Editor's note: Microsoft discontinued its Remote Desktop Connection Manager application in March 2020 after the discovery of a major security flaw. Microsoft encourages users to migrate to the free Microsoft Remote Desktop app (which runs the Microsoft Terminal Services Client) or the Remote Desktop Connection tool that is built into Windows.
Other alternatives to RDCMan include Remote Desktop Manager Standard Edition from Devolutions, which offers Windows PowerShell support and integrates with Microsoft Azure. Another alternative is the Terminals Remote Desktop Client, which is available on CodePlex. Other options include MultiDesk, which emphasizes security and only enables a connection after the user confirms a shared piece of information, and mRemoteNG, which is open source.
Learn about the Remote Desktop Protocol, which can help network administrators remotely access a user's system to diagnose and fix a problem, and provides remote users access to their devices.
What is Remote Desktop Connection Manager?
Remote Desktop Connection Manager is a tool that enables information technology administrators to organize, group and control remote desktop connections. It was created by a developer on the Windows Live Experience team to improve the management of multiple remote desktop protocol connections.
Using RDCMan, system administrators can supervise multiple RDP connections in a single window, use different RDP settings for separate servers or groups and save user credentials, allowing for automatic authentication on RDP and remote desktop service servers.
The tool is especially useful for individuals who work with groups of computers or large server farms where regular access to each machine is required. This includes system administrators, lab managers, developers and testers. RDCMan helps these individuals by consolidating multiple RDP connections into a single window, thus reducing desktop clutter.
RDCMan is a free tool which can be downloaded from the Microsoft website. It supports all versions of Windows, including Windows 10 and Windows Server 2019. However, Microsoft urges its customers to use the Microsoft Terminal Services Client or a universal remote desktop client for Windows 10 instead of RDCMan, stating that the RDCMan tool is unable to keep up with continuing advancements in technology.
RDCMan works with various programs, including Windows Remote Desktop, Microsoft Remote Assistance, pcAnywhere, TeamViewer and Radmin. It includes a database where users can save their login credentials, facilitating automatic login to sessions, including RDP and Terminal Services. The tool also supports several virtual private networks (VPNs), including Microsoft VPN and Cisco VPN. Admins can add on features, such as Java Web Start and MySQL tools.
Other key features include the following:
- virtual machine connect-to-console support;
- client size options that come from the application configuration file; and
- support for credential encryption with certificates.
The interface is simple and clean, but the descriptions of each connection are on the same line as the server name, which makes it difficult to see and manage two panes at the same time.
How to set up Remote Desktop Connection Manager
To install RDCMan, the user clicks the download button for the Remote Desktop Connection Manager in Microsoft's Download Center. Installation of the tool is standard. Users simply accept a license agreement, then click through the steps until it's complete. Once installed, users can find RDCMan in the Start menu.
The first time a user launches a Remote Desktop Connection Manager, they will see an interface that is almost empty because it is reserved for RDP sessions. To establish the first RDP session, the user chooses the Connect To option on the Session menu. At that point, the user will be presented with a dialog box that prompts for the server name -- an IP address can also be used -- username, password and domain.
The dialog box contains a Connection Settings tab that offers the user the option to launch an application, set a working directory, specify a custom RDP port or provide a load balancing configuration.
Users can also create a custom profile, so they do not have to enter the same authentication information for every connection.
RDCMan enables users to group RDP connections by organizational structure, such as the server function, server type or geographic location. To create a group, the user clicks on New in the File menu. The user will then be prompted to create an RDCMan Group file. The name of the file should be the same name that is assigned to this group. As the user adds more RDP sessions to RDCMan, they can drag those sessions to the appropriate group.
To use one of their RDP sessions, the user clicks on the thumbnail that corresponds to the session they want to look at. The console will then instantly display the selected RDP session.
The Unlock option on the Session menu lets the user bring an RDP session out of the console and into its own window.
Closing RDCMan ends the user's RDP sessions. To reconnect the managed servers, the user selects the Server checkbox -- not the checkbox for each individual server -- then clicks Connect.
How to use Remote Desktop Connection Manager
Administrators can organize remote desktop connections by groups through top-level hierarchies. In the two-pane interface, connection options include whatever the admin can define within a native RDP session. Admins can only import servers through a text file.
RDCMan is only useful for RDP connections. This means it is perfect for administrators in Windows-only deployments who want a remote desktop management tool that is purely focused on RDP.
With Windows 10, only Pro users can grant access to their computers. To do so, users must open File Explorer, right-click This PC and select Properties, Remote Settings and select Allow remote connections to this computer. They should also turn off Allow connections only from computers running Remote Desktop with Network Level Authentication.