Hardware

Use multiple monitors with Windows 7's Remote Desktop Connection

In Windows 7 you can connect to a remote computer and take full advantage of your local system's multiple monitors. Greg Shultz explains how.

If you're using multiple monitors on your system setup and you regularly connect to other systems via Remote Desktop, you know how frustrating it is to go from a multiple-monitor display to a single-monitor display for your remote connection. If so, you'll definitely want to learn how you can take advantage of multiple monitors in Microsoft Windows 7's Remote Desktop Connection.

However, before I go any further it is important to understand right off the bat that multiple-monitors support in Windows 7's Remote Desktop is available only on Windows 7 Ultimate and Windows 7 Enterprise. (It is also available in Windows Server 2008 R2.) Furthermore, both the local and remote systems must be running one of the supported versions. For example, Windows 7 Ultimate is running on the local and Windows 7 Enterprise is running on the remote.

As long as you have the proper configuration, Windows 7 provides you with real multiple-monitor support as opposed to the monitor-spanning feature that was introduced in the previous version of Remote Desktop Connection. This means that in Windows 7 you can use this feature to connect to a remote computer and take full advantage of your local system's multiple monitors on your remote system.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll describe Windows 7's Remote Desktop support for multiple monitors and show you how to configure it for connecting to other Windows 7 systems. I'll also show you how to use Remote Desktop's monitor-spanning feature when connecting to, and from, Windows versions that do not support the multiple-monitors feature.

What's the difference?

Before we get started, let's take a moment to discuss the different types of Remote Desktop monitor configurations you can have when using a system with multiple monitors. In the standard type of connection, Remote Desktop displays the remote system in a window on one monitor. In a connection configured with the monitor-spanning feature, Remote Desktop displays the remote system in a window on one monitor but allows you to drag or span that window across multiple monitors. In a connection configured with the multiple-monitors feature, Remote Desktop makes the remote system behave as if it were physically connected to multiple monitors. Each of these configurations is illustrated in Figure A.

Figure A

There are three types of configurations you can use when using Remote Desktop on a system with multiple monitors.

Configuring a multiple-monitors connection

If you have the proper setup, configuring Windows 7's Remote Desktop multiple-monitor feature is easy. To begin, Launch Remote Desktop Connection and select the system you want to connect to with multiple-monitor support from the Computer drop-down list. Then, click the Options button to expand the Remote Desktop Connection window so that you can see all the tabs. Next, choose the Display tab and select the Use All My Monitors for the Remote Session check box, as shown in Figure B. To complete the procedure, return to the General tab and click the Save button.

Figure B

Selecting the Use All My Monitors for the Remote Session check box is all that is needed to enable the multiple-monitor feature.

When you connect to the remote system, the remote system's monitor will instantly fill your multiple monitors, just as if it were physically connected to the monitors.

Configuring a monitor-spanning connection

As I mentioned, in a connection configured with the monitor-spanning feature, Remote Desktop allows you to drag or span the window across multiple monitors. However, there are a couple of caveats. First your multiple monitors must have the same screen resolution. Second, the monitors must be aligned, or positioned, side-by-side. Third, the combined screen resolution of your multiple monitors must be under 4096 x 2048.

To launch Remote Desktop Connection with monitor-spanning support, just click the Start button and type the following command in the Start Search box. (Alternatively, you can open a Command Prompt window and type the same command.)

Mstsc /span

When you do, you'll see the standard Remote Desktop Connection dialog box, and you can launch the connection as you normally would. As soon as you make a connection, you'll immediately see the desktop of the remote system spread across your multiple monitors. If 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 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 C, that you'll have to use to see the entire screen. However, you can instantly span the window by clicking the Maximize button.

Figure C

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

To begin, right-click anywhere on the desktop and then 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 D. Be sure that you enclose the path to the RDP file in double quotes if the path has spaces in it. To continue, click Next and give the shortcut an appropriate name, such as Saturn - Remote Spanning, and then click Finish.

Figure D

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 span the Remote Desktop window across 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. As such 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 Windows 7's Remote Desktop support for multiple monitors? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

Also read:

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.

28 comments
jfordtmc
jfordtmc

I have Windows 7 Pro. When connecting to a Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise machine, all four of my monitors are utilized.  When connecting to a Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard machine, I cannot get past just the one monitor.  Any idea if this is because of the Standard version of server?  Again, I am running Win 7 Pro and CAN use multi mon when connecting to server 2008 R2 Enterprise, so I don't think Windows 7 Pro is the problem coming from the connecting computer.

Barc777
Barc777

I have two monitors on the remote machine and two on my machine. Can I get both of the remote monitors on my own two monitors?

stageacter
stageacter

I have a Windows 7 laptop with two monitors, and RDP was acting correctly, and opening a full desktop, but on one monitor. Now, suddenly, it is spanning my monitors, and if I try to force it to just one monitor, I have the scroll bars. I don't *want* to span, because I need to do work, and go back and forth. Besides, when it spans, the login is directly in the middle of the display, so right were the two displays meet.

jpkuhns
jpkuhns

I've read about so many people being mad about this subject and now I'm one of them. OK, so you have to have Ultimate or Enterprise OS at the host. I'll accept that fact. But then why does MS indicate on its pro and home versions "Use all my monitors for remote session"? If it can't be supported by the home edition or pro then don't tease me by making me think it can. Or I guess we can assume that it's just to darn hard for MS to make good accurate software.

snehasheela123
snehasheela123

Greg, your suggestion for spanning helps eventhough we need to re-size the screens, sessions etc., Your documentaion is very helpful, easy and interesting to read. thanks a lot.

snehasheela123
snehasheela123

O.K. My host is Windows 7 Professional and the PC that is used for making remote access (Guest) is Windows 7 Home Premium......now I'm keeping my fingers crossed for your answer....

snehasheela123
snehasheela123

Well, my host and remote machines are on Windows 7 and Use All My Monitors for the Remote Session check box is selected for the remore. Please help me.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...Windows 7 are you using? Keep in mind what I wrote in the second paragraph: "However, before I go any further it is important to understand right off the bat that multiple-monitors support in Windows 7s Remote Desktop is available only on Windows 7 Ultimate and Windows 7 Enterprise. (It is also available in Windows Server 2008 R2.) Furthermore, both the local and remote systems must be running one of the supported versions. For example, Windows 7 Ultimate is running on the local and Windows 7 Enterprise is running on the remote."

snehasheela123
snehasheela123

I have Wndows 7 on remote and host computers. Selecting the Use All My Monitors for the Remote Session check box is not working. Is there anything needs to be done? my resolution is same on all monitors. Please suggest me.

mauliksoni27
mauliksoni27

.. we are using Citrix receiver. We can just use one screen, when we use Citrix receiver. Any tweaks or tips on using both the screens?

dhamilt01
dhamilt01

I have a Windows 7 Ultimate desktop connected to two 17" monitors. I have a Windows XP Prof. desktop conected to one 20" monitor in the basement. I can see my XP system in Network on my Windows 7 system but NOT visa versa. Don't ask, I've wasted days trying to make it work and it just doesn't. To save time and energy (it's really hard draggin' that damn wheelchair up and down two flights of stairs all day), I want to see AND USE my XP system on my second Windows 7 monitor even if XP is just a window on my Windows 7 second monitor's desktop. Can this be done using Remote Desktop or is something else needed? Thanks.

rckelley
rckelley

I would use a command prompt or a bat file to view my dual monitors on the remote computer. Type in "mstsc.exe /v:192.168.1.1 /w:2560 /h:768" (example) Use the ip address or computer name of the machine you wish to remote into. The /w switch would be the combined width resolution of the two monitors and the /h: would be the higth resolution. I found I had to play with the /h switch to get it to work well. On a single screen you could scroll back and forth. If you had dual monitors on the machine you were remoting from you just stretched it across. Maybe not as elegant as /span but I have used it for years. And I believe I got it from a Tech Republic tip.

RNR1995
RNR1995

To run dual monitors you only need Ultimate or Enterprise on the host that's it

PeterM42
PeterM42

I use Logmein which has a "switch screen" button - works really well on all versions of Windows 7 and, of course can be used REALLY remote, ie: via the internet.

amj2010
amj2010

we use dualwallpaer instead

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you use multiple monitors even when you are accessing a remote computer?

NonBreaker
NonBreaker

the frustration with this, but in order for this to be possible, Microsoft would have to maintain two different versions of mstsc.exe. I dunno about you, but unnecessary different versions of the same software is even more frustrating to me than finding out I can't use a feature that I can see.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...the real multimonitor supprt multiple-monitors support in Windows 7s Remote Desktop is available only on Windows 7 Ultimate and Windows 7 Enterprise and both the local and remote systems must be running one of the supported versions. For example, Windows 7 Ultimate is running on the local and Windows 7 Enterprise is running on the remote. With Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional, your only option is monitor spanning. See Figure A in the article for an example of how spanning works.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...what versions of Windows 7? Windows 7 Ultimate? Windows 7 Enteprise?

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...Google and search for Citrix receiver multiple monitors and turned up numerous results including several from the Citrix support forum. Since there are so many variables to consider, I suggest you try Googling and see which one fits your particular configuration and set of needs.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...the remote desktop connection to work from Windows 7 to Windows XP?

NonBreaker
NonBreaker

Unless I'm misunderstanding something, you should be able to use RDP from Win 7 to XP...simply go to Start on the Win 7 machine, type mstsc and click the program that comes up (mstsc.exe), and type either the name or ip address of the XP machine into the box that comes up. Of course, you'll need to make sure your XP machine allows remote desktop connections.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...it doesnt work that way. As I said in the article, both the local and remote systems must be running one of the supported versions: Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 7 Enterprise, or Windows Server 2008 R2. For example, if you have Windows 7 Ultimate is running on the local with multiple monitors and Windows 7 Enterprise is running on the remote, then you will have true multiple monitor support. However, if you have have Windows 7 Ultimate is running on the local with multiple monitors and Windows XP is running on the remote, then true multiple monitor support will NOT work. You will have to use the monitor spanning feature with Windows XP and any of the other versions of Windows 7.

NonBreaker
NonBreaker

I am running Win7 Pro for my primary, and I use this feature on a daily (even hourly) basis when working on our 2k8R2 servers.

ChromiumDomium
ChromiumDomium

Windows 7 Prof WILL connect in multimon to an Enterprise machine quite happily (I'm writing this on a Win7 Pro to Win7 Enterprise computer connected this way right now) . However, If the remote is Professional then you're limited to the /span option, Whatever version you have as a client. i.e: it's the remote installation that's key. The true situation is that the Remote machine (The one your connecting to) must be Enterprise or Ultimate or Server 2008. IMHO this is a ludicrous restriction as most business PC's from HP and the like are shipped with Professional as standard and thus Professional should be able to serve multimon as well as connect. Remember there's no upgrade path to Enterprise. Therefore, a complete reinstall is required to serve multimon.

dhamilt01
dhamilt01

After going through the steps required, the XP system was accessed and I could move the XP window to my second Windows 7 monitor. I tried this when I first installed Windows 7 but couldn't get it to work. Windows 7 has been updated frequently since then and I guess they fixed something or I was erroring the first time I tried. Because my XP system is so old (and slow), the session locks up after 5 or 10 minutes and I have to reboot the XP system. Maybe I'll have better luck when I replace my XP system with my Windows 7 system and buy a new Windows 8 system. Thanks.

Ohbeone
Ohbeone

@Greg Shultz   If you are still maintaining this blog you need to correct it.  You are wrong.  As @RNR1995 stated, only the host machine (or the server machine or the machine you are remoting INTO...however you want to word it) needs Enterprise or Ultimate.  I remoted happily into my work from home and got dual monitor until we got bought and our new companies machines only have Win 7 Pro and now it no longer works. So after much searching I found that it is because the host is Pro.  My home is pro. So I know you do NOT need both.  Only the host.  Please update your blog and stop spreading false information.


Also, you will notice that in Win 7 Pro, when you launch remote desktop there is a checkbox to "use all my monitors for the remote session".  This is in the Pro version because with pro you can connect to Enterprise or ultimate and utlize multimon.  The frustrating things is when it doesn't work, it is extremely hard to find out why as it seems it should by having that option there in the first place.


You'll also see that above @ChromiumDomium  pointed out the same thing and that he was even typing his comment doing what you are saying is not possible. So again, please correct your posts.