Is there a way to send the Ctrl-Alt-Del command to an RDP session (Windows Server 2008 R2) inside another RDP session (also Windows Server 2008 R2) without the first session catching it?

Ctrl+Alt+End and Ctrl+Alt+Shift+End do not reach the 2nd level session.

Top-level environment is Windows 7 Enterprise.

  • 2
    I've not used 2008, but is osk (On-Screen Keyboard) still available? Feb 14, 2012 at 14:37
  • I also found a workaround of forcing the user to change their password next logon but the OSK allows the pass change without interrupting the session.
    – xddsg
    Feb 14, 2012 at 14:51
  • OSK is still around. You should post that as the answer!
    – Greg Askew
    Feb 14, 2012 at 14:52
  • @Tom - OSK works if the first session is Windows 2008. I haven't tried Windows 2003 though. You may want to post details about your environment.
    – Greg Askew
    Feb 14, 2012 at 14:54
  • @GregAskew Thanks, post now contains environment information.
    – xddsg
    Feb 14, 2012 at 14:59

11 Answers 11


Use the On-Screen Keyboard (osk.exe). You can press Ctrl-Alt-Del virtually!

(Note: you may need to hold the CTRL and ALT keys on your physical keyboard (Windows Server 2012-R2))

On-Screen Keyboard

  • 23
    Holding ctrl-alt on the top-level machine and clicking the 'del' in the desired level OSK works. Clicking ctrl-alt-del (no keyboard presses) does not (even though it looks like it is holding the fucntion keys down). Simple and functionally equivalent to what I was looking for.
    – xddsg
    Feb 14, 2012 at 15:15
  • Just used this to change my AD password on a Server 2012 machine. Worked really well!
    – Josh Earl
    Apr 9, 2014 at 13:44
  • Thanks, RDP within an RDP within a VM had me really confused as to how to this this. Worked like a charm. It's odd that the sticky keys don't work, I thought the point of the OSK was to use if you only had a mouse. Oct 21, 2014 at 15:56
  • Doesn't work when the remote is Windows Server 2012. I get some error dialog "unable to start on-screen keyboard".
    – Kaz
    Sep 27, 2021 at 0:15
  • Thanks @xddsg, i needed to do only a small change in my case, CTRL + ALT in the top level machine, and END button in on Screen Keyboard in the first RDP session (instead of DEL). Apr 5, 2022 at 18:10

I found a way to make this work. I frequently work with nested RDP sessions that go in several levels deep. That's just how I prefer to work, especially with lots of VMs.

Keep in mind that my environment is primarily Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2.

Here's the scenario: I RDP from Computer A to Computer B and from Computer B to Computer C.

  1. If I want to send Ctrl+Alt+Del to Computer A, I type Ctrl+Alt+Del from Computer A

  2. If I want to send Ctrl+Alt+Del to Computer B, I type Ctrl+Alt+End from Computer A

  3. If I want to send Ctrl+Alt+Del to Computer C, I open the On-Screen Keyboard on Computer B and use it to type Ctrl+Alt+End, which sends Ctrl+Alt+Del to Computer C

  4. If I try to use the On-Screen Keyboard to send Ctrl+Alt+Del on ANY of those three machines, it refers me to the Start menu, which does not help me at all.

So, to send Ctrl+Alt+Del to a remote machine, simply use the OSK to send Ctrl+Alt+End from the session just before the remote machine you are trying to send it to. Works every time.

  • 4
    This is particularly helpful if 'Computer C' is Server Core.
    – user83664
    Dec 26, 2014 at 19:03

You can also create a shortcut that performs the CTRL-ALT-DEL action for you (very useful in environments where OSK is not accessible.) Create a shortcut to the following:

C:\Windows\explorer.exe shell:::{2559a1f2-21d7-11d4-bdaf-00c04f60b9f0}

Double-click that shortcut to access the CTRL-ALT-DEL screen.

  • 2
    To me, running this from the command line seems most preferable. However, it didn't work for me. Maybe because I'm logged into WinSvr2008R2. Is this supposed to show a password prompt (using the GUI)? How'd you find this? (Is this documented somewhere?) I notice the same GUID referenced by HowToGeek: Turning a folder into a safe
    – TOOGAM
    Feb 10, 2017 at 11:37
  • It was shown to me by a former co-worker some time ago. We were in an environment where we had to use nested RDP sessions, did not have OSK installed, did not have sufficient privileges to install OSK, and did not have a Windows Security shortcut. {2559a1f2-21d7-11d4-bdaf-00c04f60b9f0} is the CLSID for Windows Security. I do not know how to launch that from a command line, though.
    – Jarrod A.
    Feb 15, 2017 at 15:47
  • i prefer this as it allows puts something on the desktop as a reminder Mar 12, 2020 at 18:33
  • For some reason many terminal servers can't open the screen keyboard. In my opinion this is the best solution because I can avoid messing around with key combinations. I don't understand why MS doesn't make the ctrl+alt+del screen accessible by a default shortcut from the start menu. Thanks for posting this solution!
    – o0x258
    Nov 10, 2021 at 8:17
  • This works by just running the whole thing as a command inside of a CMD prompt! Thank you! Aug 17, 2023 at 18:48

Set both RDP sessions to Send Windows keys to remote window.

enter image description here

Now, to send Ctrl-Alt-Del to the first session, use Alt-Ctrl-Del. To send commands to the second window, use Alt-Ctrl-End.


I came across this solution but it didn't work for me. The OSK had been disabled and I couldn't bring it up. Found this works if you're only looking at a single nested RDP session.

i.e. Session B inside Session A.

Shift + Ctrl + Alt + End

  • If you read the question, you'll see the asker tried this, but it didn't work. (Probably requires some fiddling with the RDP session settings, in his case.) Feb 6, 2014 at 10:53
  • This worked for me (2008R2 onto 2008R2) but Session B had to be a non-full-screen window, with the focus, within A. (Session A was full-screen.)
    – mwardm
    Oct 16, 2014 at 19:42

There is another way you can specify where the Windows key combinations will be executed in the RDP Options Local Resources tab. In the section Keyboard you can choose On this computer, on the remote computer of Only when using the full screen. If you choose on the remote computer Ctrl Alt END will allow you to start a taskmanager in the nested rdp connection. Lifesaver if you managed to close the command Window on a core machine.


If you can setup TeamViewer or similar in the first session, Ctrl + Alt + End will then work for the second RDP session


I know this is old but I thought I would provide an answer as I figured out how to make the keyboard shortcut work. For me, I had to specifically use the Left Shift key and the Right Control and Alt keys and then press End to have it pass through to the second level RDP session.

I suggest anyone having issues with Shift+Control+Alt+End to try every combination they can on their keyboard to see if it works.


In the nested RDP session:

  1. Turn ON [NumLock]
  2. Press: SHIFT(any) + CTRL + ALT + End (num pad - under 1)
  • Doesn't work in w10, no result on neither B or C
    – MrCalvin
    Mar 8 at 19:03

In case someone finds this via a Windows 10 server setup where the OSK doesn't have an END key, I was also able to replicate this by enabling the full OSK keyboard under settings in the first nested RDP window, pressing CTRL + ALT on the OSK keyboard followed by END on my physical keyboard.


Do you need that shortcut or is your goal to start Task Manager? Last one can be done easier by hitting Ctrl+Shift+Esc - that also works with nested RDP sessions, as long as they are all in fullscreen

  • 1
    How does this answer relate to the question?
    – U. Windl
    Jan 26 at 7:06
  • @U.Windl: Maybe just read my answer, and then you might understand it. If not there's no problem, simply ignore it.
    – Stefan
    Jan 29 at 8:22
  • The question clearly is "Is there a way to send the Ctrl-Alt-Del command to an RDP session...."
    – U. Windl
    Jan 29 at 14:20
  • Yeah then I guess the "simply ignore it" is the way to go. Hope you find a better use for your spare time.
    – Stefan
    Jan 31 at 7:53

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .