Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Enabling Remote Desktop on Windows Server 2008 Core Edition

You’ve installed Windows Server 2008 Core Edition, so now what? For most Windows systems, remote desktop protocol (RDP) is the key mechanism to administer the server. While there are not many things that can be done locally on a Core server, it is still beneficial to have access to a session locally on the system.
Determining how to do this is easy enough from Microsoft KB article 555964, but before we do this, we want to focus on the options involved. RDP connections are available in two modes for Windows Core servers: (1) only allowing other Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista connections or (2) permitting Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Vista connections. The difference is network level authentication (NLA), which Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 support. NLA performs the authentication through various features of the newer products before starting the Remote Desktop session and passing the display to the client. (For more about NLA and the other components, read this blog post by the TechNet Performance Team.)
Once you decide on a mode, it’s quite easy to implement RDP on a Core system. If you want to use NLA for RDP connections to Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 systems, enter this command on the Core server:
Cscript %windir%\system32\SCRegEdit.wsf /ar 0
To not use NLA and allow connections from all RDP clients, perform the step above and add this line:
Cscript %windir%\system32\SCRegEdit.wsf /cs 0
The server will accept RDP connections based on the mode selected. You’re done!
Note: The commands in this tip will also work on the full installations if you want to roll them into a build script.

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