For licensing purposes, I'm interested in knowing what Microsoft Windows OSes and applications allow multiple users to Remote Desktop into a server at the same time (each with a unique instance -- able to use the same applications and data simultaneously).

I've found that this is possible on a system running Microsoft Windows 2012 R2 Data Center edition along with Microsoft Azure.

As far as I'm aware, a server running, say, Windows 7, allows only one user to Remote Desktop in at once -- at least, when using Microsoft's Remote Desktop application.

But with the system configuration mentioned above, multiple users can remote in and user the computer at the same time. I'm wondering what OSes / applications allow this?

Is it safe to assume that only Microsoft "Server" OSes provide this functionality?


There are projects like RDPWrapper that "enable" this functionality on client OSes. However, they themselves are not sure of licensing legality. Consult a lawyer if in doubt.

  • For Windows Server up to and including 2003, you want Terminal Services.
  • For Windows Server 2008 and later, you want Remote Desktop Services (RDS).

For RDS, you need:

  • a server license for the server, and
  • a CAL (Client Access License) for each person accessing the RDS server.

Per person or per client machine licensing as decided between yourself and your Microsoft licensing. Each instance also needs licensing for whatever software (MS Office, Adobe Acrobat Pro, etc.) you intend to make available.

Once this is setup, you should use the /admin switch when launching RDS as for server admin. This switch prevents admin from using up one of the CALs.

RDS also allows you to serve just the apps. They are launched from client's desktop, but run from the server. Greatly reduced upkeep since you patch the server and you're done.

  • For clarification: In Windows Server 2008 it's still called Terminal Services. The switch to the name Remote Desktop Services occurred with Windows Server 2008 R2. – joeqwerty Aug 16 '16 at 23:58
  • So to clarify: a server edition of Windows is indeed required for this functionality, correct? – Vern Jensen Aug 17 '16 at 0:21
  • Yes. You'll also need to implement an RDSH License Server and purchase RDSH CAL's. – joeqwerty Aug 17 '16 at 1:18

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