How to install and configure Remote Apps in Remote Desktop Services for Server 2008 R2

Jessie Gill, CISSPTechnical Architect
Remote Apps is a feature in server 2008 which allows users to run applications off Remote Desktop Servers without having to log into them to run the applications.  The user can either have a desktop shortcut installed or go through the web portal to launch applications.  The reason why IT administrator would apply this approach for running applications is end user experience.

The end users now have to simply click a shortcut on his/her desktop and the application begins to run.  To the user it looks as if the application is installed locally.  Also any printers that the user has get redirected.  If they have dual screens they can move the application around between screens just like if it was locally installed.  The bonus for IT administrators is that they can control who has access to an application.

Below are the steps to install Remote Desktop Services on one server with Remote App functionality.  These are teh basic steps to get teh server going so you can play with the features.  

1. Install server 2008 R2

2. From Server Manager install the role Remote Desktop Services
  Roles required for RDS
3. Install the Remote Desktop Session Host and the Remote Desktop Web Access Services for the role. (IIS will be required for this but it will install for you)
  Services Required
4. Now at this point you have all the core services and roles installed to get going.  We did not install services such as gateway, or licencing as those are not required to get remote app working.  But if you are planning to do a production implementation of Remote Apps, you will need a licence server and the various other services to support it.  As we stand now, we have roughly 120 days before we have to input a licencing server, which is more than enough time to test Remote Apps to see how they work, before you design your production environment.

5. Now that we have installed the roles it’s time to configure Remote Apps.  This process is very easy on one server.

6. Open Remote App manger and it should look like below
Remote App Manager
7. First Setting to look at is the RD Session Host Server Settings.  Here is where you will define a farm name, RDP port number, Digital Signatures and Common RDP Settings such as allow printer redirecting etc.  For our purpose we can leave these all default as we only have one server and do not need a farm name and the local server name is fine for this.
RD Session Host Server Settings
8. The next setting to look at is Distribution with RD Web Access.  This is needed if you would like users to launch applications from the web interface.  The web interface will use the name specified in the RD Session Host Server Settings.  So if you have the local server set in the field it would be https://servername/rdweb if you had a farm name it would be https://farmname/rdweb.  Below is the login page the user will see and the applications the user is able to run.  What you need to do is add the RDS server to the local security group named TS Web Access Computers
RD Web Portal RD Web Portal Application page
9. Now we need to actually add a Remote App.  As you can see I already added calculator, but let’s add another one.
Go to the Actions Pane on the right of Remote App Manger and click Add RemoteApps Program.
Select from the list of programs or select a different program by finding its .exe by using the browse button.
Add a Remote App
You can also assign command line arguments if needed for greater flexibility By clicking properties of the application
Command Line arguments
After you have chosen the application hit apply, now you should see the app in the RemoteApp Programs section at the bottom.  Now if you want to web publish this you will need to select the app and in the action pane and click Show in RD Web Access
Publish Remote App to web Portal
10. Now at this point you have a Remote Desktop Server running and a Remote App published.  If you want users to access it through the web portal simply give the URL to the user.  Also if you want to limit who can run an application or not click properties on the remote app in Remote App Manager and go to user assignment this is where you can specify who can access an application or not.
User Assignment for Remote Apps
11. If you want the remote app to be accessed by a desktop shortcut then you should either create an .rdp file or better yet create an MSI so you can deploy it by GPO.  These actions can be found on the Actions Pane for the App
Other Distribution Options
12. That is really it, now you should be able to setup a Remote Apps Server and test some Remote Apps

Comments (2)

Most Valuable Expert 2011


This is a good article. I've voted "Yes" above to indicate this was useful and to thank you for taking the time to put this together. Thanks for your efforts!


jessiepak, great article, however I have a question.  Do I have to publish my apps via the Web Interface in order for them to be accessible via a server farm or can I use either the .rdp file or the .msi install and still use them in a server farm.

All my research only talks about using the web interface in a server farm with remote apps.

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