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 We recommend you look the for the most recent version if these links are out of date.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: