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Basic Terminal Server Concepts

Updated: March 28, 2003

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

The Terminal Server component of Windows Server 2003, which was called Terminal Services in Application Server Mode in the Microsoft® Windows® 2000 operating system, can deliver the Windows desktop, in addition to Windows-based applications, from a centralized server to virtually any desktop computing device, including those that cannot run Windows.

Terminal Server uses the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to communicate between client and server. After you deploy an application on a terminal server, clients can connect over a remote access connection, local area network (LAN), wide area network (WAN), or the Internet. The client computers can run Windows (including the Microsoft® Windows® CE operating system) or run on other operating systems such as the Apple Macintosh or even UNIX (using a third-party add-on). When a user accesses an application on a terminal server that is running Windows Server 2003, all of the work of the application takes place on the server and only the keyboard, mouse, and display information are transmitted over the network to the user desktop. Each user sees only their individual session, which is managed transparently by the server operating system and is independent of any other client session.

Windows Server 2003 Terminal Server offers the following new features and improvements:

  • For improved load-balancing performance, the new Session Directory feature automatically reconnects users to an existing session within a load-balanced server farm, rather than just being directed to the least loaded server when they reconnect.

  • For improved logon security, you can use a smart card to log on to a terminal server running Windows Server 2003 and run applications from client computers with a smart card subsystem (including computers running the Microsoft® Windows® XP operating system, Windows 2000, and the Windows CE operating system). This provides an additional level of physical security to your network environment.

  • For a better user experience, Terminal Services supports a wider variety of data redirection types (including file system, serial port, printer, audio, and time zone) and supports connections in up to 24-bit color.

  • For improved management, there is an expanded set of Group Policy settings for Terminal Server and a full Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) provider allowing for scripted configuration of Terminal Server settings.

  • For improved license management, you can install Terminal Services Enterprise Licensing on either a domain controller or a member server. Terminal Services Licensing wizards have been improved to reduce the complexity of activating a terminal server and assigning it licenses. There is also a new security group that allows only specific terminal servers to request licenses from a license server in a domain.

For more information about improvements in Windows Server 2003 Terminal Server, see the "What’s New in Terminal Server" white paper at the Terminal Services: Community Center link on the Web Resources page at and Using Terminal Server to host applications centrally in Help and Support Center for Windows Server 2003.

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