The RD Web Client complements Microsoft's native Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) clients, but it cannot replace them. You can install it on Windows Server 2016 and 2019, and it requires only a modern browser on the user's device.

Over the past few years, Microsoft has extended RDP support to several platforms. Native clients for macOS, iOS, and Android are now available, along with a Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app for Windows 10. In the past whoever wanted to run remote desktop applications in a web browser had to rely on third-party products. This has changed with the availability of the Remote Desktop Web Client.

Not compatible with per-device CALs ^

Before you install the Web Client, you should make sure you use per-user client access licenses (CALs) and not per-device CALs. Otherwise the HTML client would seize all per-device CALs, since it is not compatible with this type of license. It will display a corresponding warning again during installation.

If an RD gateway is missing, the Web Client will refuse to establish a connection

If an RD gateway is missing, the Web Client will refuse to establish a connection

As an additional requirement, the Remote Desktop Services (RDS) deployment must include an RD Gateway even for internal usage on Windows Server 2019, despite the fact Microsoft announced otherwise during the Windows Server Summit.

RD Web Client features and requirements

RD Web Client features and requirements

Installation via PowerShell ^

The RD Web Client is suitable for Windows Server 2016 and 2019, but Microsoft has yet to include it in the installation media of the operating systems. Currently it is not part of Server 2019 either.

The installation occurs via PowerShell's package management, which downloads the required packages from PowerShell Gallery. As a first step, you must update the PowerShellGet module not only on Server 2016 but also on Server 2019. The following command achieves this:

Install-Module -Name PowerShellGet -Force
Update the NuGet provider before installing the Web Client

Update the NuGet provider before installing the Web Client

At this point, it might be necessary to close the PowerShell window and start a new session.

The actual installation requires four commands as this tutorial on Microsoft Docs describes:

Install-Module -Name RDWebClientManagement
Install-RDWebClientPackage
Import-RDWebClientBrokerCert <.cer file exported from the RD Broker>
Publish-RDWebClientPackage -Type Production -Latest
Install the Web Client using PowerShellGet

Install the Web Client using PowerShellGet

Please verify the certificate for RD Connection Broker - Enable Single Sign On (SSO). In the RDS deployment configuration, this must always match the certificate previously imported from RD Broker to the Web Client. So if you renew the certificate for RD Broker, you must reimport it to the Web Client.

The certificate for the Web Client must be the same as the certificate assigned for SSO in RD Broker

The certificate for the Web Client must be the same as the certificate assigned for SSO in RD Broker

After successfully adding the package for the Web Client, you can access it via the URL https://<fully qualified domain name of the server>/RDWeb/webclient. This currently supports newer versions of browsers such as Edge, IE 11, Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox, but not on mobile devices.

Log in to the RD Web Client

Log in to the RD Web Client

Desktops and RemoteApp ^

Once you have logged in, you will see collections for both RemoteApp and Remote Desktops. If the administrator has published several RemoteApps, they will all launch within the same frame. You can switch between them using the bar showing the active programs at the top of the screen.

All RemoteApps open in the same browser window; you can switch between them via the icons in the taskbar above

All RemoteApps open in the same browser window; you can switch between them via the icons in the taskbar above

During logon, the client will ask you which local resources should be accessible in the remote session. You can only select the clipboard and printers, but no drives or USB devices are available as with the native RDP client.

Only the clipboard and printers are available as local resources in the remote session

Only the clipboard and printers are available as local resources in the remote session

Printing, dynamic window size, and clipboard ^

The screen response is relatively fluid, and the browser client can also play videos in acceptable quality, including sound. The redirected virtual remote desktop printer turns out to be a print-to-PDF function that automatically downloads the PDF to the local computer after its creation.

The virtual printer in the Web Client creates PDFs and downloads them to the mobile device

The virtual printer in the Web Client creates PDFs and downloads them to the mobile device

While users of the conventional RDP client had to wait many years before it eventually supported resizing the window, the HTML5 client offers this feature right from the start. A full-screen mode is also available.

Copy and paste is limited to plain text for now

Copy and paste is limited to plain text for now

Currently, there is still a major limitation when exchanging data between the remote session and the local device. Copy and paste only works for text; you cannot transfer other content types such as graphics via the clipboard. As expected, copying files via HTTP is not possible, in contrast to RDP.

Conclusion ^

The web front end complements Microsoft's client portfolio for RDS with an option that does not require any local installation of software. However, since it doesn't support any mobile devices, and most desktop PCs are running Windows, the native RDP client is preinstalled on most devices anyway. It also offers a much better user experience than the Web Client.

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Due to the current existing limitations, the Web Client is a niche application that can be interesting for ad hoc connections from outside the company network. For administrative access to Windows Server via RD, you don't need to set up the Web Client, because it's also part of the Admin Center.

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4 Comments
  1. Rakesh Karia 2 years ago

    How can we set full screen mode in RDP Web client ? Problem is windows key combinations not working on remote machine it is just honoring local machine from where RDP is accessed

    • I am not sure if this is possible with an application accessed via RD web access. Or are you asking about a Remote Desktop Session started via RD web?

  2. roland 2 years ago

    Any idea why when I click print it downloads two pdf files? One says and it cant be opened and the other is what I wanted ? Thanks

  3. Nithya 1 year ago

    can anyone help when accessing the RD webclient  ,i could access the remote system but the key input is not working. The reason behind might be remote system has keyboard-language as german and my local machine with English language keyboard. Any solution to rectify this issue?

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