Data Centers

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.

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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.

32 comments
prezbedard
prezbedard

Thank you. This is my first time managing a physical 2008 server. I kept wondering why when I logged off the remote session it logged off the local too.

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?

b4real1
b4real1

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

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