Windows Server

Use remote desktop to connect to the live Windows Server 2003 console

The remote desktop capability found in Windows Server 2003 can be a real lifesaver as you perform common administrative tasks on your Windows machine.

In Windows 2000, the remote desktop functionality left something to be desired. The remote desktop was always presented in a virtual session. Remote access to the physical console was not provided through the remote desktop tool, necessitating the need for a tool such as virtual network computing (VNC) for users who required remote access to the physical server console. Some services do not work well when interacting with a virtual session, making remote desktop useless for this purpose.

With Windows Server 2003, Microsoft has provided a "console mode," which corrects this problem by providing remote access to the physical console, thus eliminating the need for additional tools. This is good for a couple of reasons: One, all of your remote administration needs can be met through a single tool; two, the fewer remote access tools you install, the less attack surface you provide to a potential hacker.

The easiest way to connect to the console is to go to Start | Run and type mstsc /console. This will start the Remote Desktop Connection tool in console mode. This method also allows you the flexibility to pick and choose when you will connect to a virtual session versus a console-based session.

Note that this connection does not count against the two session remote administration limit. So, in essence, Windows Server 2003 with a version 5.1 or higher Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) client provides up to three remote console sessions.

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11 comments
DWRandolph
DWRandolph

I would recommend logoff instead of just disconnecting from a remote session. Disconnect keeps the session count (limited to just two in Administration mode). When muliple people have logon priveliges this can become a problem. Also note that closing the window or letting it timeout is the same as disconnect. Please do not say that everyone knows the password and can reconnect, that is a whole nother security rant. If you have a long task, it should be scheduled to run in the background (instead of tying up a console session) and email you upon completion. I define "long" as over 3 minutes. Applications that require running in a window, instead of as a service, are consumer grade and should not be installed on a server.

kyle
kyle

Sure the ?mstsc /console? method does work, but there are a couple easier ways. Microsoft planned ahead for the typical IT person that enjoys shortcuts (or they think we can?t spell) because if you use ?mstsc /con?, ?mstsc /cons?, ?mstsc /conso?, etc RDP knows you want to use the consol. This method works on RDP 5.1 and above. The other method involves the GUI in version 6.0. When you enter the server to connect to, put /console at the end (ex: server /console). As a note, in the GUI you have to use /console because /con and such does not work. I have tested RDP v5.1 and this method did not work. Terminal Services Client 6.0 can be found in the Microsoft KB article 925876.

david_scott
david_scott

does this only work when connecting to server 03? or 2000 as well? what admin tasks can you not do in virtual mode vs console mode? i have been using remote desktop for years to manage my 2000/2003 servers and rarely have i seen a need to go directly to the console. is there any option in RD that will open it in console mode by default or do you always have to use the run cmd with /console switch?

itamar_bs
itamar_bs

Hi Anyone knows of an application running on PDA/Cellphone running symbian OS, that connects to windows Remote Desktop? Thanks Itamar

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

No batch files or scripts run on your servers then?

progroupsystems
progroupsystems

Over seventeen years in IT and LAN Admin and I think I am losing it some days. I have setup many a VPN through a myriad of prior challenges and proprietory equipment...BUT one client I have with W2k3 SBE cannot connect to remotely [WAN side] even if when I expose it as a DMZ. I have even gone back to basics and exploring packets through 'ethereal' to determine the cause. Any ideas? I've used RDP [vX.X] for years for simplicity and use with Terminal Server console operations. But does anyone know of a service or config setting that is prohibiting connectivity? Perhaps a GPO or something that I've missed? Desparate!

REYA
REYA

When I logged out of the session it also logged out the user on the server. How do you log out of the session so that it does not disturb the actual console?

david
david

There are applications that run on servers that can't be seen in virtual mode. For example, if you are running Domino mail servers or just about anything that runs in that stack, it can't be seen or administered too unless you are directly on the box or in console mode via RDP.

Brooklyns Finest
Brooklyns Finest

I have a nokia device that uses symbian. Nokia does not make this device anymore but I believe the upgrade model the new Nokia 9500 should be the same

kyle
kyle

To avoid logging out the console user just disconnect the RDP session (click the X, or go to Start -> Disconnect). Also, if you do log out the console user you can still log back into the server?s console remotely and it will lock the console?s screen. I have noticed that when you login remotely using console mode and no console user is actually logged in, the virtual and console modes are mixed. For example, some system tray icons only appear when logged onto the console itself (Symantec AV), but when performing the initial login using console mode only the server only displays 1/2 of those icons. Plus, when you login using plain virtual mode more icons are missing. However, if you log into a console session that has already been logged onto from the console itself, all normal icons appear. It's weird, but I have seen it in many places (including XP).