Microsoft currently has two official RDP clients: Remote Desktop Client (built-in to Windows XP Pro, and downloadable for nearly anything else), and the Remote Desktops MMC snapin (from the Windows 2003 Administration Tools Pack).
They have all the right features between them, but neither has all of them in one place. The Remote Desktop Client has the most options, but can’t connect to console session (aka “session 0”) and is meant for one remote connection at a time. The Remote Desktops Snap-in can do these two things, but is missing tons of other options, plus one especially dumb limitation: It can’t connect to a port other than standard 3389. (It gives an error “The server name cannot contain the following characters: spaces, tabs , ; : ” < > * + = \ | ? ,” — Another over-zealous coder under-thinking his validation logic!)
Microsoft says the Remote Desktop Client can connect to the console session, via a command-line switch. Not sure why it’s not a checkbox on the options dialog
, but it doesn’t work for me anyway. It removes the %sessionname% environment variable, but Terminal Services Manager still shows the session is a “RDP-TCP#” name. Oh well. (turns out the console session has to already be logged in).
Something else I found: you can’t connect to the console remotely with a non-admin account — it gives you an error that “To log on to this remote console session, you must have administrative permissions on this computer.”
The standalone Client is best when you’re working in-depth on one remote machine. The Snap-in is better for when you’re working lightly on several machines, and don’t need the extra options. In daily use, I usually find myself switching between the Snap-in and the Client. It’s a small but constant pain.
This is all to say that I just found Royal TS from code4ward, which is a free, open-source (C#) app, which attempts to combine the best of both programs. (It’s like the Snap-in interface, but on steroids.)
I’ve been using it for a few days, and it’s very good. I only wish it could do a better full-screen, or use less screen real-estate with the embedded view. I may try my hand at C# just to hack it up.
Hm, the author’s site is down now. Hopefully it’s temporary. Meanwhile, here is is on Snapfiles: http://www.snapfiles.com/get/royalts.html