Learn how to use Remote Desktop with multiple monitors

Without remote access software, MSPs and IT professionals would need to be on-site with customers and clients in order to troubleshoot, diagnose issues, or make changes to workstations and machines. When work would need to be performed remotely, they would have to talk the customers through the task and hope that they were tech savvy to understand the job at hand. Worse still, there would be almost zero visibility into whether the problems had been resolved. Thank goodness we have remote access technology, eh?

 

But what about when you need to remotely access more than one screen, viewing multiple monitors at the same time? With Windows 7 or newer operating systems, you can use Remote Desktop to view multiple monitors in a number of ways. Here’s what you need to know.

 

Using Remote Desktop to view multiple monitors

 

Let’s go over a few ways to use Remote Desktop for this task. Ask your user to go to their search bar, (or remotely access their main screen) and put in “Remote Connections” and they’ll be prompted to click on the application Remote Desktop Connection. They will need to enter the relevant authentication credentials, and use the Show Options button to view connection settings.

 

RDP image

 

In the Display tab, make sure that the box which says “Use all my monitors for the remote session” is clicked on.
For MSPs, it can be helpful to head back to the General tab, and click the “Save as” option, so that you can save these RDP settings as a template. This means that when you want to access the machine from remote PCs you won’t need to keep entering all the credentials and toggling on this button.

 

Running Remote Desktop for multiple monitors as a command

 

Another way to monitor multiple screens is to use a command. Press the Windows button + R on your keyboard, and the Run window will appear. Now type in “mstsc.exe/multimon” and enter the relevant credentials.

run command interface

You’ll see that the box which shows that all of your monitors are available for the remote session will be automatically toggled on, but it’s important to recognize that this is only for a single session. The connection rules are not saved automatically on the machine, and neither are your credentials for signing in, so this is a better option for a one-off connection request.

 

Manually changing the RDP file

 

The third option we will cover here is a bit more technical in nature. Open your RDP file in Notepad or in your browser, and manually add the line “Use Multimon:i:1”.
You can also add some extra security here by hiding specific monitors so that they are unable to be viewed over TCP from a remote machine. This is done by using the string “selectedmonitors:s:x1,x2,x16” and replacing the numbers with the numbers that you want to be viewed. The first number will be the primary monitor.

 

Any downsides of using Remote Desktop we should know about?

 

It’s great that Windows RDP is a free tool for remote access, but like with any free tool – it’s going to come with some limitations.
One big issue with using Windows RDP for remote access is that you can’t make changes to connection properties while you have an open session. That means that you’ll need to close all sessions and connections for any changes to take effect.

 

It can also be more complicated to link computers which have different OS versions or when you’re using different kinds of systems or machines. For example, with Windows 7 multi-monitor mode is only available on Enterprise or Ultimate builds, and so Windows 8 machines will need this build, too.

 

For some MSPs and IT professionals, there is a heavy lag associated with using Windows RDP, which can be worse when looking to view multiple monitors. As time = money, and customer satisfaction is everything, freezing screens or a heavy amount of latency might not be worth the free price tag. If that’s the case, there are many more robust and feature rich options for remote access of multiple monitors in the form of remote access software.

 

Alternatives to using Remote Desktop

 

As we said, if Remote Desktop doesn’t check all the boxes for you, there are third-party software solutions that can quickly and easily allow you to benefit from remote access with multiple screens. Atera integrates with AnyDesk and Splashtop, so here’s how it works for both of these choices.

 

AnyDesk

 

On AnyDesk, the toolbar will show you each remote display numbered with its own rectangle. By clicking on the relevant rectangle, you will be switched to the respective monitor on the device with which you’re making a connection. You can even show more than one monitor at the same time by establishing a concurrent session with the same device from different windows. By toggling between the windows, you’ll be able to see the monitor you’re looking for.

 

Splashtop

 

Included with Splashtop is the ability to view more than one monitor at the same time, with more customization options than you could imagine! Choose between multi-to-multi monitor view, where you can view multiple screens from your own workstation, the all-monitor view where you can see as many monitors as you need from a single screen, or a single monitor view to allow you to get greater visibility, simply toggling between the screens you need.

 

Benefiting from flexible remote access

 

In today’s business world, remote work is not a fringe use case – it’s the common way of working. To support clients who work remotely, hybrid work environments, multi-site clients, and even users on business trips, remote access is a truly powerful item in your technology toolbelt.

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