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Windows Server Hacks: Shadowing Remote Desktop Sessions

by Mitch Tulloch, author of Windows Server Hacks

Shadowing Terminal Services sessions is a cool feature of Windows Server 2003 that lets you remotely control the desktop session of another Terminal Services user. You can even shadow the console session, that is, the session which the interactively logged-on user experiences at the server's console. This console session is also known as "Session 0" since it is the base or default session on a terminal server.

Let's start by reviewing how to connect with and shadow the console session on a W2K3 terminal server from an XP client machine. First you have to enable remote control on the terminal server, which in my test scenario is a standalone machine in a workgroup. You can do this as follows:

  1. Click Start, then Run, type gpedit.msc and click OK to open the Group Policy Editor.
  2. Expand Computer Configuration, then Administrative Templates, then Windows Components, and finally Terminal Services.
  3. Open the policy setting named "Sets rules for remote control of Terminal Services user sessions" and enable this policy and set the Options listbox to "Full Control with user's permission" as shown in Figure 1:

Figure 1
Figure 1. Enabling remote control of terminal server sessions

Next, open a command prompt on the XP client and type mstsc -v:servername /f where servername is the IP address or name of the terminal server. This will open a Remote Desktop session from the client to the server.

Now open a new command prompt within the Remote Desktop connection you have established from your XP client and type shadow 0 to request shadowing of the console session (session 0) on the terminal server. A dialog box should appear on the terminal server's desktop saying "<Your credentials> is requesting to control your session remotely, Do you accept the request?" Click Yes and the Remote Desktop session you have open on your XP client machine should show exactly the same as what appears on the interactively logged-on desktop of the terminal server. For example, if you open Notepad on the server, Notepad should likewise appear in the shadowed session on the client. Figure 2 shows the shadowing XP client and the shadowed terminal server side by side in a Virtual PC environment.

Thumbnail, click for full-size image.
Figure 2. The shadowing XP client and the shadowed terminal server side by side in a Virtual PC environment. Click for full-size image.

Note that to terminate shadowing in your session from the client, press Ctrl-plus key-* where the * key from the numeric keyboard must be used.

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