The Terminal Services Client (TSC) software that came with Windows 2000 was easy to install and set up. How could Microsoft possibly improve on that? Well, with Windows XP, it has made a good thing better. For one thing, Windows XP Professional already has the client built in; you don't have to install it. This new terminal client, Remote Desktop Connection (RDC), can be used to access the desktop of another XP Pro machine (a welcome new feature) or a Windows .NET server to remotely execute applications or manage the server (with administrative privileges). It can also be installed on Windows 9x and 2000 Professional computers to replace the old TSC and connect to Windows NT or 2000 terminal servers—offering more functionality and a friendlier interface. In this Daily Feature, I’ll examine RDC and show you how you can add it to your Windows terminal client machines.
What's new with RDC?
|The Windows 2000 TSC has a simple, but not especially configurable, interface.|
|The RDC interface offers multiple configuration options and a spiffy appearance.|
When you open the RDC client, you’ll first notice its new look. Compared to the Windows 2000 TSC, RDC’s appearance is downright spiffy (see Figures A and B).
|The RDC client software, unlike Windows 2000 Terminal Client, allows you to display more than 256 colors.|
One welcome change in the RDC is display color depth support. While the Windows 2000 Terminal Client allows you to set the resolution of the terminal window, it limits you to 256 colors. If you want high or true color with W2K TSC, you have to use the Citrix MetaFrame add-on, which is an additional expense. RDC allows up to 24-bit color (see Figure C).
As with so many of the good things in life, there’s a catch. To take advantage of RDC’s increased color depth support, you’ll need to access a Windows .NET (the operating system formerly known as Windows 2002) terminal server. The Windows 2000 and NT terminal servers don’t support high or true color without Citrix.
|When you're connected to a Windows .NET terminal server, you can bring sounds to the terminal window.|
The same is true for the next exciting new feature in RDC: support for sound in the terminal window. When you connect to a Windows .NET terminal server, you can choose to bring the sounds associated with terminal applications to the local computer, leave them at the remote computer, or not play sounds at all (see Figure D).
|Optimize terminal performance by choosing the appropriate connection speed.|
You’ll also find an Experience tab on the RDC client configuration properties sheet. This tab allows you to optimize the performance of your terminal connection by selecting the appropriate data transfer speed, as shown in Figure E. Connection options include:
- Modem (28.8 Kbps)
- Modem (56 Kbps)
- Broadband (128 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps)
- LAN (10 Mbps or higher)
Depending on your selection, more or fewer components (desktop background, showing windows’ contents while dragging, menu and window animation, themes, and bitmap caching) will be allowed. You can also select Custom to individually select the allowed components as desired.
Installing and configuring RDC
The RDC is already installed on Windows XP computers when you install the operating system. You can use the client software to connect to Windows terminal servers without enabling Remote Desktop in the System applet in Control Panel. Enabling Remote Desktop is required only if you want others to connect to the XP machine using the RDC or TSC software—in other words, if you want the XP machine to function as a limited terminal server.
To install the RDC client on non-XP computers, first locate the installation file in the <Systemroot>\ System32\Clients\TSClients folder on a Windows .NET Server computer. Select the Win32 or Win16 subfolder, depending on the client operating system on which you wish to install the software.
Choose the Win32 version for Windows 9x/Me, Windows NT, and Windows 2000 client computers.
You can run Setup.exe from the Win16 or Win32 folder if you’re accessing the TSClients folder across the network. Alternately, you can run Clcreate.exe from the System32\Clients folder to make floppy installation disks.
The Terminal Services Client Setup Wizard will guide you through the installation process.
Using RDC to connect to a terminal server
Once it’s installed, you’ll find the RDC icon in the Start | Programs | Accessories | Communications menu.
You may want to place a shortcut on your desktop or on the taskbar’s quick launch bar if you’ll use the RDC often.
When you open the RDC, you’ll need to enter information about the terminal server you want to connect to, as well as your user account credentials. You must have a valid user account on the terminal server in order to connect.
On the General tab of the RDC interface, you’ll enter the following information:
- The computer name of the terminal server
- Your user account name and password
- The domain to which the account belongs
You can elect to have the RDC client save your password. If you do so, the next time you connect to this terminal server, you won’t have to enter the password information but will be logged in immediately.
In most environments, you should not check the Save My Password check box. If it remains unchecked, you’ll have to enter credentials each time you open a terminal session with this server, but unauthorized users won’t be able to connect to the terminal server from your machine (assuming your password is secure).
After you’ve entered the configuration information (and modified the display, local resources, programs, and experience settings, if desired), establishing a terminal session is as easy as clicking the Connect button. You can save these settings, and you can open a connection whose settings have been previously saved, by clicking the Save As or Open buttons, respectively.
You can now connect to the terminal server in either Remote Administration or Application Server mode, depending on how the terminal server is set up. You can run applications on the server and/or manage the server (if you have administrative privileges).
|Select the terminal server to which you want to connect from the drop-down list.|
You can save settings for connecting to a number of terminal servers, which you’ll then be able to select from the drop-down box on the RDC client, as shown in Figure F. If the server to which you want to connect isn’t shown on the list, you can select Browse For More to locate other computers running Windows terminal server software.
The RDC client that comes with Windows XP is a new and improved version of the Windows terminal client, especially when connecting to a Windows .NET terminal server, with which you can take advantage of the RDC’s enhanced features. The RDC comes already installed on Windows XP computers, and you can install the client software from the server CD to computers running other Microsoft operating systems. RDC provides a more user-friendly, more configurable interface and makes it quicker and easier than ever to enjoy the benefits of Microsoft terminal services.
Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 additional books on subjects such as the Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 MCSE exams, CompTIA Security+ exam, and TruSecure's ICSA certification.