Remote Desktop /console Switch Removed by XP SP3 Upgrade

Mark Berry July 12, 2008

I recently upgraded my XP desktop to Service Pack 3, which includes an update to Remote Desktop Client 6.1.

Today I locked a Windows Server 2003 console session at a client site, then tried later to access the console session by typing “mstsc.exe /console” from the command line. Instead of connecting to the console, I found myself dropped into a new session on the server. When I started Terminal Services Manager on the remote machine, I saw two sessions, including the console session. When I tried to remote control the console session, I got the message, “”Can't remote control session (ID 0).”

I finally found this Terminal Services Team Blog post with the explanation:

Changes to Remote Administration in Windows Server 2008

There are reasons why /console is no longer needed in Windows Server 2008. Apparently that justifies removing this functionalitiy from RDC 6.1, even when connecting to Windows Server 2003. Worse, the connection succeeds but “silently ignores” the /console switch.

Fortunately, there is a workaround:  use the new /admin switch instead.

Both the application-specific Help file and the Windows XP Help and
Support Center still list the missing /console switch and do not mention the
/admin switch. Note to Microsoft:  if you're going to “silently” remove functionality, at least update the documentation!


  1. Paul   |  July 24, 2008 at 2:12 am

    Your post was a real time saver – thank you!

  2. Daatta   |  August 11, 2008 at 5:50 am

    Cool, thanks for the info!

  3. James Jobin   |  August 20, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    I don’t understand. I’m using WIN XP, SP3 and my link to Remote Desktop Connection is gone.
    How do I use the /admin switch if the program is gone. Note that I’m the client computer trying to access the host computer.

  4. Mark Berry   |  August 20, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    James – To use the /admin switch, you must start Remote Desktop from a command line. Go to Start > Run and enter “mstsc /admin”. You could probably create a custom shortcut to “C:\WINDOWS\system32\mstsc.exe /admin”, but I haven’t tried that.

  5. RoGeorge   |  September 01, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    The shortcut works too, thank you all!

  6. TheBobMan   |  September 13, 2008 at 6:10 am

    Thanks for the help, It does work.
    But … isn’t it sooooo microsoft
    you dont need that anymore on our latest and greatest so we are going to make it a pain in the butt to use in the old versions. Then we wont tell you about the changes we made! But we will be really nice and help you out by giving you the same functionality under a different name. You probably should thank us profusely. No wonder the Apple commercials are so popular!

  7. Daktus   |  September 24, 2008 at 8:15 am

    It just cost me 2 hours to find out. On all microsoft support sites the /console switch is used and no note for sp3 users!


  8. JasW   |  October 15, 2008 at 7:44 am

    Well, I tried the /admin switch and got the same results as the /console – a 2nd session being opened on the 2003 server. Any thoughts why the /console switch properly connects to an active session one time, and creates a new session on other attempts?

  9. Mark Berry   |  October 15, 2008 at 8:39 am

    You’re on XP SP3? When I connect to a SBS 2003 server using mstsc.exe /admin and leave the connection open, then go to another XP SP3 workstation computer and again use mstsc.exe /admin to connect to the server (using the same logon name), the connection on the first computer ends abruptly and I am connected to the console from the second computer. I get the same results if I try two connections from the same workstation. Only one console session can be open at a time.

  10. JasW   |  October 15, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Yes, I’m on XP Pro SP3. I connect to the 2003 server to manage our gate system from my desk laptop. I close the connection when I leave in the evening and reconnect the next morning. I’ve done that for almost 3 years. Now, half the time I use my icon with the /console it connects in the manner it has, the other half, it creates a new session. The /admin created a new session as well.

  11. Mark Berry   |  October 15, 2008 at 8:51 am

    Change the icon with /console to /admin. Log off the physical console and all sessions (don’t just close them). Then only use the icon with /admin to connect. Does that work consistently? If you don’t care about actually having control of the console, you should be able to connect with NO switch, then disconnect and re-connect to the same session, as long as you use the same logon name.

  12. JasW   |  October 15, 2008 at 9:00 am

    Well, that’s the thing. I DO have to have full control of the console. My server is in a secure location that takes almost an hour to gain access to. So my screen is our only tie too it. Logging off of the physical console would be shutting the gates down, and I don’t have that option.

  13. Tyrone   |  October 27, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Thanks heaps for putting that up thats a real lifesaver. This has had me scratching my head for ages as to why it has been doing it to me.

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