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Choosing Client Computers

Updated: March 28, 2003

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

Client computers, or terminals, connect to a terminal server that is running Windows Server 2003 using the Remote Desktop Connection tool, which you can install on a disk or in firmware. The Remote Desktop Connection tool is installed by default when you install Windows Server 2003, Windows XP (you need to install Windows XP Service Pack 1 to benefit from features such as Auto-Reconnect), and most versions of Windows CE. On earlier versions of Windows and on the Pocket PC, you have to manually install Remote Desktop.

You can also install this tool manually from the Windows Server 2003 operating system CD or download it from the Web for use on a computer running the Microsoft® Windows® 95, Microsoft® Windows® 98, Microsoft® Windows® Millennium Edition, Windows NT 4.0, or Microsoft® Windows® 2000 Professional operating systems. Remote Desktop Connection has very low physical RAM requirements and generally works on any device that meets the minimum requirements for the operating system on which it runs. For information, see the Terminal Server link on the Web Resources page at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/reskits/webresources.

A Remote Desktop Connection Client for Mac OS X is also available from Microsoft. For more information, see the Mactopia Downloads: Remote Desktop Connection Client link on the Web Resources page at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/reskits/webresources.

For other platforms such as UNIX, you need to obtain a third-party tool to connect to a terminal server. There are a number of third-party RDP clients available. Many of these are reverse engineered and are not supported or endorsed by Microsoft. These clients might cause performance and compatibility problems, and lack of functionality. Check with the software vendor to ensure that your RDP software is a licensed client. For more information about third-party Terminal Server solutions, see the Citrix and New Moon Systems links on the Web Resources page at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/reskits/webresources.

Your choice of client platform depends on the current installed base and individual user need. Consider the following issues when choosing a client computer or platform from which to connect to your terminal server:

  • You can use Windows-based terminals in the following situations:

    • Task workers can access their primary application from a Windows-based terminal (or thin client) rather than a personal computer, reducing hardware costs and work disruption. If a terminal stops responding, you can replace it quickly, with minimal setup.

    • In locations where a personal computer does not fare well — such as in exceptionally dirty, hot, or cold environments — consider deploying Windows-based thin clients, which typically have no moving parts and have a sealed-case design.

    • Windows-based thin clients can be used to replace green-screen terminals.

  • You can use client computers running earlier versions of Windows to provide access to applications that require a more recent version of Windows by upgrading your terminal server and hosting the application.

  • To save on hardware costs, you can use older computers that are not capable of running newer versions of Windows to access the latest application versions through Terminal Server.

  • The Remote Desktop Web Connection requires a browser that supports ActiveX (available with Internet Explorer).

  • Non-Windows-based computers such as Macintosh or UNIX computers need additional client software to connect to Terminal Server.

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