Windows Server 2003 management tools: Remote Desktop for Administration

Remote Desktop for Administration is one of the new server features in Microsoft's management initiative for Windows Server 2003. Find out what benefits it offers.

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In Windows Server 2003, Remote Desktop for Administration replaces Terminal Services Administration Mode for Windows 2000 Server. Remote Desktop for Administration is one of the new server features included in Microsoft's management initiative. Windows 2000 Terminal Services Administration Mode was a great improvement over non-existent remote management features in Windows NT Server. Remote Desktop for Administration uses the same technology as Windows XP's Remote Desktop feature.

Both Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 contain the Remote Desktop Connection Software allowing them to initiate a connection to another Windows XP or Windows 2003 system. Older versions of Windows can download the Remote Desktop Connection Software from Microsoft.

Remote Desktop for Administration is a core feature with Windows Server 2003, so there is no need for installation; you simply need to enable it. Here's how:

  • Go to System Properties and click on the "Remote" tab.
  • Click the "Allow users to connect remotely to this computer" box.
  • Hit the "Select Remote Users" button to add any users not included in the Local Administrators security group that need to connect remotely. Configuration and management of Remote Desktop is performed in the Terminal Services Configuration and Terminal Services Manager MMC snap-ins.

When you connect to Server 2003 from another Server 2003 or from a Windows XP machine using Remote Desktop in the Windows Server 2003 Administration Tools Pack, you will notice new behavior from the server. This is because it operates at the display output level using Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to capture graphics display packets. Instead of displaying the packets on the locally connected display, they are routed over the network to the Remote Desktop client that initiated the connection.

When the Remote Desktop session is active, the local console is locked. Again, when connecting from Windows 2000, 98 or 95, you must have the Remote Desktop Connection Software installed. In this scenario, Windows Server 2003 will act identical to Terminal Services Administration Mode, available with Windows 2000 Server.

Remote Desktop for Administration benefits over Windows 2000 Terminal Services sessions:

  • Terminal Services Administration Mode has several shortcomings. Remote Desktop provides an administrator with a remote session identical to that of the local console session.
  • Now all application pop-up messages are visible in Remote Desktop.
  • All control panel applets and other programs function during the remote session as they do during the local session.
  • No licenses are required for Remote Desktop.

Note: By default, two Remote Desktop sessions can run simultaneously. This could have negative results on server systems. You can limit remote simultaneous connections to one in the connections option within Terminal Services Configuration MMC.


Dana Daugherty is a systems analyst with Saudi Aramco, the largest oil producing company in the world. He is a member of the Windows System Management group and is responsible for providing solutions to other IT groups for managing Windows operating systems. Dana can be reached at DanaDaugherty@yahoo.com.
This was first published in April 2005

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