How to install Remote Desktop Services in Windows Server 2012

When you're ready to install Remote Desktop Services, keep an eye on each component. Some are mandatory in Windows Server 2012 and others aren't.

If you want to use Microsoft Remote Desktop Services to give users remote access to desktops and applications, you need to know how to install it.

Installing Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) starts with understanding each of its components. In part one of this series, I explained the RDS roles and what each of them does. Before breaking down how to install Remote Desktop Services, let's review the components:

Remote Desktop (RD) Virtualization Host

  • Hosts virtual machines

RD Session Host

  • Hosts RemoteApp published applications or session-based desktops

RD Connection Broker (mandatory)

  • Connects and reconnects users to virtual desktops, RemoteApp published applications and session-based desktops
  • Distributes load among RD Session Host servers in a session collection

RD Web Access (mandatory)

  • Allows users to access RemoteApp and desktop connection via the Start menu on Windows 8, Windows 7 or via the Web browser

RD Gateway (optional)

  • Provides Internet-connected devices access to virtual desktops, RemoteApp published apps and session-based desktops on internal network

RD Licensing (mandatory)

  • Manages licenses required to connect to RD Session Host collections or virtual desktop collections

Choosing an installation method

You can install all the RDS roles from a single server using the Remote Desktop Services tool via the new Server Manager in Windows Server 2012. Here's how:

  1. Open the Server Manager Console and select option three: "Add other servers to manage"
  2. Add the servers you want to deploy Remote Desktop Services to
  3. In the Server Manager Console, select option two: "Add roles and features"
  4. Select "Remote Desktop Services installation"

Then, install Remote Desktop Services in one of two ways:

Standard deployment. With this method, you deploy Remote Desktop Services roles to multiple servers. For typical production deployments, choose a standard deployment that allows you to install each role service separately on separate servers if desired.

If you select a Standard deployment, you will be prompted to choose which server(s) you would like to deploy the RD role services to. For a typical RDS installation where high availability and security are important, you should deploy each component to a dedicated server.

Quick Start. With Quick Start, you install Remote Desktop Services role services onto a single server. This route is usually reserved for proof-of-concepts or very small deployments.

If you choose Quick Start, you will be asked for one server to deploy the RD roles to. 

Determining your deployment type

The next step is to select the type of Remote Desktop Services deployment. Here's where the first two RDS roles come in:

  • Virtual-machine-based deployment (RD Virtualization Host)
  • Session-based desktop deployment (RD Session Host)

To deploy Windows 7 virtual desktops, for instance, choose the virtual-machine-based deployment, and the wizard will install the RD Virtualization Host. To deploy RemoteApp published application or session-based desktops, choose the session-based desktop deployment, and the wizard will install the RD Session Host.

You can deploy both components, but the wizard only allows you to choose one or the other at one time. You will have to run the wizard again to install both RD Session Host and RD Virtualization Host.

More on Remote Desktop Services

Simplifying VDI deployment with RDS

What a VMware pro thinks of RDS and RemoteFX

Quiz: How much do you know about Windows Server 2012 RDS?

Based on which installation method you chose above (Standard or Quick), the following role services are then deployed to their servers: RD Connection Broker, RD Web Access, and either RD Virtualization Host or Remote Desktop Session Host.

After the installation is complete, you can choose to add RD Gateway and RD Licensing roles to the environment through the Overview screen of the Remote Desktop Services Console.

You can also use that screen to install more RDS roles after the initial wizard is complete within the Windows Server 2012 Server Manager console. Right-clicking on any of the components allows you to add or remove additional roles or servers for high availability.

For high availability with RD Web Access and RD Gateway, add two or more servers and use DNS round robin, Windows Network Load Balancing or a third-party load balancing tool. High availability for the RD Connection Broker is also improved in Windows Server 2012 Remote Desktop Services.

This was first published in January 2013

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