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Windows 2008R2 Remote Desktop Server Licensing – No more auto discovery

One of our recent projects has been preparing for and testing of the migration of our ACS Server.  We are are working to migrate our ACS Terminal Server from a 2003 Terminal server to a 2008r2 Remote Desktop Server and one of the problems that has caused frustration is the Remote Desktop Server CALs (Client Access Licenses).

We have software assurance so having those CALs wasn’t the issue, SA migrated our 2003 TS CALs to 2008r2 Remote Desktop CALs… The problems started when we brought the new server online and added the Remote Desktop Role it wouldn’t sync up with the license server. 

Previously we had setup one of our ‘backup’ domain controllers to be the terminal server license server so all Terminal servers would auto discover our Terminal Server licenses… but not with this new 2008r2 box.  Well alas I found out why… as noted here in the RD Licensing Tech net article:

“Prior to Windows Server 2008 R2, the license server was automatically discovered on the network. This discovery is no longer supported for an RD Session Host server that is running Windows Server 2008 R2.

In Remote Desktop Session Host Configuration in Windows Server 2008 R2, you must specify a license server for the RD Session Host server to use. You can either choose from a list of known license servers or manually enter the name.”

But nowhere in the document does it say how do setup said configuration… Other than you can do so by going to the Remote Desktop Session Host Configuration window.  In the RDSHC window (my abbreviation not Microsoft’s) you can see what license issues you have, and in our case we didn’t have an active license server but we couldn’t figure out how to fix that.

Finally today I came across this article [here] which links to this article [here] that actually gives the step by step instructions.  The gotcha is in the RDSHC window you need to not right click on any of the tree headings but select the top level and then go into the window and right click on the RD license server text for the properties menu to display. 

Incase the links go dark here are the step-by-step copied from the TechNet page.

To specify a license server for the RD Session Host server to use

  1. On the RD Session Host server, open Remote Desktop Session Host Configuration. To open Remote Desktop Session Host Configuration, click Start, point to Administrative Tools, point to Remote Desktop Services, and then click Remote Desktop Session Host Configuration.

  2. If the User Account Control dialog box appears, confirm that the action it displays is what you want, and then click Yes.

  3. In the Edit settings area, under Licensing, double-click Remote Desktop license servers.

  4. On the Licensing tab of the Properties dialog box, click Add.

  5. In the Add License Server dialog box, select a license server from the list of known license servers, and then click Add. If the license server that you want to add is not listed, in the License server name or IP address box, type the name or IP address of the license server that you want to add, and then click Add.

    You can add more than one license server for the RD Session Host server to use. The RD Session Host server will contact the license servers in the order in which they appear in the Specified license servers box.

  6. Click OK to close the Add License Server dialog box, and then click OK to save your changes to the licensing settings.

You can also specify a license server for the RD Session Host server to use by applying the Use the specified Remote Desktop license servers Group Policy setting. This Group Policy setting is located in Computer ConfigurationPoliciesAdministrative TemplatesWindows ComponentsRemote Desktop ServicesRemote Desktop Session HostLicensing and can be configured by using either the Local Group Policy Editor or the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC). Note that the Group Policy setting will take precedence over the license servers configured in Remote Desktop Session Host Configuration.

Now.. I have to say I am not complaining that the new navigation is bad.. just the new way things are being displayed in 2008 and 2008r2 one has to get accustomed to… BUT i am complaining that its a little frustrating when you search the net for ‘how to configure type articles’ and you have go to three or four layers deep to find the instructions.

So… i hope this helps you in you quest to configure the Remote Desktop license server… as well as provides me a place to look when I forget next time I bring online a new server.


  • Reply Michael A Reeds MD PhD |

    Hi, Jason. thank you for this. I always forget where to find this.

  • Reply CAM |

    Thanks very much! I was wasting time trying to figure this out, and your article is appreciated.

  • Reply Paul |

    Your complaint is about Google, then, and it boils down to Google not using any semantics — only dumb lexical analysis. It doesn’t even seem to give preference to the search terms being in the order requested, or to their proximity to one another.

    But even more amazing to me is that the Windows tech community doesn’t complain about hugely complex, convoluted, and massively unproductive total disorganization of all the UIs. The Apple user interface standards are available for free, and they are state of the art, so it’s really pretty inexcusable in this century. They could easily be applied while preserving the Windows culture and look and feel.

    • Reply Jason Lee |

      Paul thanks for your opinion, but no i do believe my concern was the lack of documenting the change. And lets not get into how Apple products are completely intuitive.. because that generalization just isn’t accurate. I have documented several projects on this blog that prove that fact.

So, what do you think ?