[How To] Use Dual Monitors in Remote Desktop Session on Windows 7

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If you have dual or multiple monitors setup on your desktop and often use remote desktop client log into remote terminal server, you may want to have the same screen setup over on remote desktop session as well to have more screen real state. And here is how.

The version of remote desktop client that comes with Windows 7 supports multiple monitors natively, so you don’t need 3rd party tools to help make that happen.

If you are remote desktop to a windows prior to Windows 7 or Windows server 2008 R2

Launch the remote desktop client from the command line by using the following command:

mstsc.exe /span

What it does is to match the remote desktop width and height with the local virtual desktop, spanning across multiple monitors if necessary. It works pretty smooth but with some of the limitations:

  • The set of monitors must form a rectangle. In other words, the set of monitors have to use the exact same screen resolution. If one monitor sets to 1600×1200 and the second one to 1400×1050, span option will be ignored, and you are still stuck in one monitor.
  • The total of the resolutions must be below 4096×2048.
  • The multiple monitors are in span mode. Maximizing one application window will maximize the window across all monitors, instead of one.

If you want to know what more options you can use to open remote desktop, type mstsc.exe /? from the command line.

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If you are connecting to Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2

You can enable Multimon option using one of the methods below to open remote desktop.

a. Tick the option “use all monitors for the remote session” in remote desktop client display option.

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Note that I don’t have dual monitor set up at the moment so the option is grayed out.

b. use the “/multimon” switch on the mstsc.exe command line.

mstsc.exe /multimon

c. add “use multimon:i:1” to the RDP file.

And here is the advantage using multimon option over span option.

With true multimon support, the client-side monitors can be arranged in any order and can be of any resolution.

Since a span mode remote session is essentially a single-monitor session, if a window in the remote desktop is maximized, it spans across all the monitors. With true multimon support, a window will only maximize to the extent of the containing monitor.

If an application queries for the number of monitors inside a span-mode session, it will find only one monitor, whereas it will find as many monitors as are actually present on the client system when using true multimon RDP. This difference can change the behavior of applications such as PowerPoint.

Check this post on Remote Desktop Services Team Blog for more information.

[update on Feb. 20, 2012]

Note that the multimon switch and “use all my monitors on the remote session” option ONLY work when the remote computer is running Windows 7 ultimate or enterprise edition, or Windows server 2008 R2. Use Span option when the remote is running on the windows not listed. Thanks to both commenters Akmil and altascene mentioned below.

And that’s it. Happy dual-monitoring.

  • http://twitter.com/MikeFrizzi Curmudgeonly Ad Guy

    While it is good to have clarification here, I think the important thing to note is that these features and MANY more are available and much easier to work with and manipulate through third party remote desktop software options. The Windows version is clunky, unreliable and difficult to establish. I usually stick with 1st party when I can, and I am a great fan of many MS products, but for remote connections, 3rd party is the way to go.

    • windows7hacker

      The remote desktop client that comes with Windows works perfectly fine. We don't need to spend our hard earned money to buy a 3rd party software that does the same thing.

      Cheers.

  • Jana

    So this is probably a stupid question, but WHERE do I type “use multimon:i:1″ to add it to the RDP file?

    • http://www.windows7hacker.com Kent

      You can save a RDP to a file with all settings pre-saved. And open this RDP file in notepad and you will see where you can type this in.

      Cheers.

  • papa

    This is not too clear:
    “You can enable Multimon option using one of the methods below to open remote desktop.” Do I do this on the computer in my house or on the RDP?

    I know that the RDP file will be on my desktop but I am still wonding if thie (mstsc.exe /multimon) is also done on my desktop?

  • Delroy

    Kent,

    The statement above is also misleading. Should it be If you are connecting “TO” Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2
    or
    If you are connecting “FROM” Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 ????????

    I’m connecting TO a 2008 VPS but my home desktop is what i’m connecting FROM. Is this correc?

  • Shai

    I have a new setup I installed today. We have one computer in office A that is dedicated to be RDP’d from another compuer in office B. Both computers are running Windows 7 Pro and both computers have dual monitor video cards. The computer in office A is not connected to any monitors. The questions is: can the hcomuter in office B can RDP with dual monitors to the computer in office B eventhough there are no monitors connected in office A?

  • mary beth

    I checked the box”use all monitors”, but I can’t utilized the dual monitors on local machine. the RD window can only show up on one or the other – I can’t move individual windows to separate screens.
    what am I doing wrong?

  • Joan

    Thanks for these notes. I understand them but have a conundrum. At home I have W7 64 with 1 x 1920×1080 primary and 1 x 1680×1050 monitors. At work I also have W7 64 with 1 x 1920×1200 primary and 2 x 1280×1024 monitors. From work today I used the /multimon command line switch to connect the home computer and it worked perfectly using all 3 monitors with the larger one in the middle being primary. From home I used the same command line switch and the RDP session only occupies the primary monitor.

    The versions of mstsc.exe are the same. There is a difference in the color depth dropdown. At work I only see 15 and 16 bit, but at home I see those plus 24 and 32 bit.

    Any ideas?

  • http://?? michael

    I have six monitors. They are not set-up as a rectangle. I have 4 in the middle (2×2) that are set-up in a rectangle. I would like to multimon across those four. When I attempt to do this via the cmd method I simply achieve blank screens across all my monitors. Can you assist please?

    best ,

    Michael :)

  • Patrick

    Just a quick comment since I found this out – multimon mode only works on a Windows 7 destination machine if it’s Ultimate or Enterprise. First feature I’ve actually found in one of those that I’d use…

    • Robert

      Ridiculous that windows 7 pro cant do it.

  • Akmil

    It should be added to this document a VERY IMPORTANT clarification: the /multimon option only works with Windows 7 Enterprise or Ultimate or Server 2008. It does NOT work with Win 7 Professional. Checking the “Use all my monitors…” option does not work either for the same reason. Hope this helps those who are wondering why it doesn’t work. In that case, just use the /span option.

    • dataCore

      damn! only with enterprise/ultimate? Why m$, why??

      Ok now I have to find some 3rd party tools…

  • altascene

    Akmil is correct. If you are trying to use a dual-monitor computer running Windows 7 Pro to remote connect into a remote dual-monitor PC running Windows 7, the remote machine must be running either Windows 7 Ultimate or Enterprise. Verified this just this weekend. The user went from XP to 7 Pro, and the loss of dual monitor during remote sessions was disappointing. They upgraded to ultimate, and dual monitor use during remote sessions was restored. Microsoft needs to do a much better job of this requirement in their product materials.

  • LeeEverest

    Nice!

  • GirlyGirl

    I am new to this. I have dual monitor setup at work and its running on windows XP. primary monitor is horizontal, and other is vertical. My system at home is setup the same way but I am using windows 7 enterprise. I am having difficulty using both monitors the same way as my job (one horizontal and other vertical). it will only work is both are horizontal. Is there any way I can use them the same way as I have them at work?
    Please email your responses at girlysgthang@msn.com

    • http://about.me/kentchen Kent Chen

      You probably need a little bit more specific what doesn’t work when one is vertical and the other horizontal. usually, dual screen works much better in Windows 7 than in XP.

  • Geo

    you’re the best … thank you

  • Sophie

    It’s so helpful of you!!!! Bestest

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  • Daniela

    At my home I have a PC with Windows 7 Ultimate, 2 monitors and at my work I have Windows 7 Professional. When I want to work at home, I use RDP and VPN to log into my work. Option use all my monitors for the remote sessions is on. As I understand you, you cannot use multimon because Windows 7 Professional at my work is not enough even I have Windows 7 Ultimate at home?? I tried everything but I cannot use multimon. Span works but I cannot use it.

    • http://about.me/kentchen Kent Chen

      I believe the computer at your work computer needs to be ultimate in order to use multimon option.

  • http://www.cloudstaff.com/ Hoyt Velasquez

    A very informative article in using dual monitors during a remote desktop session. Thanks for sharing.