Use Remote Desktop Client To Connect To Remote Server Console

If you are using one of these Remote Desktop Connections Managers to remote control your servers, you won’t need to worry about this too much, skip if you may. You can just tick the option “connect to console” and you are all good to go. But what if the Remote Desktop Client is your only choice? And how do you connect to the remote server console just using the native Remote Desktop Client?

To connect to a Windows Server 2003 machine

On the old days, we can simply use command mstsc /console to connect straight to the remote server’s console session. But not anymore, since the latest version of Remote Desktop Client has this /console switch removed. Even if you are trying to use it, the command will simply ignore the switch and go directly to the session instead of the console.

You will log into the remote server first, and shadow through to session 0 to access the console. Once you are on the remote server desktop, go to Start → Run, type in “shadow 0”, and hit Enter.

RDP - shadow 0 to remote console

By default, a permission request box will pop up on the console session requesting a permission for remote control. Click Yes, and you will see the console screen flip open on your session.

RDP - permission request

To end the console session, press Ctrl + * (on the keypad).

To simplify the process, you can bypass the permission request pop-up through Group Policy:

  1. Open Local Group Policy on remote Windows 2003 Server;
  2. Go to Computer Configurations → Administrative Templates → Windows Components → Terminal Services;
  3. Enable Sets rules for remote control of Terminal Services user session, with the option Full Control without user’s permission or View Session without user’s permission selected.

Windows Server 2003 Group Policy - Sets Rules for remote control of TS user sessions

To connect to Windows Server 2008 or later machine

Things get a lot easier on Windows Server 2008 or later. There is no concept of session-0- is- your- console anymore. When you log into the same server using the same account from a different computer you will just take over the session you previously logged on, unless you have Terminal Service turned on with the option “Restrict Remote Desktop Services users to a single Remote Desktop Service Session” disabled.

No Session 0 on Server 2008 and later

However, the RDP client, since version 6.1. does introduce a new switch called /admin dedicated to connect to remote Server 2008-based server for administrative purposes.

And if you want, you can still shadow to the other sessions, using Shadow session# directly from Win+R dialog box, or right-click any of the sessions and choose Remote Control.

You can enable the same Group Policy settings to by-pass the permission request pop-up, just like I showed above.

  1. Open Local Group Policy on remote Windows 2003 Server;
  2. Go to Computer Configurations → Administrative Templates → Windows Components → Remote Desktop Services → Remote Desktop Sessions → Connections;
  3. Enable Sets rules for remote control of Terminal Services user session, with the option Full Control without user’s permission or View Session without user’s permission selected.

RDP - Group Policy for Set rules for remote control of rd services user sessions

Kent Chen

Microsoft MVP, IT Professional, Developer, Geek, and the co-founder of Next of Windows.

Last updated: 08/04/2014

Posted in: Tips & Tricks
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