Hardware

Take advantage of multiple monitors with Vista's Remote Desktop

Greg Shultz shows you how to activate Vista's Remote Desktop support for multiple monitors and how to create a specially configured shortcut that will relieve you from having to rely on command line activation in the future.

If you're using multiple monitors as a part of your system setup and you regularly connect to other Windows Vista or Windows XP via Remote Desktop, you'll definitely want to learn how you can take advantage of Vista's Remote Desktop support for multiple monitors. Once you do, you can use this feature to connect to a remote computer and then span its desktop across your local system's multiple monitors.

However, this great feature is essentially hidden, as it is tucked away in a command-line switch rather than being another check box in the Remote Desktop GUI. In this edition of the Windows Vista report, I'll show you how to use this command-line switch. I'll then show you how to create a specially configured shortcut that will relieve you from having to rely on the command line.

This blog post is also available in the PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

Caveats

While Vista's Remote Desktop support for multiple monitors is an awesome feature, it does come with two caveats:

  1. Your multiple monitors must have the same screen resolution.
  2. The screen resolution on your multiple monitors as well as the monitor of the computer to which you're connecting must be under 4096 x 2048.

The command line

To launch Remote Desktop Connection with multiple monitor support, you must open a Command Prompt window and type the command:

Mstsc /span
You'll then see the standard Remote Desktop Connection dialog box, shown in Figure A, and will need to fill in the connection settings.

Figure A

When you use the standard command-line method, you'll have to manually fill in the connection settings.

As soon as you make a connection, you'll immediately see the desktop of the remote system spread across your multiple monitors. When you need to have access to both the local and remote desktops, you can reduce the size of the remote system's desktop to only one monitor by clicking the Restore Down button on the Remote Desktop window. As a shortcut, you can also use the keystroke [Ctrl][Alt][Break].

Once the window is on one monitor, you can use click-and-drag to resize the window to completely cover a single monitor. Keep in mind that when you reduce the size of a spanned remote widow, it will display both horizontal and vertical scroll bars, as shown in Figure B, that you'll have to use to see the entire screen. However, you can instantly span the window by clicking the Maximize button.

Figure B

When you resize the remote desktop's spanned window, you'll have to use scroll bars to view the entire screen.

Creating a shortcut

Of course, using the command line to launch your Remote Desktop connection isn't the most convenient way to use this feature. Chances are that you already have a saved Remote Desktop Connection RDP file saved on your desktop. Fortunately, you can create a standard Windows shortcut that will incorporate both the special command line and your RDP file.

Right-click anywhere on the desktop and select New | Shortcut from the context menu. When you see the Create Shortcut wizard, just type mstsc /span and the path to the RDP file in the text box, as shown in Figure C. Be sure that you enclose the path to the RDP file in double quotes if it has spaces in it. To continue, click Next and give the shortcut a appropriate name such as Saturn - MultiMon Remote and then click Finish.

Figure C

You can create a standard Windows shortcut that will incorporate both the special command line and your RDP file.

You can now use this shortcut to launch your remote desktop connection and use all the available space on your multiple monitors. Of course, the spanned desktop won't exactly behave like a multiple monitor setup when you open multiple windows. You'll have to use a little creative click-and-drag resizing to reposition the windows on the spanned desktop.

What's your take?

Do you have a multiple monitor setup? Do you regularly use Remote Desktop? Will you take advantage of Vista's Remote Desktop support for multiple monitors? Please drop by the Discussion Area and let us hear from you.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

11 comments
Braintiller
Braintiller

I am a marketing person and I use remote desktop software often. So far I used numerous applications. Currently I am working with RHUB?s (http://www.rhubcom.com) multi-capable remote PC desktop in my office. It is unified with four real-time collaboration technologies ? web conferencing, remote support, remote access, and webinar - in a single product. It's really simple to setup and easy to use.

parsnip75010
parsnip75010

I have not been able to get this to work. I am trying to connect from a laptop with just the single display to a remote PC with dual monitors. Trying all the suggestions and procedures above I still only see one monitor. Am I missing something simple such as needing dual monitors on the local laptop so that I need to hook up an external monitor to see both monitors on the remote PC?

1jimcox
1jimcox

We do not have the luxury of moving to Windows Vista yet. With Windows XP, we have been using LogMeIn's multiple monitor feature. It works very well. LogMeIn is much more configurable the Windows Remote Desktop in many ways and allows for changes while connected.

teeeceee
teeeceee

We use multiple monitors on every PC in our office. The issue we have is when our remote laptop users connect, windows for applications tend to be hidden from view, because that is how they were configured (open in second monitor) on their work PC. I do not know if this option will help with that issue, but it is worth a shot. Edit: I just read Mr. Schultz' response. I think that will resolve our issue too. Learn something new about windows every day... Thanks again. Thanks.

jgreyorl
jgreyorl

I purchased a multi monitor computer from the website http://www.multiplexpc.com/ and they did some tech work via the remote desktop and it was amazing. They fixed the issue in like 5 mins. Thanks for the article!

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you have a multiple monitor setup? Do you regularly use Remote Desktop? Will you take advantage of Vista?s Remote Desktop support for multiple monitors? Please drop by the Discussion Area and let us hear from you.

mamies
mamies

because i like to have one monitor on the other machine and the other monitor on this machine. Just a little thing i feel padantic about. Great artical and advice tho. I am sure it will help alot of people out

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Run up an application on my secondary monitor. Un dock Change offices Run application again I assume it's displaying on my secondary, certainly isn't on this ONE ! Flakey crap, don't rely on it.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

If an application launches on your secondary monitor, but your secondary monitor isn't connected, here's the trick: 1) Right click on the app name on the Taskbar 2) Select the Move command and let go of your mouse. 3) Use the right or left arrow keys to move the window back to the main monitor. * If the Move command is greyed out, select the Restore command and then repeat the procedure.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I wonder what dippy uncustomer focused devloper thought that was an acceptable solution? :p

Editor's Picks