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Dual Monitor and Remote Desktop

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Having a dual- or triple-monitor configuration does a lot to boost your productivity, but what about when you want to connect to a Terminal Services session? By default, a Terminal Services screen can either be configured to fill your screen, or to a number of pre-defined screen resolutions. It doesn't seem possible to open a session which spans across all your monitors.

1. The power of /span

The truth is, there is a /span switch which can do exactly that... open a new session to a remote Terminal Server or computer with RDP enabled, and cause the new session to fill all the monitor space on your desktop. To get going, all you need to do is go to Start, Run and enter mstsc /span. When you press OK, you will be presented with the typical connection dialog, where you connect as normal.

If you want to use the switch in a shortcut, I suggest you implement it as follows:

mstsc /span /v:<IP address to connect to>:3389

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For the /span switch to work, the MSTsc.exe help guide states that:
the monitors must all have the same height and be aligned vertically

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However, I can confirm that my 3 monitors are not the same height, and the switch still works perfectly fine for me.

2. A Custom Resolution

If the /span switch just doesn't cut it for you, and for some reason (perhaps you have a large monitor) you want a window to open at a non-standard screen resolution, then there are commands which can help you, too. The /w and /h switches allow you to set a precise number of pixels which the session should be in width and in height. You can either use the switch on-demand by entering mstsc /w:xxx /h:xxx at a command prompt (where xxx represents the number of pixels) and then connect as usual, or you can make use of the switches in a shortcut. The target of such a shortcut should read:

mstsc /v:<IP address to connect to>:3389 /w:xxx /h:xxx

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(Where xxx in the above represents the number of pixels wide and the number of pixels tall the session should be.
I hope this helps; please post a comment to let me know if it does.

-Matt
33
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Author:tigermatt
11 Comments
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Expert Comment

by:DanRollins
Thanks!  This is very useful.  I'd like to add:
   mstsc /?
displays a syntax summary for the Remote Desktop Connection app.  But it does not mention an option that I've found to be useful:
    /console
When used on the mstsc command line, you will be able to see the window that includes tray icons and U/I windows that are produced by System Services that allow "Interact with desktop"; that is you can see the desktop as it would appear if you were actually sitting at the remote computer.  There are few System Services that interact with the desktop, but if you need to administer one remotely, you will find the /console option to be very useful.
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by:Kerem ERSOY
DanRollins: /console switch is simply connects you to the Administraiton session of the computer you are logged into and it has currently been obsoleted by the new /admin switch.

Cheers,
K.
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Expert Comment

by:Matthew Kelly
Please note that when connecting from a Windows XP Service Pack 3 or Windows Vista Machine (and the upcoming Windows 2008 operating systems) you will need to use /admin instead of /console.

Remember is this the machine you are connecting from, not connecting to.

The /admin or /console is best used when wanting to remote into the current logged in session of a Windows 2003 server. When you remote into a Windows XP or Vista machine it opens the session that is currently logged in (ie the one that has programs running etc) but with Windows 2003 it creates a new session.
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by:Matthew Kelly
/console still needs to be used from a Windows 2000 or Windows XP Service pack 2 or lower machine. /admin for anything higher.
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by:Kerem ERSOY
>....  (ie the one that has programs running etc) but with Windows 2003 it creates a new session.

not necessarily so. If there's no one logged on the consol it creates a new session but if a user is logged on brings the logged in session without creating a new one.
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by:Kerem ERSOY
While in XP it can logged on only the present session so there's no need to use /console or /admin switch for xp. If you want to logon to a user different from what is logged on the console on 2003, it wnats to logoff the current sessin and logon with the new user and displays warnings about it.
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Author Comment

by:tigermatt

If you are connecting to a Windows Server 2008 computer, the /admin switch probably won't do what you expect it to do anyway. You won't strictly be connected to the console, since the possibility of interacting with Session 0 is now reserved for services, not an interactive user. Instead, if you login as DOMAIN\Administrator remotely, and the Administrator is already logged into the console, the remote session will take over the console session. That's just the way it is now, unfortunately.

The /admin switch is there for when using the new RDP 6.1 client to connect to a Server 2003 or 2000 server, since on these operating systems /admin maps to /console.

-Matt
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Expert Comment

by:Kevin Cross
Nice article, Matt.  Short but very sweet!  Great combination for my attention deficit, my heavy use of RDP and my love of using dual monitors.
Voted yes above.
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Expert Comment

by:Jason C. Levine
Good article.  We're implementing RDS now and this will be helpful.
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Expert Comment

by:Larry Brister
I cannot believe how many years I whined about remote work and having to use one monitor.

Boy...do I feel sheepish!
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by:Spike99
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