Taking This Discussion Offline

Clearing the air on Windows Server 2003 offline file servers and offline file clients.

Bill: I read that enabling offline files on a Windows Server 2003 is mutually exclusive with enabling Remote Desktop Administration on that server. You can do one or the other but not both, the reference says. Our Windows XP workstations connect to Windows 2003 servers. Can we use offline files?

I found a Microsoft article at http://www.microsoft.com/
that says we can set a Registry key to solve this problem. Will that do the trick?

David: The remote desktop settings on a server do not interfere with the server's ability to respond to file caching requests from offline file clients, but I can see where you can get confused.

When you enable offline file caching at a client (Windows XP/2000/2003), the client starts populating a local cache with copies of files that it gets from a file server. At the server, each share has settings to control offline file utilization:

  • Block clients from caching files from that share
  • Allow clients to cache any file that they touch
  • Allow clients to cache a file only they specifically select them
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Here's where the confusion starts. It's possible for a Windows Server 2003 server to act as an offline file server (handling offline file access to its own share points) and as an offline file client (requesting offline file access to share points on other servers.) It's the second role, the offline file client, that your reference discusses.

If you enable remote desktop access on a Windows Server 2003 server, the terminal services redirector permits three simultaneous RDP connections, one for the console (Winsta0) and two more for administrative remote desktop sessions. This means that three users could have a live desktop session at the same time.

The structure of the offline file cache does not permit a client to work correctly if more than one user has a live desktop session, so if you enable remote desktop access to a server, Windows disables its ability to store offline files and turns off the Offline Files option in Folder Options.

This has nothing to do with the server's ability to dish out files to offline file clients. As long as a share does not block offline file requests, the server is happy to respond to offline file clients regardless of the local remote desktop settings.

Okay, with all that out of the way I read the link you sent me and found the Registry entry mentioned in the article. Here it is:

Key: HKLM | Software | Microsoft | Windows NT | CurrentVersion |
Value: AllowMultipleTSSessions
Data: 0 (REG_DWORD)

I tried this entry on several Windows Server 2003 machines. In my testing, the entry had no effect on the number of remote desktop sessions the server could host nor on its offline file client operation. As soon as I enabled remote desktop access, the Offline Files option went away and I could still make up to three simultaneous connections.

So, unless I hear differently, I'm going to speculate that this Registry entry does not work in the way the article seems to imply.

Hope this helps.

About the Author

Contributing Editor Bill Boswell, MCSE, is the principal of Bill Boswell Consulting, Inc. He's the author of Inside Windows Server 2003 and Learning Exchange Server 2003 both from Addison Wesley. Bill is also Redmond magazine's "Windows Insider" columnist and a speaker at MCP Magazine's TechMentor Conferences.


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