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