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Mysteries of Remote Desktop Connection in Windows

I have half-a-dozen different notebook PCs in my office, and three desktops total, all of which I like to manage remotely from my primary production desktop, because it’s got two great big honkin’ 27″ monitors hooked up to it. I can devote one whole screen to a remote desktop and still get plenty done on the production machine on the other screen. I often test or research software, capture screen shots, and take crazy chances on my various test machines inside a remote desktop connection window as a kind of “Polack Productivity Booster.”

But interestingly — and sometimes frustratingly — not all applications work properly when run remotely. For example the Lenovo Solution Center and the ThinkVantage System Update applications I regularly run on my X220 Tablet and T520 notebook PCs won’t run at all in a remote session, though they run just fine if I operate them on either machine directly and locally. This behavior is vexing, but tolerable, because it’s painfully obvious to me that these applications simply don’t work remotely.


Here’s a dandy little utility that just happens to fail nearly at completion when run through a remote desktop connection.

But then, there are applications that appear to run, or start to run, in a remote session in Windows only to fail part-way through their job completion process. Case in point: the Windows 8 record image (recimg) command-line utility and its Modern UI “skin” RecImg Manager (a free and handy program from Slimware Utilities). This incredibly handy utility makes a Windows image (.wim) file from your current Windows 8 system configuration, including all updated drivers, the OS itself, and any and all applications you’ve installed into the Program Files and Program Files (x86) directories. It works with the “Refresh your PC” repair utility in Windows 8 to create a current custom Windows image that you can use to fix all kinds of system issues that sometimes pop up, even on the best-behaved of Windows 8 systems (especially when you jack them around as much as I do mine).

There’s just one small problem with RecImg Manager and it drove me nuts before I finally figured it out: it just doesn’t work if you run it from a remote session. About 97% of the way through writing the image file, the program loses the link between the remote Windows 8 system and the local remote desktop connection host system. It hangs, and the image copy fails. I spent the better part of half a day trying to get it work in a remote session before it finally dawned on me that I should try running it locally instead. Not only did it complete without a hitch, it also finished up a great deal faster (probably because the source machine didn’t have to waste any cycles driving remote screen updates to the RDP-connected “other PC”). Since this happened, I’ve confirmed it’s not just an eccentricity on one of my 5 Windows 8 machines but affects all of them equally: RecImg Manager works fine locally, but hangs when run through a remote desktop connection.

Live and learn, I guess. Just another of the many “Windows surprises” that keeps me constantly bemused, and gainfully employed.

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It is said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" but it would sure make my job easier. I wish it wasn't foolish to think that computers would operate in a consistent manner or that programmers would program in a consistent manner.