Windows Server

Windows Server 2008 drops RDP console option

Although remote desktop is one of the Windows administrator's most essential tools, some functionality is removed in Windows Server 2008. Rick Vanover dives into what this means and explains why this is not exactly bad news.

Starting with Windows Server 2003, administrators have been able to redirect the server's console to a remote desktop session. This is referred to as session zero, and it is invoked like this:

mstsc /v:servername /console

Now that we're accustomed to this connection opportunity, Windows Server 2008 has removed the session zero connection option.

While the console redirection was a nice way to connect to a server when the existing two sessions were in use, it had its limitations. The number one problem with session zero is interactive device driver installations that occur via a plug and play enumeration of multiple devices. This most frequently occurs when adding multi-port serial adapters, a USB hub with multiple ports, or any other device that has a controller and subsequent individual devices. The root device would install correctly, but whenever the individual ports were enumerated, this functionality would not work correctly via a console redirected remote desktop session.

True console access is still best served by device extension mechanisms (such as a keyboard/video/mouse device), hardware controller (such as the Dell DRAC, HP iLO, VNC, pcAnywhere, DameWare), or other products that do a true console redirection.

If you attempt to connect to a Windows Server 2008 system with the /console parameter, it will ignore that option and pass the session on for a connection.

For the newest version of the remote desktop client software (6.1), the /admin parameter is a new feature, but it doesn't really change much based on how administrators have used remote desktop over the years. These changes are outlined in the Microsoft KB article 947723.

Stay on top of the latest Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008 tips and tricks with our free Windows Server newsletter, delivered each Wednesday. Automatically sign up today!

About

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

31 comments
bullens
bullens

See the following MSDN Blog it clearly explains how the /admin switch is used as a backwards compatibality setting to replace the /console switch when connecting to server 2003 or XP clients over RDP and that the reason the /console switch has been dropped in 2008 is due to the way that server 2008 installs software and interacts with services it is no longer required. http://blogs.msdn.com/ts/archive/2007/12/17/changes-to-remote-administration-in-windows-server-2008.aspx It seems very valid for MS to drop this functionality after reading this blog, though I have not tested this yet and would ultimately hold off making any sweeping statments until I have given this a run for it's money!

Eternal
Eternal

I use the console option as I do a number of Server 2003 boxes so it's just stored in my settings.. when I remote to my one 2008 box and the client is physically logged into the console(he has domain admins)when I remote in with the /console it warns me I'll bump him and I do.. samething if I'm in with /console and he walks up to the machine and logs in it bumps me.. so console being gone in 2008 RDP I call BS... I hear you can use /admin but it's not quite the same.

jdprior
jdprior

If the /console option is now the /admin option, how is functionality removed? Misleading title designed to drive clicks. Real journalists would be ashamed.

Greg_G
Greg_G

This is very disappointing to me. I believe my favorite feature when I moved from Win2k Server to Win2k3 was the addition of the ability to RDC to the console session. Now I'll have to go back to installing VNC simply for that purpose as I did with Win2k.

jeremy.whitson
jeremy.whitson

why MS would remove the session zero option because of a port enumeration issue. In supporting almost 500 Windows servers, we have very few of these types of devices, as in less than 5 servers. My company may be out of the norm, but most admins know that installing hardware/software works best always from a true console session. In my opinion, the console opion provided many other useful work arounds, enough that outweighs what I consider a minor issue.

pointzerotwo
pointzerotwo

We have serveral "server" apps that don't run as services. We have to log in and run them whenever the server is restarted, and to avoid confusion over which session they're in we run them in the "console" session. That way we can get to them from the physical console in the server closet, or much more commonly, using mstsc.exe /v:server /console. We don't use USB hubs on any servers, so I guess that explains why we never saw the PnP issue. After reading the MSDN article mentioned above, I'm still a little confused about how (or if) we can do that with Server 2008. On one hand, it sounds like the /admin switch will accomplish the same thing. On the other hand, I don't understand the difference between session 0 and the physical console session (sounds like they were the same in 2003, but in Vista and 2008 they're no longer the same). Can anyone help clarify that? I prefer RDP because it's more responsive, but if 2008 doesn't support remote access to the physical console session, I guess we'll just go back to using VNC.

mlaxton
mlaxton

I thought it was just changed to /admin instead of /console? Or is that just when using the new client (XP SP3) to connect to Server 2003? Either way it broke the VisionApp program we used to connect to our servers console sessions.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Good information Rick, I was curious to learn your thoughts about TPV applications like pcAnywhere or even LogMeIn?

b4real
b4real

After all of those PnP issues, it is actually good to see it removed.

rwolf
rwolf

How disappointing. I ended up eliminating many problems with PCAnywhere including the cost when I went to RDP. I've set up an MMC to perform about 80 - 90 percent of my daily tasks including the ability to right-click the server under ADUC. Just another reason to "NOT" upgrade our server software.

TechViper
TechViper

I could be wrong and didn't try to verify but my understanding is that this is not the reason for the removal. Rather, the console behavior for all user sessions (local and remote) is different on Server 2008 (and Vista, with which it shares a common kernel). I don't think there is a user accessible 0 session on these OS. All user sessions are actually using a variation of RDP.

steve.baiter+spmkll
steve.baiter+spmkll

I think admin instead of console is just for backwards compatibility on RDC v6.1

b4real
b4real

I use them, and true console tools are going to be the only real option for this. My preference is hardware tools - DRAC, iLO, VMware consoles. PCAnywhere and other tools are OK. I like VNC with the service started on demand.

shuff
shuff

I only used the console session remotely on a couple of occasions, but those were when I needed to access the server remotely over the weekend for maintenance. The two remote sessions were carelessly left open by some vendors and unavailable, so I was able to open a console session, clear those abandoned connections, and do my thing. Had I not been able to access a console session, it would have been an hour-long trip into the office for a 10 minute task, then an hour back home. Sheesh. In their arrogance, Microsoft again chooses to know better than their user community and eliminate a useful feature because they don't feel like fixing an underlying problem that MAY impact SOME users here and there. If there are PnP issues, FIX THEM rather than wash away a useful back-door method for accessing my servers.

bvega
bvega

I like LogMeIn but if you have to install .NET app, you have to disconnect, then have someone at server complete the .Net install. Then, re-establish LogMeIn session. Really sucks. Anyone have this happen to them?! Benny

omg74
omg74

You need to connect to console when doing installs. I have run into issue with apps when the install is done using RD and the user is not connect to the console. Using a terminal server client like TS gateway PnP issues are removed with settings.

RNR1995
RNR1995

Haven't you noticed that IS Microsoft's way of "fixing" things..just disable them... IE on server 2003 for example... BTW Totally agree

technorex
technorex

I couldn't agree with you more. Another useful tool gone by the wayside.

sakamura
sakamura

Local Administrator account performs the tasks of this Job.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Hello Omg74, Sorry to be off topic, but could you PM me (fellow Lino inhabitant) please.

elbrando
elbrando

I've used all the MS remote options, pcAnywhere, GoToMyPC, and LogMeIn Rescue & IT Reach. LogMeIn is far superior for me (small central office I work in with 2 servers & 11 workstations, 15 remote locations spread throughout 4 states with several lappys spread around). LogMeIn is the best, easily. The IT Reach has terrific reporting capabilities as well as remote control functionality. The Rescue is great for the lappys and friends/family/freebies. pcAnywhere is good, but difficult to keep up with at times. I love the automated file transfer ability, though. GoToMyPC is expensive and with subpar features. MS stuff is unruly but free. It definitely has its place, though.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I use it extensively. I even avoided a very long road trip by employing the LMI rescue service. Thanks for your comments.

b4real
b4real

I use LMI all the time to support my family and the small business I do support for free. But, I don't think it the best choice for use internally (like for me to support the 300 servers I have here). It is great because their products work very well, however. I have it also on a few of my systems at home as well for my own remote access.

Eternal
Eternal

Actually, I'm logged in with a /console to my file server typing this response in IE 6.0.3.... Yes you have to turn off or reduce the security features.. but I think by default Server 2008 is the same... but really.. unless you're like me who doesn't like webmail and I remote into my server from everywhere to do what I need to do why would you be browsing from a server?

Aakash Shah
Aakash Shah

Just curious: what is wrong with IE on server 2003? Are you referring to the enhanced security in IE? If so, note that this can be disabled, and since this is a server, it is usually a good idea to keep things like this enabled since most people who log into servers log in as admins and so the server could potentially become infected. Or, just use FireFox with NoScript to get similar protection.

Hagstrom
Hagstrom

OK, I take it back... after reading more about it I found some good news from someone saying this: re: Changes to Remote Administration in Windows Server 2008 Windows Server 2008 supports 2 active and infinite number of disconnected admin sessions. When connecting to a machine that already has 2 active sessions, you can choose to disconnect one of active sessions. Note: The user you disconnect won't be logged off and his applications continue running. Thursday, December 20, 2007 6:21 PM by Sergey Kuzin

Hagstrom
Hagstrom

Unbelievable! I was so happy to find this feature in Win2003, after having been locked out too many times because of two left over sessions on the Win2000 servers. The console never gets "locked out". If someone left it open, it took over that session, or logged the user off... So now we will be right back to the Win2000 days again... ! :( MS should have left this as an option, not just take it away... this is a very important feature for remote administration! Definitely will make me reconsider upgrading some servers to Win2008.

Eternal
Eternal

I have a server 2008 standard box in RDP config, it's used for off site users to do their work.. and something happened, nobody could login to the RDP server remotely, not as adminstrator(domain or local) unless I used the /console and it worked. The /console still does something... in a RDP, not remote admin setup try logging in as a reg remote user with the /console option.. you get denied. As I said before in my setup /console works and will bump whatever user is physically logged into the console.

Aakash Shah
Aakash Shah

Installing apps isn't the only reason the console session is needed. For instance on one of my Dell servers, when the server shoots off a message about a problem, it only displays the message in the console session and not the other 2 sessions. So, the console session is needed is certain scenarios. Also, as others have mentioned, it allows another entry in case both of the normal sessions are occupied.

rick
rick

I'm with the the original statement that without console, how does one do remote installs. Using a regular RDP connenction is not supported with a lot of software installations, and with machines/servers in farms many miles away, what is the process to install on a 2008 server aside from flying to the farm? The Local Administrator account comes in to play how?