Although Terminal Services Manager can handle almost any administration duty you’ll need to perform in Terminal Services, it’s a bit slow when terminal sessions are connected to your server—which can be a real hassle when you’re trying to get work done. A faster, simpler alternative to Terminal Services Manager is WinStation Monitor. WinStation Monitor is a monitoring tool for Terminal Services that is included with the Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit. In this Daily Feature, I’ll describe how to use WinStation Monitor to check on the status of your Terminal Services client sessions.

What makes WinStation Monitor a better choice?
The main reason that WinStation Monitor is faster than Terminal Services Manager is because WinStation Monitor has a lot less overhead. For the most part, WinStation Monitor is designed to give you some basic information without bogging down the server with extra tasks.

This is partly because WinStation Monitor displays less information than Terminal Services Manager, but another reason is the refresh rate.

If you select the Options command from Terminal Services Manager’s Tools menu, you’ll see a dialog box that allows you to control the utility’s refresh options. By default, process information is refreshed every five seconds. Likewise, status dialog boxes are set to refresh every second. So using Terminal Services Manager to monitor Terminal Service can reduce the overall performance of your server.

You can turn down the refresh times, or even set Terminal Services Manager to a manual refresh mode. However, if you just want some quick-and-dirty management capabilities, you might be happier using the WinStation Monitor utility.

Installing WinStation Monitor
WinStation Monitor is pretty easy to install. It’s included in the Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit. Insert the resource kit CD into the server’s CD-ROM drive, open My Computer, and double-click the CD-ROM drive to reveal the list of files that it contains. Then, double-click the Setup.exe file to launch the Setup wizard.

When the Setup wizard launches, click Next to bypass the initial Welcome screen. Then you’ll be prompted to accept the End User License Agreement (EULA). After accepting the EULA and clicking Next, you’ll see a screen asking if you want to perform a typical or a custom setup. For the purposes of this article, choose the Typical option, and click Next twice to begin the installation process. The Windows installer will now copy all of the necessary files to the server’s hard disk. When the file copy process completes, click Finish to close the Setup Wizard.

Using WinStation Monitor
After installing WinStation Monitor, you’ll have to access it by navigating through Windows Explorer. Unfortunately, there’s no desktop icon or Start Menu shortcut for WinStation Monitor, so you might consider creating your own. The WinStation Monitor executable file is called Winsta.exe, and it’s located in the \Program Files\Resource Kit folder by default.

When you run the Winsta.exe file, you’ll see the WinStation Monitor window appear, as shown in Figure A. This simple window displays the names of the users who are accessing Terminal Services, the session type, the user’s IP address, and the session status.

Figure A
The main WinStation Monitor window shows basic information about Terminal Services sessions.

As you can see, you’d get a lot more information out of Terminal Services Manager than you do with WinStation Monitor, but there is one thing that I really like about WinStation Monitor’s minimalist interface: it prominently displays the IP address associated with each connection. Terminal Services Manager also displays IP addresses, but to get to them, you have to select the server, locate the appropriate connection, select the connection, and then select the Information tab. Only then can you look through a long list of information and hunt for the IP address. WinStation Monitor shows you the IP addresses at a glance.

In spite of all of the wonderful information that WinStation Monitor provides, that information can be deceptive because you’re only seeing connections made by Terminal Server Clients. Administrators running Terminal Services Manager are also using terminal server sessions, even if they’re accessing the terminal services locally.

To reveal all of Terminal Services connections, select the Show All command from WinStation Monitor’s View menu. This will change the display to show local and remote sessions, as shown in Figure B. Also note that WinStation Monitor will now show the console session held open by the Administrator, and also the connection made by the RDP-TCP listener.

Figure B
Using the Show All option reveals more connections than previously seen.

When running WinStation Monitor, be aware that it doesn’t have Terminal Services Manager’s automatic refresh feature. That means that by the time that you digest all of the information being presented, the information might have changed. You can view the latest information by selecting the Refresh command from the View menu.

In my screen captures, it’s easy to see that WinStation Monitor was initially showing a single connection and then showed three connections after I used the Show All option. However, in a production environment, there may be times when you need to know how many active connections you’re dealing with, and there may be too many connections to count. Even if you’re not afraid of a little counting, the fact that users are constantly attaching and detaching means that the count is constantly changing (even though these changes aren’t displayed without refreshing), making it difficult to get an accurate count. Fortunately, WinStation Monitor has an easy solution to this problem.

If you look in the server’s system tray, you’ll notice an icon that looks like two heads. This is the WinStation Monitor system tray component. If you move your mouse pointer over this icon, a text blurb will appear, telling you how many sessions are attached. Just keep in mind that this number differs depending on whether or not you’re using WinStation Monitor’s Show All option.

What makes this icon even handier is that you can get a quick session count even when the main WinStation Monitor console is minimized or off in the background somewhere, hidden by other windows. If you do need to see the actual WinStation Monitor window, double-clicking the two-headed icon will bring the desired window to the foreground.

More than just monitoring
WinStation Monitor’s simplicity is its advantage, but the program does allow you to execute a few other basic tasks. For instance, you can sort the information it displays by clicking any one of the column headings. Click the column again to reverse the sort order on that column. The sort feature is useful in situations in which you want to view all of the active sessions. You could click on the Status column to move all of the active sessions to the top of the list for easy viewing.

You can also use WinStation Monitor to send a message to a particular user. Simply locate the session to which you want to send the message, right-click that session, and select the Send message command from the resulting shortcut menu. You’ll have a chance to enter a message title and a message body. Click OK and the recipient will instantly receive a pop-up message.

When sending a message, you might notice a Close option on the shortcut menu. This option doesn’t close the session. Instead, it closes WinStation Monitor. WinStation Monitor has no options for closing individual sessions.

Simpler can sometimes be better
Terminal Services Manager and WinStation Monitor are both good tools for managing Terminal Services, but they are useful in different situations. Terminal Services Manager is useful when you need detailed information on an individual session, or in situations in which you need to manage multiple servers. WinStation Monitor is more appropriate when you need only the most basic information about the sessions on an individual server, and you don’t want to be slowed down by all of Terminal Services Manager’s overhead.