[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.

Continue the discussion at discuss.nextofwindows.com