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Remote Desktop Protocol 8.1 for Windows 7 Available

Microsoft this week released a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) 8.1 update for Windows 7 Service Pack 1.

The update allows Windows 7 clients access to some new Remote Desktop Connection features associated with Microsoft's newest operating systems, such as Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows 8.1, according to Microsoft's announcement. One of the more useful features for IT pros enabled by the update is support for "session shadowing," such as might occur when IT help desk personnel share a connection with an end user for troubleshooting purposes. With the update in place, IT pros can initiate session shadowing "from the command line on Windows 7 SP1 computers," according to the announcement.

Links to download the RDP 8.1 update for Windows 7 SP1 can be accessed at this Knowledge Base article page. The update will install on top of a previously installed RDP 8.0 installation.

The update also improves the RemoteApp user experience for Windows 7 users. RemoteApp is a shell program for running apps that runs on the client side. The RemoteApp program uses a Remote Desktop Connection to access a server where the applications are housed. The user experience improvements enabled by this update mostly make RemoteApp applications seem more like their local desktop cousins. For instance, the update allows programs that show transparent windows or borders, such as Microsoft Office 2013, also have that same user experience when run as RemoteApp applications.

It's also possible to move and resize RemoteApp applications during a Remote Desktop Connection and have the applications appear more like local desktop-installed apps. Another normalized feature is "aero peek," which is a shortcut to the desktop that can be accessed through an icon on the taskbar to the right of the clock. Thumbnails and taskbars also look more like the desktop versions of Windows 7 with the update applied, according to Microsoft.

The update also supports the ability to use pluggable authentication and authorization file properties with the Remote Desktop Gateway. The pluggable authentication and authorization file property can be used for adding "custom two-factor authentication" for remote connections, according to Microsoft. However, that support is based on using the Remote Desktop Gateway on Windows Server 2008 R2 or newer Windows Server versions.

Microsoft claims that the RDP 8.1 update can enable "a rich RemoteFX experience on a broad set of devices" when used with Microsoft's Remote Desktop Apps. However, it also requires using the Enterprise edition of Windows 7, and some features, such as multitouch, don't appear to be supported, according to an old Microsoft blog description. RemoteFX is Microsoft's branding for virtual desktop infrastructure services that support graphics-intensive applications over LANs and WANs.

Microsoft hasn't yet released an RDP 8.1 update for Windows Embedded Standard 7-based thin clients. The timeline for that release is based on the schedules of Microsoft's thin-client device manufacturer partners.

Update: Microsoft apparently pulled this update shortly after its release. Users experienced smart card problems and so Microsoft is working to fix that issue, according to an announcement dated Dec. 27, 2013. If fixed, Microsoft plans to rerelease the Knowledge Base article containing the update.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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