Connecting to Terminal Services When All Active Sessions are Used

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UPDATE: If you are using Windows Server 2008, the switch is /admin not /console. See this post for details.

We use Remote Desktop (Terminal Services) to remotely manage a Windows 2003 server that is not part of our domain. Recently we ran into the two user limit for remote desktop connections, which barred anyone from connecting.

Jon discovered a neat little trick that got us in. He ran the following command from the command line:

mstsc -console

It turns out that mstsc.exe is the remote desktop connection application. The -console flag specifies that we want to connect to the console session of a server. Since we generally launch Remote Desktop from the icon, we almost always leave this console session free. Nice!

When I got back in the server, I used the Terminal Services Managertool to reset the disconnected and idle sessions. I then used Terminal Services Configuration tool to set a timeout for disconnected sessions. Finally, I remembered to logout rather than simply close the remote desktop window. Simply closing remote desktop doesn’t reset the session.

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