Windows Foundation

Terminal Services, The Rest of the Story

Application sharing can make you a hero with remote users. But don't forget to examine the hidden issues with using Win2K Terminal Services in that mode.

Now that you've worked with Windows 2000 for a year, it's time to learn some of the more advanced features. Learning these features, however, may increase your pain and agony more than slightly as you plumb the depths of Win2K. This month, I'll share a story with you: It's about learning how to implement Terminal Services the hard way, via a recent MCSE consulting experience I had and the issue of licensing plays prominently in this one. I have no one to blame, but more on that later. First, let's take a quick look at exactly what Terminal Services is.

Essentially, you can connect to the Win2K Server via a Terminal Services session to run a remote control session. With a remote control session, you have a session window that displays the activity you create, such as keystrokes.

Figure 1. The classic view of Terminal Services - a window within a window. (Click image to view larger version.)

In Figure 1, the screen images are passed between the client session (which is really the session window) and the server. Terminal Services runs in two modes on a Win2K Server: remote administration and application sharing. Remote administration allows up to two concurrent connections by the administrator for performing administration on the computer.

I can't resist giving one technical tip along the way before jumping into the licensing discussion. When you switch Terminal Services from remote administration mode to application sharing mode, you also switch the Terminal Services session's priority processing from background to foreground on the Win2K Server. This dramatically increases the load on the Win2K Server. You'll need lots of RAM and processing power when running Terminal Services in application sharing mode.

Application sharing mode allows numerous connections from users who want to run applications in Terminal Services sessions (such as via a VPN connection over the Internet). You most often read about the application sharing mode of Terminal Services and it's this mode that requires client access licensing, a complex area that I'll discuss in a moment.

Licensing and Legalities
Perhaps you've been around the technology industry for a while and have seen different licensing schemes come and go. Possibly you licensed some of IBM's mainframe and mid-range technologies and went through their complex licensing scheme. Better yet, maybe you were exposed to one of my favorite licensing approaches, power units, with Computer Associates. Ouch! Well I've got news for you. The licensing scheme related to Terminal Services is right up there with the best of them.

Before I dive into the details, let's take a quick look at how you'll likely discover that there is a licensing issue at all. You're happily going along, deploying Win2K. Curiosity overcomes caution and need overcomes want when you decide to deploy Terminal Services in application sharing mode. You're an instant hero as users can work from home and other remote locations, running corporate applications, such as a database, in a snappy Terminal Services session window. Life is good.

Three months later, the feathers hit the fan when you get a call late one night from a frantic user, unable to launch a Terminal Services session to accomplish work. The only error message in the event logs says a Terminal Services user is unable to log in (not very descriptive, to say the least).

Here's what has most likely occurred: When you install Terminal Services in application sharing mode, you have 90 days to acquire the Terminal Services client access licenses (CALs) and set up a Terminal Services Licensing Server. Assuming you've hit day 90, you'll need to undertake the following:

A. Install the Licensing Server. The Licensing Server is installed from Start | Settings | Control Panel | Add/Remove Programs | Add/Remove Windows Components, and select Terminal Services Licensing. Click Next and Finish to close the Windows Components Wizard.

Win2K Professional clients do not need Terminal Services CALs to access a Win2K Server and launch a Terminal Services session.

B. Acquire the Terminal Services Clients Access Licenses (CALs). Next, assuming you're running Windows ME/9x or NT Workstation clients that are connecting to your Win2K Server machines and launching Terminal Services sessions, you need to purchase the Terminal Services CALs.

I found the task of purchasing Terminal Services CALs to be much tougher than I first thought. When you launch the Licensing Wizard, you're advised to enter information about the "volume purchasing" arrangement you have with Microsoft (such as a high-volume select purchasing program) or "other." If you select "other," which fits many of us, you're told to purchase the Terminal Services CALs from your reseller (which doesn't carry them on the sales floor, let me assure you). Alternatively, you can call Microsoft at 1-888-571-2048 to purchase more Terminal Services CALs (contact your regional Microsoft Center if outside the U.S.). The problem you'll encounter when you call that number at Microsoft is that they don't sell Terminal Services CALs directly. Rather, they tell you to purchase those from your reseller. OK, that call really didn't do anything for us, as you may have noticed.

In my case, I purchased my client's Win2K Server from PC Zones. I went to and searched for Windows 2000 Terminal Services CAL (the exact language from the Microsoft Win2K Pricing Information Web page); the result returned was "No data exists."

If you're working with your reseller in an attempt to purchase Terminal Services CALs, consider providing the Microsoft manufacturer part number to the reseller for the CAL - five unit stock keeping unit (SKU) of C79-0001. This may allow the reseller to find the Terminal Services CAL product, which can be a challenge in itself.

At this point, more than an hour passed where end users couldn't get a Terminal Services session launched (and thus they can't work from the remote sites). Going to another site, (, I got results with a price tag of roughly $671 for five CALs.

At this point I had ordered the Terminal Services CALs, which are just a 25-digit code on a piece of licensing paper. I (and my client) had to wait one day for the product (labeled "Client License Pak" when it arrived). So not only are the remote users down for that day but most of the next day as well!

C. Adding Licenses. Whew! You've fought off the remote end users who, quite frankly, wanted your head served on a platter while the Terminal Services CALs were being shipped. The big shipment arrives and you open it to find a standard license agreement and a page titled Microsoft License Code with a 25-alpha/numeric license code. Cool, you say! Time to add the CALs using the following steps:

  1. Logon to the Terminal Services machine as the Administrator.

  2. Launch the Terminal Services License Manager from Start | Programs | Administrative Tools | Terminal Services Licensing. The Terminal Services Licensing Manager appears (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. The Terminal Services Licensing snap-in. (Click image to view larger version.)
  1. Highlight the Terminal Services machine in the right pane with a single left click.

  2. Click Action | Install Licenses to launch the Licensing Wizard.

  3. After reading the "Welcome to the Licensing Wizard" page, click Next.

  4. If necessary, select the licensing program you use (in my scenario, it is "other") and click Next. This screen will not appear if you've previously selected a licensing program.

  5. The "Obtain client license key pack" page is displayed. You are now at a critical juncture. Type the "client license key pack ID in the boxes below" field. However, upon closer examination, you note the field accommodates 35 characters, not the 25-character license code you have in your possession. Perhaps you've noted that the license server ID, also displayed on the "Obtain client license key pack" page, is 35-characters (see Figure 3). If you're like me, you enter that number in the blank fields. But it doesn't work. Stand by for the next step.

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Figure 3. The "Obtain client license key pack" page in the Licensing Wizard; numbers are blocked for privacy. (Click image to view larger version.)
  1. You must now perform a poorly documented step (heck, I think it's actually undocumented). Call the telephone number listed on the "Obtain client license key pack" page (888-571-2048) and provide the person on the other end both the 35-character licensing server ID and the 25-digit licensing code. The representative will feed both numbers into a computer and it will hash out (or generate) a unique 35-character code that you enter in the "client license key pack ID in the boxes below" field on the "Obtain client license key pack" page. Click Next.

  2. Click Finish. Remote users can now log on and return to work via their beloved Terminal Services sessions.

Here are the lessons I learned about Terminal Services from this experience:

  • Don't wait until the end of the 90-day Terminal Services licensing grace period to purchase and install your Terminal Services CALs (or else your users will suffer some downtime at an inopportune time).

  • Consider using all Win2K Professional clients to access Terminal Services. These clients, as I stated earlier, don't need to Terminal Services CALs. In fact, the license record-keeping for Win2K Professional clients is handled via the Existing Win2K License entry shown in Figure 4 in the right pane. Note that if you pursue the Win2K Professional client strategy, you'll still need to call Microsoft and have them help you activate your Terminal Services licensing server.

  • Have a deep appreciation that this licensing is enforced (aside from Microsoft Small Business Server 2000, this is one of the few products from Microsoft that actually enforces licensing).

  • Note that an upgrade from Windows NT Server 4.0 Terminal Server edition to Win2K Server running Terminal Services doesn't upgrade the Terminal Services CALs (which you'll still need to purchase). Early in this consulting experience, I thought the CAL issue would be resolved by virtue of my upgrade (of course, I was caught by surprise!).

  • Print and save this column so you don't look too silly when you try to order the Terminal Services CALs and actually install them (with the infamous under-documented step - Step 8 above).

Figure 4. Observe the two types of licenses in the right pane: Win2K and Terminal Services CALs. (Click image to view larger version.)

I've only presented one scenario in the Terminal Services licensing story. You will want to visit the following Microsoft Web page, at
and as shown in Figure 5 to further your knowledge of Terminal Services licensing. This Web page has a link to an entire white paper on Terminal Services licensing!

Figure 5. Microsoft's answer-all-questions Web page on Terminal Services licensing. (Click image to view larger version.)

You can complete this process over the Internet or via fax, but these alternative registration methods assume that you obtained your Win2K Server media via a volume purchasing program, which didn't apply to my client. This kind of stuff is described at the Web page mentioned above. So there you have it, the mystery of Terminal Services CALs unraveled and revealed. I leave you this month a more humbled MCSE consultant from the above experience. See you next month!


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