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Terminal Services overview

Updated: January 21, 2005

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

Terminal Services overview

Terminal Services provides remote access to a Microsoft® Windows® desktop through "thin client" software, allowing the client computer to serve as a terminal emulator. Terminal Services transmits only the user interface of the program to the client. The client then returns keyboard and mouse clicks to be processed by the server. Each user logs on and sees only their individual session, which is managed transparently by the server operating system and is independent of any other client session. Client software can run on a number of client hardware devices, including computers and Windows-based terminals. Other devices, such as Macintosh computers or UNIX-based workstations, can use additional third-party software to connect to a server running Terminal Server.

Terminal Services is the underlying technology for several features and components of Microsoft Windows Server™ 2003 family operating systems. Among these are Terminal Server and Remote Desktop for Administration.

Terminal Server provides an effective and reliable way to distribute Windows-based programs with a network server. With Terminal Server, a single point of installation allows multiple users to access the desktop on a server running one of the Windows Server 2003 family operating systems. Users can run programs, save files, and use network resources as if they were sitting at that computer. For more information on using Terminal Server for multisession application hosting, see Using Terminal Server to host applications centrally.

Remote Desktop for Administration (formerly known as Terminal Services in Remote Administration mode) provides remote access to the desktop of any computer running one of the Windows Server 2003 family operating systems, allowing you to administer your server--even a Microsoft Windows 2000 server--from virtually any computer on your network. For more information on using Remote Desktop for Administration for remote server administration, see Remote Desktop for Administration.

Terminal Services benefits:

  • Brings Windows Server 2003 family operating systems to desktops faster. Terminal Services helps bridge the gap while older desktops are migrated to Microsoft Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional, providing a virtual desktop experience of any Windows Server 2003 family operating system to computers that are running earlier versions of Windows. Terminal Services clients are available for many different desktop platforms including Microsoft MS-DOS®, Windows-based terminals, Macintosh, and UNIX. Additionally, a Web-based version of the Terminal Services client (Remote Desktop Web Connection) provides Terminal Services connectivity to computers with Web access and an Internet Explorer browser. (Connectivity for MS-DOS, Macintosh, and UNIX-based computers requires additional software.)

  • Takes full advantage of existing hardware. Terminal Services extends the model of distributed computing by allowing computers to operate as both thin clients and full-featured personal computers simultaneously. Computers can continue to be used as they have been within existing networks while also functioning as thin clients capable of emulating the Windows XP Professional desktop.

Terminal Server benefits:

  • Centralized deployment of programs. With Terminal Server, all program execution, data processing, and data storage occur on the server, centralizing the deployment of programs. Terminal Server ensures that all clients can access the same version of a program. Software is installed only once on the server, rather than on every desktop throughout the organization, reducing the costs associated with updating individual computers. For more information on centralized deployment of programs, see Using Terminal Server to host applications centrally.

Remote Desktop for Administration benefits:

  • Remote administration. Terminal Services Remote Desktop for Administration provides remote administration for Windows Server 2003 family operating systems, giving system administrators a method of remotely managing their server from any client over a LAN, WAN or dial-up connection. Up to two remote sessions, plus the console session, can be accessed simultaneously. Terminal Server licensing is not required to use this feature.

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