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Virtual Machine Connection - Enhanced Session Mode Overview

Published: June 24, 2013

Updated: June 24, 2013

Applies To: Windows Server 2012 R2



Virtual Machine Connection in Hyper-V now supports redirecting local resources to a virtual machine session. This feature provides a functionality that is similar to a remote desktop connection when you are interacting with a virtual machine.

In previous versions of Hyper-V, Virtual Machine Connection provided redirection of only the virtual machine screen, keyboard, and mouse with limited copy functionality. To get additional redirection abilities, a remote desktop connection to the virtual machine could be initiated, but this required a network path to the virtual machine.

Starting with Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012 R2, Hyper-V can now redirect local resources to a virtual machine session through Virtual Machine Connection tool. The enhanced session mode connection uses a Remote Desktop Connection session via the virtual machine bus (VMBus), so no network connection to the virtual machine is required.

The following local resources can be redirected when using Virtual Machine Connection.

  • Display configuration

  • Audio

  • Printers

  • Clipboard

  • Smart cards

  • USB devices

  • Drives

  • Supported Plug and Play devices

This feature is enabled by default in Client Hyper-V, and it is disabled by default on Hyper-V in Windows Server.

The following guest operating systems support enhanced session mode connections:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2

  • Windows 8.1

In previous versions of Hyper-V, the way to copy files to and from a virtual machine was by using a Remote Desktop Connection session or a network file copy, but these solutions require a working network connection. When connecting to a virtual machine by using the Virtual Machine Connection tool, you could copy only a limited amount of ASCII text to the virtual machine.

Enhanced session mode allows you to redirect local resources to a virtual machine in the same way that you can with a remote desktop connection, but you do not need a network connection to the virtual machine. You need to connect only to the server where the virtual machine is running.

Enhanced session mode can be useful in the following scenarios:

  • Troubleshooting a virtual machine without a network connection to the virtual machine

  • Signing in to the virtual machine by using a smart card

  • Printing from a virtual machine to a local printer

  • Testing and troubleshooting developer applications running in a virtual machine that require USB and sound redirection without using Remote Desktop Connection.

Configuring enhanced session mode is done in the following areas:

  • Server settings:Enhanced Session Mode Policy

  • User setting:Enhanced Session Mode

  • Guest operating system

The Enhanced Session Mode Policy setting affects all virtual machines on the server running Hyper-V.

The Allow enhanced session mode setting determines whether to allow enhanced session mode connections to virtual machines on the server running Hyper-V. If this setting is enabled, Hyper-V allows enhanced session mode connections to a virtual machine when the following conditions are met:

  • An enhanced session mode connection has been requested by Virtual Machine Connection.

  • The virtual machine is running an operating system that supports enhanced session mode.

  • Remote Desktop Services is running on the virtual machine.

When the Allow enhanced session mode setting is disabled, connections from Virtual Machine Connection use a basic session.

ImportantImportant
The default setting for the Allow enhanced session mode is:

  • Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012 R2: Disabled

  • Client Hyper-V: Enabled

The Enhanced Session Mode setting determines if Virtual Machine Connection attempts to use enhanced session mode when available in a guest operating system. When Use enhanced session mode is enabled, device redirection takes place when the following conditions are met:

  • Allow enhanced session mode is enabled on the server running Hyper-V.

  • The virtual machine is running an operating system that supports enhanced session mode.

  • Remote Desktop Services is running on the virtual machine.

The following guest operating systems support enhanced session mode connections:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2

  • Windows 8.1

Additionally, Remote Desktop Services needs to be running, and the user account you use to sign in to the virtual machine needs to be a member of the Remote Desktop Users local group or the local Administrators group.

ImportantImportant
The Remote Desktop Services Group Policy setting and the local Group Policy settings are enforced for enhanced session mode connections. So if there is a policy in effect that does not allow the redirection of printers, printer redirection in a Virtual Machine Connection session is blocked as it would be for a remote desktop connection.

The following are some frequently asked questions regarding enhanced session mode.

No. Virtual Machine Connection creates an administrative remote desktop session from the client to the virtual machine. These sessions do not require Terminal Services CALs.

Yes. When you connect to a virtual machine that supports enhanced session mode, you will see the Connect to dialog box. In this dialog box, you can set which local resources will be available in the session with the virtual machine. To save your settings, click Show Option, select Save my settings for future connections to this virtual machine, and then click Connect. The settings will be saved in a file in the following folder:

%appdata%\roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Hyper-V\Client\1.0

A file will be created for each virtual machine with the following naming convention:

vmconnect.rdp.{virtual machine GUID}.config

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