Some days ago, I linked to a new KB article about the changes in RDP 6.1 in a tweet. While the information there is quite useful, it does not explain what happened to the console switch. It seems to me that there is still much confusion about this issue. I just read in the German magazine “Windows Server Praxis” that the console parameter of the RDP client has been renamed to “admin”. However, this is not entirely true because the admin switch has new functions too.
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RDP 6.1 is only supported by Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) 6.1 which is included in Vista SP1, Windows XP SP3 and Windows Server 2008. There is no separate download of RDC 6.1, but the system administrator blog has a description about how to get it running on Windows XP SP2. I suppose there is a similar solution for Vista RTM.
So why did Microsoft change the name of the switch in RDC 6.1? I’ve already discussed this issue in detail in a post about Windows Server 2008 and the console session. Essentially, there is no more console session, and so the console switch is not needed anymore.
However, if you use RDC 6.1 to connect to Windows Server 2003 you can still connect to the console by using the admin switch: mstsc /admin /v:server_name. I must admit I don’t understand why Microsoft didn’t just keep the console switch for this purpose and add the admin switch for Server 2008 only. The resulting situation is a bit confusing because the admin switch does different things depending on the type of server you connect to.
If you connect to Windows Server 2003, you use the admin parameter to connect to the physical console. This can be useful if you forgot to logout on the console and want to remotely connect to this session. Another use is if you have to manage applications that only run in session 0, for example, because they have to communicate with a service in session 0. The third use is if all Terminal Services sessions are already used up. In administration mode, this gives you the ability to open a third session, and in Terminal Server mode, you won’t consume a TS CAL (Terminal Server Client Access License). So the admin switch has the same purpose as the console parameter in former RDC versions.
If you connect to Windows Server 2008, the admin switch does different things. A KB article describes the behavior of the admin switch in detail:
- Time zone redirection is disabled.
- Terminal Services Session Broker (TS Session Broker) redirection is disabled.
- Plug and Play device redirection is disabled.
- The remote session theme is changed to Windows Classic.
- Terminal Services Easy Print is disabled.
I discussed these new features of Terminal Services in Server 2008 a while back.
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The only common function of the admin switch for Server 2008 and Server 2003 is that if the Terminal Server role is installed, you don’t need a TS CAL to administer the server. However, contrary to Server 2003, if your Server 2008 machine does not have the Terminal Server role installed, you can’t use the admin switch to open a third session if both administrative sessions are already in use.