This is the first of three tutorials explaining how to run a simple Server 2012 Remote Desktop Services environment. This is ideal for companies with less than (say) 20 concurrent users if you source good hardware.
It used to be that all you need to do to get a Terminal Services server running was:
- Install Server 2000 / 2003 / 2008
- Add in Terminal Services
- Add in your Terminal Services licensing
- Install your applications
- Lock down the Terminal Server / RDS using Group Policy
Now, those days are gonzo! But don’t dispair although it is much more complex with Session Brokers, RD Gateways, the steps make sense and you can do sooooo much more than you could before.
I blew 4 hours over two days trying to get just the core RDS/Terminal Services install complete before realizing that I had misunderstood the new process. With this process you should be up and operational within 1 hour.
This article will provide as fast an install RDS solution as I can create with references to other materials where I think you might want them. So, lets get started.
PREFACE – VMs:
I hate running anything on physical boxes, other than HyperV hosts so in my case, I have installed Server 2012 on a physical server, then added the Hyper-V roll and then created a new VM which is where we will start from.
Also you need to understand that the fundamental difference between REMOTE DESKTOP SESSION HOSTs and REMOTE DESKTOP VIRTUALIZATION HOSTs. Session Hosts are the old school Terminal Sessions we all love. Desktop Virtualization Hosts, host VM’s, like entire Windows 7 desktops. See my short explanation on this if you are confused. We want a SESSION HOST.
Note that I confirmed with Microsoft Partner Support (yes, I am a partner) that it is supported and recommended to use Dynamic Disk and Dynamic Memory if this is a low user RDS implementation. I define low use as less than 10 concurrent users running standard office apps, like Word and Publisher.
INSTALL AND CONFIGURE A SERVER 2012 REMOTE DESKTOP SERVICES, SERVER:
Click through the screen shots at the end of this post which make the whole process largely self explanatory.
- As per the preface, install SERVER 2012 in a Virtual Machine (in my case Hyper-V), complete any core configuration like giving it a static IP (if you choose), and patch it via windows update.
- In SERVER MANAGER, click MANAGE, ADD ROLES AND FEATURES
- On INSTALLATION TYPE, select REMOTE DESKTOP SERVICES INSTALLATION
- On DEPLOYMENT TYPE, select QUICK START
- On DEPLOYMENT SCENARIO, select SESSION-BASED DESKTOP DEPLOYMENT
- On SERVER SELECTION, just click NEXT
- Complete the wizard enjoy the reboot
- After the reboot WAIT. A minute or two after logon the COMPLETION progress window will appear and it will take several more minutes to finish.
Congratulations. You should now have a minimally functional, old school Terminal Services, RDS install. Lets do some basic configuration.
- Launch your browser from any domain PC and type HTTPS://SERVER-HOST-NAME\RDWeb (note the “S”)
- Click CONTINUE TO THIS WEBSITE (because you don’t have a public certificate installed yet)
- Login on the WORK RESOURCES page.
Congratulations, you should see a few basic apps like the Calculator and Paint. Go ahead and try them. You will know you are running them from the RDS Server because they have the Fugly blue Windows Server 2012 frame… soooooo ugly.
Now lets add some apps like TASKMANAGER
- In SERVER MANAGER, click REMOTE DESKTOP SERVICES
- Click QUICKSESSIONCOLLECTION from the menu on the left
- In REMOTEAPP PROGRAMS, click the TASKS drop down box (in the top right corner) and select PUBLISH REMOTEAPP PROGRAMS
- Select TASK MANAGER from the list and click NEXT then PUBLISH then CLOSE
Congratulations, you just published an app that will appear on your RDWEB site
Now lets add a program that is NOT already in the list and requires some addition settings. In this case we will add INTERNET EXPLORER and set it to go to a specific page when launched.
- In REMOTEAPP PROGRAMS, click the TASKS drop down box (in the top right corner) and select PUBLISH REMOTEAPP PROGRAMS, then click the ADD button at the bottom
- type \\<SERVER HOSTNAME>\c$\program files\internet explorer\iexplore.exe into the FILE NAME FIELD, then click NEXT, PUBLISH and CLOSE
I found this quite confusing at first but you have to use a full UNC path to the EXE, and yes standard, restricted, non-admin users will be able to launch the app.
- Now RIGHT CLICK on IEXPLORE.EXE and select EDIT PROPERTIES
- De-expand/close GENERAL, then expand PARAMETERS, select ALWAYS USE THE FOLLOWING and enter http://www.URTech.ca, then click OK
Note that you could have changed the icon and / or restricted access to specific users in this same PROPERTIES window.
- Verify it worked by surfing to your HTTPS://<<SERVER-HOST-NAME>\RDWeb site. If you already had it open, you will need to refresh the page.
Now lets fix the most common issue with Remote Desktop Servers / Terminal Servers, which is what to do with user data for things like the Destktop, My Documents, profile data and user registry settings.
Microsoft has introduced a wonderful new feature that solves these issues WITHOUT the hassel and problems of Roaming Profiles or Folder Redirection. This new feature is called USER PROFILE DISKS and, put simply, they are (often tiny) user specific VHD’s that contain only the users information. USER PROFILE DISKS can be accessed from any other REMOTE DESKTOP SERVICES server you have on the domain, should you choose later on to add more servers and turn our tidy single server deployment into a farm… AWESOME!
- Go to COMPUTER on the server (i.e. not in SERVER MANAGER) and find a location with some spare disk space and create a folder called something like C:\UserProfileDisks . Then share that folder. I hate seeing shares so I made mine hidden by adding a $ and that works without problem.
- Go back to your QUICKSESSIONCOLLECTION PROPERTIES, click on the TASKS drop down in the top right of the PROPERTIES window.
- Expand USER PROFILE DISKS, click ENABLE USER PROFILE DISKS and type in the the UNC path to your new share in my case \\<SERVER NAME>\UserProfileDisks$, and click OK
- You can verify your settings again via the RDWeb site and then notice that after you connect for the first time, that there is a shiny new VHDX file in your share (in my case C:\UserProfileDisks$)
User profile disks are MUCH faster than roaming profiles, highly unlikely to get corrupted, migratable in the future. THIS is an excellent explaination of User Profile Disks if you want more details.
- Now you nee to install licensing for your RDS Server. I bought mine through Open License and this is how I added it.
- Use Server Manager to add the REMOTE DESKTOP LICENSING role (see the screenshot; again I am not going to waist your time with CLICK NEXT details)
- On the REMOTE DESKTOP SERVICES, OVERIEW page click the green + on RD LICENSING
- Select your server and click the black arrow to add it to SELECTED, then NEXT, then the ADD button on CONFIRM SELECTIONS
- Launch the RD LICENING MANAGER (strangely this is NOT a link in SERVER MANaGER, you need to start it like any other program)
- Right click on your servers host name and select ACTIVATE SERVER, then follow the wizard
- Click on your servers host name and select the REVIEW link, then click the ADD TO GROUP button and CONTINUE button. This will authorize this server to give out RDS\TS Licenses in your Active Directory.
- In REMOTE DESKTOP SERVICES – OVERVIEW, click TASKS, EDIT DEPLOYMENT PROPERTIES and set the RD LICENSING MODE, in my case I choose PER USER
Note that If you want to install other programs (like say Office) you should use the INSTALL APPLICATION ON REMOTE DESKTOP SERVER applet that is added to your RDS server when you add RDS. I am not going to show this here as I assume you are all capable of clicking NEXT.
You should now have a fully functional Remote Desktop Server.
I will have a (shorter) peice on:
- How to configure a Remote Desktop Gateway
- How to Lock Down a Server 2012 Remote Desktop Server
Interesting Answers to RDS questions I have found while ripping through various blogs and articles:
- Why would I use a REMOTEAPP when I could use a REMOTE DESKTOP? RemoteAPP’s use substantially fewer resources than a full remote desktop.
- Is there a way to have a Remote Desktop Servers, RemoteAPP use LOCAL programs. i.e. Can I click a .PDF linked in a RemoteAPP and have it open Adobe Reader on MY computer – NO, See THIS post.
- What’s New in Server 2012 Remote Desktop Services
- Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Services, “Everything on one page”, page – includes planning, labs, licensing…
- Remote Desktop Services Deployment Guide for Server 2008 R2 – In March 2013, I have checked with Microsoft Partner Support and confirmed that Microsoft has NOT updated their RDS / TServer documents to reflect changes available in Server 2012, so this is as good as it gets. See THIS thread if you want to complain.
- Microsofts VDI Page
- Understand and Troubleshoot Desktop Virtualization in Windows Server 8 Beta.docx
- BOOK – Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services Resource Kit
- Windows Server 2012 VDI White Paper – VERY Helpful and relatively short