You can follow the steps below to install .net 3.5 on a Windows Server running 2012R2:
- Insert Windows Server 2012R2 installation media into DVD-rom (Riptide will have to do this for your remote server)
- Follow instructions on this link and as described below https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn482071.aspx?f=255&MSPPError=-2147217396
- Open Server Manager, add Roles and Features
- Select .NET Framework 3.5 Features
- On the “confirm installation selections” screen, click on the “specify alternative source path” link at bottom of screen
- Type in d:\sources\sxs
- Remember to remove the installation media DVD (Riptide will have to do this)
Azure RemoteApp discontinued – use Riptide Hosting as alternative to Azure RemoteApp and Citrix
Microsoft announced this month that it is discontinuing its Azure RemoteApp service and no new purchases will be available after October 1, 2016. Here is a link to their announcement
Riptide Hosting provides Remote Desktop (Terminal Server) Hosting using Windows Server 2012 R2 (soon Windows Server 2016) with Remote Desktop Services for publishing user customizable desktop sessions or RemoteApps. We have several options for delivering cloud hosted remote desktops and applications and can include monthly licensing for Windows Server, RDS user licenses, MS Office, SQL Server and more. You can start with as little as 2 users (not 10 or 20 users minimum as with other hosting provders). Give us a call or email and we will talk with you regarding your specific situation.
You may want to see which users are logged on to your Windows 2012R2 Server at any given time and may want to logoff a user. Users can be active on a server or in a disconnected session status which means they disconnected from the server but didn’t log off. Since disconnected sessions continue to utilize server resources, we recommend you enable a group policy to log off disconnected sessions automatically after a specific time period such as 1,2,4, or 8 hours – see our blog post here on how to enable this group policy http://www.RiptideHosting.com/blog/how-to-set-time-limit-for-disconnected-sessions-windows-server-2012r2/
We haven’t seen this happen very frequently, but if a user logs on to the server and the screen remains black, it is likely because the user has an existing disconnected session that has not be fully logged off. To resolve this, log into the server as an Administrator and log off the User’s disconnected session. When the User logs in again, they should see their full desktop session without any issues.
Steps to view and log off users:
- Login as Administrator or account with administrator rights
- Open Task Manager by right clicking the bottom tool bar
- Click on “More” or “Detail” to view all tabs of Task Manager
- Go to the “Users” tab which will show the users that are logged on the server
- Right click on a username and select “Log Off”
We recommend that users be educated to log off from the server when their tasks are completed (start, click on username, select log-off or sign-off) instead of just disconnecting the session by clicking the X in the upper right corner which doesn’t log the user off and only disconnects the session.
Users can create a shortcut on their desktop to the Remote Desktop Connection Client on their local PC to make it easier to login to their remote server. The shortcut can include customization like enabling printer redirection, enabling clipboard (to copy and paste between the server and local PC), hard drive redirection and more. You can also choose to save your username so you don’t need to enter it each time.
If you are the local IT admin and want to make it easier for your users to login to their remote desktop session on the remote server, you can create the RDP shortcut for each of them on their local PC or create it on your PC and provide it to them to save on their desktop. This assumes that the users are on the same version of Windows/RDP.
Steps to create a shortcut on your desktop to your local Remote Desktop Connection Client:
- On your Windows PC, open your local remote desktop connection client by clicking the start button and typing mstsc, or browsing to the program in start, all programs, accessories, remote desktop connection
- Click on “Show Options” to view the settings that can be modified/customized.
- On the General Tab, you can enter the computer name field as the IP address of the remote server or dns name if setup. You can also enter the username if you want it to be saved. Do not click “save as” yet as you will want to make additional selections first and then come back to the general tab to “save as” the shortcut to the desktop.
- On the Display Tab, you probably want to keep it as Full Screen.
- On the Local Resources tab, you have several important options particularly in the “local devices and resources” section. Most users will want to make sure the boxes are checked by both Printers and Clipboard which will allow you to print to you local printer and copy and paste files between your local PC and the server. Under the “More” settings, you can select whether to redirect your local c: drive which will then show up in windows explorer on the server to make it easy to move files between your PC and server. We typically don’t recommend that you redirect your hard drives by default in the shortcut because it utilizes additional resources and bandwidth (and you can easily move files using clipboard – copy/paste instead), but rather you can redirect your hard drive only when necessary by changing the setting prior to connecting. If you intend to move files between your PC and server frequently, then you make want to redirect your c: drive by default.
- After you have made your selections (usually you can leave the defaults on the remaining tabs), go back to the General Tab and click “Save As”, enter a shortcut name of your liking, and make sure to select your Desktop as the destination for the shortcut. (If you select “Save” instead of “Save As”, your choices will overwrite the default remote desktop connection profile on your local PC.) After saving it to your desktop, you should now see the shortcut on your desktop for easy access!
- We also have a video on creating RDP shortcuts that you can review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLKSMcIrfqE
Adjusting Server Manager settings to it doesn’t automatically start upon login (or turn it back on)
For Windows Server 2012R2: You may want to adjust the settings for Server Manager so that the Server Manager window opens automatically (or doesn’t open automatically) when logging into a Windows Server 2012R2 desktop session via RDP. You may want to turn it off so that it doesn’t consume resources during login or if it isn’t useful to users. You can follow the steps below to turn auto-start on or off.
Open Server Manager by clicking the Server Manager icon on the bottom taskbar right next to the start button
- Under the “Manage” drop-down in upper right corner, select Server Properties, then click the box by “Do Not Start Server Manager Automatically…” (or uncheck it is you want it to start automatically upon login)
- You can always open Server Manager by clicking on the icon in the task manager next to the start button that looks like a toolbox
Summary – Hosting desktops in the cloud goes by many names and can be setup in several methods depending on your needs. As you can see below, some setups can be costly from a Microsoft licensing perspective and some setups are better if you wish to share applications among users or alternatively have a completely isolated virtual machine for each user. As a hosting provider in the Microsoft SPLA program, Riptide Hosting can provide Windows Server and Remote Desktop Services (RDS) user licenses but not Windows Desktop (Windows 7,8,10) licensing. In the discussion below, you will see that Windows Server with RDS for individual user desktop sessions can be a very cost effective solution to provide users with a customizable desktop session and ability to share applications between users.
Method 1: Remote Desktop Services on Windows Server – You can utilize a Windows Server OS (2008r2/2012r2) with Remote Desktop Services (RDS) to provide each user their own customizable desktop session. Applications such as an access databases, accounting applications, business software, and MS Office can be installed on the server once and accessible by each user session simultaneously. Users have access to both a private folder (i.e. my documents) and apublic folder to easily share documents between users. The Desktop Experience feature can be installed to make Windows Server 2012R2 look like Windows 8.1 (or on Server 2008 R2 to look like Windows 7). A Remote Desktop server is often the cheapest method for providing desktop sessions. At Riptide, a VM with licensing for Windows 2012R2 starts at $90 plus RDS user licenses at $7.75 each.
Method 2: Windows VMs with Desktop OS 7, 8.1, 10 – Windows desktop licenses are not available in the SPLA program so hosting providers like Riptide cannot provide these licenses although you may be able to utilize your own licensing. Windows 7, 8.1, and 10 cannot be used as a Remote Desktop Session Host like Windows Server can be. If you are looking to provide individual (isolated) VMs to each user with a Windows Desktop OS, an option is to use one of our Dedicated Servers upon which to install your own Volume Licensed version of Windows 2012R2 Server OS along with the “virtual machine based desktop” deployment method of RDS where each hyper-V VM utilizes a desktop OS. Licensing in this scenario requires that each user or device accessing the VM have either the Windows Desktop Enterprise License with Software Assurance or a Windows Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) license. VDA device licenses are approximately $100/device/year. Many users do not have the Windows Enterprise license because it is available in Volume Licensing and not OEM/Retail and requires Windows Professional or better. Typically this is much more costly or cost prohibitive versus method 1 above. The rights to utilize the Desktop OS VM cease when either the Software Assurance or VDA license expires. For a client to use their own Volume Licensing, it must be on a fully Dedicated Server and must have the proper type of licensing. Here is a link to a good article on Microsoft licensing: https://community.spiceworks.com/how_to/124053-licensing-windows-10-with-virtualization-technologies-how-to
Method 3: individual VMs on Windows Server OS – if you want isolated VMs without the ability to share programs/documents between users, another option is to use Windows Server with individual hyper-V VMs with a Server OS instead of a desktop OS. This would allow you to license the underlying host machine/server with Windows Server Datacenter licensing which provides unlimited VMs on a server OS. In some cases this would be cheaper than method 2 above but almost certainly more expensive than Method 1 of Windows Server with RDS desktop sessions.
Things to think about:
- Do you want a Desktop OS or Server OS / Server OS with Desktop Experience?
- Who is providing the licensing? Do you have Desktop Enterprise with Software Assurance or VDA Licenses? Hosting providers via SPLA can provide Server OS and RDS licensing but not Desktop.
We get many questions about Remote Desktop Services on our hosted Windows Servers and below is a summary of many of our blog post, issues and links to helpful solutions and discussions.
Most clients that use Remote Desktop Services (RDS) use full “desktop sessions” where each user has their own desktop session to modify/customize the desktop, open their programs, save files, open MS Office documents (if Office is installed), etc. User can share files with other users through the use of public folders. Desktop sessions are the default method in RDS and are typically easy to use from any device with the Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection client which is built-in on Windows PCs and can be downloaded for MACs, iphone, android, etc. If you need to share and save files, interface with Office, install several applications, or have full desktop features, you will likely want to use regular/full desktop sessions without adding the advanced configurations and complexity of RemoteApp (see RemoteApp section below). In 2012 R2, during the installation of RDS, “Session Virtualization” is akin to desktop session.
INSTALLING APPS and PRINTER/DRIVE REDIRECTION: install your application using the proper RD install mode via control panel instead of double-clicking on the exe file.
RD CLIENT DOWNLOADS: Links to download remote desktop clients for MAC/iphone/ipads and Android. We recommend you look the for the most recent version if these links are out of date.
LOGIN ISSUES: Don’t check the box in user properties “change password upon login” and other items:
LOGOFF DISCONNECTED SESSIONS: For Windows Server 2012R2 only. Much easier to change these settings in 2008R2 via RDS GUI without following these steps. We recommend you utilize these steps to logoff disconnected sessions.
RDS LICENSING: Is your hosting provider providing the RDS user licenses? If you have your own licensing that you wish to use (Office, SQL Server, RDS, etc.), use our dedicated servers.
LAUNCH PROGRAM AUTOMATICALLY UPON LOGIN – to launch a single program without using RemoteApp
WINDOWS UPDATES TIMING: For Windows Server 2012R2 only, use link below to adjust timing of Windows Updates and reboots.
SHADOW SESSIONS: For Windows Server 2012R2 workgroup mode only, see link. Shadowing sessions in 2008R2 is easy and doesn’t require steps below.
Instead of a full desktop session for each user, RemoteApp is a feature in RDS where the user doesn’t get a desktop session but rather just an application as if it is running on the end-user’s desktop. While RemoteApp can be a great feature, there are some limitations as noted below (difficult use for MAC users, no desktop session to save/share Office and other files, etc.). Setup and use of RemoteApp differs in Windows Server 2008R2 and 2012R2. If you have MAC users, your only option if you want to use RemoteApp is Windows 2012R2 with the RDWeb role service installed as well as joining to a domain. An alternative to RemoteApp in some situations is to configure user properities to have a program automatically start upon login or desktop sessions that have been configured via group policies to hide some desktop features or icons.
Regular/Full desktop sessions are typically much easier to use than RemoteApp especially if you wish to interface with MS Office, share documents with other users, customize shortcuts or your desktop, etc., but RemoteApp is beneficial in certain use cases where you don’t want the user to logon to the server desktop and wish to only provide access to a specific program. In 2012R2, RemoteApp requires some advanced configurations such as requires joining to a domain and you’ll want to install certificates, etc.
RemoteApp in Windows Server 2008R2:
Works in workgroup mode (doesn’t require joined to domain controller like 2012R2). Managed through the RemoteApp Manager in administrative tools. Use the RemoteApp wizard to publish an application as a Remote App. There are several methods to distribute Remote Apps in 2008R2 of which two are:
- Distribute a RDP file to the user (no longer available in 2012R2). Create a .rdp file in the Remote App Manager (click on the Remote App and click on “create .rdp file) then manually distribute to user(s) as needed.
- RDWeb website where users access the specified program via a URL. You need to install the RDWeb access role service which installs IIS too. RDWeb Access website on 2008R2 requires client browser to have ActiveX enabled and therefore doesn’t work on Chrome, Firefox or any browser other than Internet Explorer (which may require adding URL to compatibility settings or trusted sites to avoid “browser not support” error message) and therefore basically excludes MAC users. https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc731508.aspx
RemoteApp in Windows Server 2012R2:
Remote App Manager doesn’t exist in 2012R2 and in order to view the RDS section in Server Manager, the server must be joined to a domain. Distribution methods: the ability to create a RDP file to distributed via the RemoteApp wizard is NO longer available. Use the RDWeb method or other methods such as Web Feed URL method via control panel on end-user’s local PC are still available.
- RDWeb URL – 2012R2 no longer requires ActiveX and therefore should be much more accessible from other browser types. When enabled, you can access the RD Web Access Web site at https://IPADDRESS/rdweb.
- However, in 2012R2, to distribute Remote App programs via the RD Web page, the RDWeb server role must be installed which requires the server be joined to a domain first, or the Active Directory Domain Controller role installed on the server first which is usually not recommended to do on the same server (and won’t even load on 2012 but will on 2012R2).
Links to some of our blog posts on RemoteApp:
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.
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).
- 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
- 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:
- 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
- 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).
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).
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.
- 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.
2. After IE opens, go to the url you use for RDweb. Click Allow on popup to allow MS RDS web access – see screenshot.
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.
5. Next, close all Internet Explorer windows and start over except this time login to the RDS site.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Launch a program automatically upon login. You can specify a program to run automatically upon login. You can do this by individual user (profile/properties tab), for all users in RD Session Host configuration and in Group Policy. See our post here: http://www.RiptideHosting.com/blog/how-to-launch-a-program-automatically-when-logging-into-remote-desktop-server/
- User full desktop sessions but configure group policies to limit access to certain things, remove icons, prevent access to drives, etc.
You can create group policies that affect non-administrators only. 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
- And much more….
Modifying group policies via gpedit.msc will affect all users including the administrator. If you want 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)
- Run mmc.exe when logged in as the administrator
- It will open screen below and then click File -> Add/Remove snap-in
- Select Group Policy Object Editor and click Add
- Then click BROWSE and can select non-administrators group **** make sure to click browse and change it from just “local computer” to list specific group/users instead. The click finish.
- Click OK on the Add/Remove Snap-in window
- Then you can expand on the Local Computer Policy header and go to User Configuration to make changes that should then apply only to non-administrators. – See some examples below of group policy you could user – there are a lot of them and this is just a sample.
- When finished, go File -> Save As and name it. You can open this group policy from File -> Open in the future 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/) or RemoteApp / RDWeb. 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
- 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!
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.