below and disable the task. Library\Microsoft\Windows\ServerManager
  • There are also items in gpedit.msc under Computer Configuration (unlike User Configuration which were the items listed above) that you may want to enable that would affect all users such as Remote Desktop Session Time Limits, especially those for disconnected sessions – to prevent disconnection sessions from consuming server resources – http://www.RiptideHosting.com/blog/how-to-set-time-limit-for-disconnected-sessions-windows-server-2012r2/
  • Under gpedit.msc, under Computer Configuration, Administrative Templates, Windows Components, Remote Desktop Services, Remote Desktop Session Host…there are many policies you can review.  These would affect all users including the administrator user.  Under Device & Resource Redirection, you can change settings on audio/video playback, clipboard redirection, drive redirection, port redirection, etc.

If you want to remove the shortcuts/icons available to a particular user when they right click on the start button, you can remove them by going to c:\users\[username]\appdata\local\microsoft\windows\winx and deleting the shortcuts showing for that particular user. See link here: https://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/windowsserver/en-US/a6bfa211-f5fe-461d-8e09-f6ef3adb8b17/remove-right-click-option-in-ts-2012-r2-start-button?forum=winserverTS

 

Make sure to test your changes to verify that actual results are what you intended!

Issue in Windows 2012 R2 when setting RDP users to change password upon login

We have had issues where RDP users haven’t been able to login on a remote desktop terminal server when the “user much change password at next logon” button has been checked in user properties – see screenshot #1 below. Various comments and posts online indicate that changes in the windows authentication process in recent OS versions don’t allow this change if Network Level Authentication or Credential Security Support Provider (CredSSP)  is enabled.  This is only an issue trying to force users to change their password on a RDP session – it works fine from a console session if you are local to the machine.  Here is a workaround as well as alternatives you may consider:

 

  1. Don’t use this option to force users to change their password. Instead, have them manually change it upon logon by pressing control-alt-end and following the change password prompts. Another option is to create a complex, strong password for them without having them change it upon first logon (may be safest route in certain situations) or have them select their own password but enter it with the Administrator while on the admin session and not select the change at next logon option.
  2. NOT RECOMMENDED IN GENERAL – If you still want to use this option to force password change, you could turn off NLA and change RDP security layer to the RDP native security. See screenshot #2 below on turning off NLA. See screenshot #3 below on enabling a group policy to select the RDP security layer instead of negotiate (typically the default) or SSL/TLS. Using NLA and the higher security layers are usually recommended on your server for security reasons.
  3. Note: if you are having issues logging in to the server from RDP and getting errors about domain validation (when in workgroup mode and there is no domain) and often from the MAC remote desktop client, make sure you are logging in with the full name which is “machinename\username” instead of just username. Machinename is the name given to the server, which you can see under computer properties.

 

SCREENSHOT #1

User_Properties_General_Tab

SCREENSHOT #2

Turn_off_NLA

SCREENSHOT #3

Change_RDP_Security_Layer

How to Shadow a user’s remote desktop session on Windows 2012 R2 server not connected to a domain

This post is about how to shadow a session if the server is not connected to a domain. If the server is connected to a domain, you can go to server manager, RDS Manager, and right click on current sessions to shadow and connect. When the server is in Workgroup mode (not connected to domain) the Remote Desktop Services Manager page is not accessible in Server Manager. To shadow another user’s sessions in Windows Server 2012 R2 in Workgroup mode, use the following steps:

1) Open command window by clicking start, CMD. You must be using an account with administrative privileges. If you are using an account with administrative privileges that isn’t the named Administrator account, you must run in administrator mode (right click on cmd and click run as administrator)

2) Type quser.exe to determine the session number of the user session you want to shadow.
C:\Users\administrator.computer>quser.exe (note: typing “>qwinsta” without .exe will show similar information)
USERNAME SESSIONNAME ID STATE
administrator rdp-tcp#0 1 Active
user1 rdp-tcp#1 3 Active

3) In this example, the Administrator is going to shadow the user1 session which is session 3. You need to know the session number (“3”) for the next step.

4) Start shadow session by typing “mstsc /shadow:# /control” where # is the session number to shadow and /control allows you to control the session.
C:\Users\administrator.computer>mstsc /shadow:3 /control

5) The other user (user1 in this example) will get a popup called “remote control request” and must press Yes before shadow session will open.

6) The shadow session will open and you’ll be able to view the user1 session desktop screen.

How to modify timing of Windows Updates in 2012 / 2012 R2 to control timing of updates and restarts

Issue:
Windows Server 2012 or 2012 R2 reboots after installing Windows Updates during inconvenient times that don’t make sense and you would like to modify settings in a more similar way as with Windows Server 2008 R2. Windows 2012 by default restarts 3 days after the installation of Windows Updates instead of 15 minutes which was used in 2008 R2, BUT the restart counter only begins counting down when a user can see it (see Microsoft Technet link below). In addition, it appears that in some situations the restart counter is temporarily disabled when you logoff/disconnect. According to the MSDN blog post below, if after 3 days it is detected that critical applications are open or running in the background or the PC is locked, etc., Windows Update will wait to automatically restart the next time a user logs on with a warning that the machine will be rebooted within 15 minutes.

Although these changes are meant to minimize data loss by providing additional time and warnings prior to reboots, this change in logic can cause confusing timing of reboots of the server and you may wish to have more control over the timing.

Resolution:
If using Windows 2012, make sure KB2885694 (included in update rollup KB2883201 which is what you will see in installed updates) is installed on your server which should already be there since it was released in year 2013. Windows 2012 R2 already includes these new group policy settings.

Modify the group policy settings located here. Open Local Group Policy Editor by typing Gpedit.msc. Go to: Computer Configuration / Administrative Templates / Windows Components / Windows Update.

1. Enable the “Configure Automatic Updates” group policy. Use value of 4. If you want to select a schedule day & time, do NOT check the automatic maintenance box.

2. Enable the “Always automatically restart at the schedule time” group policy. This will allow reboots/restarts approximately 15 minutes after the updates are installed instead of 3 days later. The restart timer can’t be postponed once started and a restart will occur even if users are signed on.

These changes should make automatic updates act similar to the behavior experienced in Windows Server 2008.

 

Scenario Recommended configuration
Force updates and restarts at a specific time. For example:

  • Install updates on Friday nights at 11PM
  • Force a restart soon after installation
Use the Configure Automatic Updates policy:

  • Enable the policy
  • Use option #4 – Auto download and schedule the install
  • Deselect “Install during automatic maintenance”
  • Set “6 – Every Friday” for the scheduled install day
  • Set “23:00” for the scheduled install time

Use the Always automatically restart at the scheduled time policy:

  • Enable the policy
  • Configure the timer to the desired value (default is 15 minutes)

 

See links below from Microsoft for information that was used in the above post:

http://blogs.technet.com/b/wsus/archive/2013/10/08/enabling-a-more-predictable-windows-update-experience-for-windows-8-and-windows-server-2012-kb-2885694.aspx?pi47623=2#pi47623=1

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/2885694

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2011/11/14/minimizing-restarts-after-automatic-updating-in-windows-update.aspx

How to set time limit for disconnected sessions Windows Server 2012R2

By default, Remote Desktop Services allows users to disconnect from a remote session without logging off the server and ending the session. When a session is in a disconnected state, running programs are kept active even though the user is no longer actively connected. A disconnected session continues to consume server resources and we recommend that you set policies to end disconnected session after a period of time. Sessions are ended/closed out if the user Logs Off from the server (start -> logoff) but are not ended if the user simply clicks the X in the upper corner to close the RDP window.

You can limit the amount of time that active, disconnected, and idle sessions remain on the server. Two methods are described below:

#1 — User Properties to set session time limits per user:

In each user’s properties window, under sessions tab, you can change the default of “end a disconnected session” from NEVER to X hours/days as well as change the other settings.

User_Properties_Picture

#2 — Group Policy to set session time limits for all users:

  1. Cmd prompt, gpedit.msc
  2. Computer Configuration, Admin Templates, Windows Components, Remote Desktop Services, Remote Desktop Session Host, Session Time Limits
    1. Enable appropriate group policies and modify as needed
    2. We recommend setting this one because it will prevent disconnected sessions from consuming server resources — “Set time limit for disconnect sessions”
  3. After modifying group policies, you can force an update without rebooting by typing “gpupdate /force” at cmd prompt

 

#3 — If Windows Server 2008R2, you can modify these settings in RD Session Host Configuration too

To configure session settings on a windows 2008R2 server with Remote Desktop Services role installed, go to start -> administrative tools -> remote desktop services -> RD Session Host Configuration. Then right click RDP-Tcp properties, Sessions tab, and enter value to end a disconnect session after a specific period of time, end an idle session, etc. (tsconfig.msc also opens the RD Session Host Configuration window). More details can be found here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc754272.aspx

 

 

 

How to launch a program automatically when logging into Remote Desktop Server

Automatically launching a program or application upon login to a Remote Desktop Session.  See below for methods to use the “start program at login” policy which can be configured per user.  Another method to limit specific programs to a user is via RemoteApp.  We have several other posts regarding RemoteApp and how to set it up and its limitations (i.e. RemoteApp setup is easier in 2008R2 (works in Workgroup mode) than 2012R2 but RDweb requires ActiveX (so IE only) and it doesn’t work for MAC users, while use of RemoteApp in 2012R2 requires joining to a Domain).

1) USING ENVIRONMENT TAB OF EACH USER’S PROPERTIES ON SERVER:  If you want a program to automatically start when a user logs on to the RDP server instead of showing a full desktop session, you can configure this in the Environment tab of the Properties window for each particular user. 

 User_Properties_Environments

After you have made the changes, you should test that it works properly for your users by logging into the server using the accounts you changed/created including testing it with simultaneous sessions and to verify the sessions close properly when the application is closed.

We highly recommend enabling policy to log off disconnected sessions:

  • Enable policy to log off disconnected sessions immediately or within a few minutes so you don’t have a blank screen if users don’t properly exist a program.  Existing the program (instead of clicking X in upper right corner of program) will properly log off the session but enabling this policy will ensure that an improper disconnected session is automatically logged off.  See block post here for instructions on how to enable this policy on both 2012R2 and 2008R2 http://www.riptidehosting.com/blog/how-to-set-time-limit-for-disconnected-sessions-windows-server-2012r2/

2) USING PROGRAMS TAB ON REMOTE DESKTOP CLIENT – Another method is to use the programs tab on your local remote desktop client prior to logging in to the server.  On the programs tab, you can enter the path for program to start upon login.  You can also create a RDP shortcut with this information saved on to your desktop.  We have a video on our website on creating RDP shortcuts – https://youtu.be/iLKSMcIrfqE .  A disadvantage to this method versus the first method above is that each user can edit the shortcut and change the settings.  Your IT person can create these shortcuts and provide them to each user.  

If you use this method on Windows 2008R2, you may have to change settings in RemoteApp under RDP Settings Change and allow access to unlisted programs.

3) USING GROUP POLICY – Another method to configure this is to configure programs to automatically start in the RD Session Host Configuration settings and in Group Policy, although then the logon settings could be applied universally to all users, including the Administrator (which means Administrator may not be able to access the desktop, start button, etc.) whereas the method above allows configuration by User.  You could also create a separate group policy that would be applicable for a specific group, such as non-administrators, so the group policy change wouldn’t affect all users. 

4)  REMOTEAPP – Another method is to configure the RemoteApp feature in Remote Desktop Services (RDS).  In 2008R2, this feature works great (either the RemoteApp distributable file or RD Web) for PC users but not for MAC usersIn 2012R2, the RemoteApp features requires the Active Directory / Domain Controller service to be install on the server before RemoteApp can be used

 

 

How to create a Bootable USB to install Windows Server iso image to fix the error BOOTMGR missing

The most recent Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview iso is so large that only some DVDs readers can read it.  Example try loading it on a Dell PowerEdge server.  The iso was greater than 4.7GB and therefore was not burnable on the single layer DVDs we had.  Simply copying the iso to a USB thumb drive will error when trying to boot because it is not a bootable device it is missing the boot loader so you will get the error message that boot file or bootmgr is missing.  Note: to boot from USB on a Dell PowerEdge Server you much change settings in Dell bios to boot from USB.  To work around this issue and properly boot a Windows Server Iso Image from a USB drive, we followed these steps for a windows machine:

  1. Have the .iso image on your local desktop/laptop or on a readable DVD.
  2. Download this Microsoft tool, “Windows USB/DVD Download Tool” (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/windows-usb-dvd-download-tool), to your local desktop/laptop.  We used this tool on a Windows 7 machine.  We have seen posts where users says it works on a Windows 8 PC but have not verified it.
  3. Open the tool and follow prompts to copy the iso image from local machine to USB thumb driveInsert thumb drive in server and change bios boot options to boot from USB.

Extending volume size in Windows 2012 R2 error “the parameter is incorrect”

Recently while expanding the disk size on a Windows Server 2012 R2 VM, we received an error message pop-up saying “the parameter is incorrect”. We noticed that Disk Management was now showing the correct updated disk size but the incorrect original (smaller) size was still showing in windows explorer properties and in server manager.

We resolved this by extending the filesystem using the DISKPART utility – See Microsoft KB on this (note this was for Server 2003 but same method in 2012 R2 and probably 2008 R2) https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/832316 The partition size is extended, but the file system remains the original size when you extend an NTFS volume

Open command prompt

Type “diskpart”

Type “list volume”

Type “select volume #”

Type “extend filesystem”

Exit