Remote Desktop Multimon – Just Kidding!

Remote Desktop is pretty cool technology – the ability to connect to a remote machine so seamlessly that you sometimes forget that the machine is remote is pretty amazing. However one thing has always been missing – multimon. As a programmer I find that having multiple monitors is pretty useful and definitely increases my productivity.

Therefore I was pretty pleased to see that on Windows 7 there is a multimon checkbox. All I have to do is check “Use all my monitors for the remote session” and I can use all of my monitors at home when connecting to my work machine.

image

Except it doesn’t work. No error message, but just a single monitor.

A bit of searching found a blog posting that breathlessly described the wonders and advantages of remote desktop multimon:

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/rds/archive/2009/07/01/using-multiple-monitors-in-remote-desktop-session.aspx

Only after looking through several pages of comments did I start to figure out what the problem was, and eventually I found this article:

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Remote-Desktop-Connection-frequently-asked-questions

Hidden deep inside it is a vague description of the problem. Under “Which editions of Windows 7 include multiple-monitor support for Remote Desktop Connection?” it admits that you need Windows 7 Ultimate or Windows 7 Enterprise Editions. Even then it doesn’t say whether the host or the server needs to be running Ultimate/Enterprise, but a bit of testing confirmed that it is the host (the machine you are connecting to) that needs the extra licensing power.

THAT’S RUBBISH!

Microsoft (who I used to work for) can, of course, make whatever features it wants be only available in the premium editions. But it should at least have the common decency to document this clearly. And, if a user checks the Remote Desktop option then common decency dictates that you should explain to them why their request has been denied.

I ended up wasting several hours trying to figure out why this wasn’t working. This is rude on Microsoft’s part, and also foolish. Presumably the goal of holding back features is to convince users to upgrade. If you silently deny them access then many will just assume that Windows is flaky instead of realizing that they need to upgrade their work OS.

The far inferior /span option to Remote Desktop is still available, and works. It has various restrictions, and it can only be selected through a command line option, and I don’t think I’ll use it (harrummph!) but at least it works. But really. Command line only? Hello?

Microsoft: please do a better job of explaining, in blog posts and in error/warning messages, what the restrictions are. It will make your customers happy, and you might actually get some upgrades out of it, instead of disgruntled customers.

I feel better having got this out of my system.

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About brucedawson

I'm a programmer, working for Google, focusing on optimization and reliability. Nothing's more fun than making code run 10x faster. Unless it's eliminating large numbers of bugs. I also unicycle. And play (ice) hockey. And juggle.
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12 Responses to Remote Desktop Multimon – Just Kidding!

  1. Flan5ter says:

    I so Agree

  2. thanks for posting. I just wasted an hour trying to get this to work.

  3. Pedro says:

    Thanks for the information. It’s very important that MIcrosoft provide a clear limitation between the different flavors of Win7

  4. CS_Pro says:

    I’ve spent hours too… upgraded the host computer to Windows 7 Professional, still doesn’t work.

    • brucedawson says:

      It would be nice if there was an error message that explained why multimon RDP didn’t work, instead of silent failure. It seems particularly stupid because if the RDP client explained the problem then maybe people would actually upgrade the host machine (to Enterprise or to Ultimate).

      I have heard that Windows 8 will allow multimon RDP on all SKUs, but given the misinformation on this topic for Windows 7 I will not believe it until I see it.

  5. Naiem says:

    I can’t say how pissed off I was when I realized the same thing on some random forum. Wasted my whole day for this issue while I had a deadline approaching! Stupid me and rude microsoft!

  6. Pingback: Backin’ Up is Hard to Do | Random ASCII

  7. djchew says:

    I also spent hours trying to figure this out. A simple tooltip on the check box could have explained the limitation. As you say, it also could encourage users to upgrade. That being said, I also don’t Microsoft to release Windows as as tripped out free OS where every function requires upgrades. I am sure there is a happy medium somewhere in there…

  8. Thank you! This was driving me nuts. Do you know what versions of Server 2008 allow multimon?

  9. Michael J. says:

    Thanks Bruce! I too have wasted several hours trying to get this to work.

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