What is Remote Desktop Connection Manager?
Remote Desktop Connection Manager (RDCMan) is a free Microsoft tool that enables IT administrators to organize, group and control multiple remote desktop connections. It was created by Julian Burger, a developer on the Windows Live Experiences team to improve the management of multiple remote desktop protocol connections.
Using RDCMan, system administrators can supervise multiple RDP connections in a single window, use different RDP settings for separate servers or groups, and save user credentials, enabling automatic authentication on RDP and remote desktop service servers.
The tool is especially useful for individuals who work with groups of computers or large server farms where regular access to each machine is required. This includes system administrators, server lab managers, developers and testers. RDCMan helps these users by consolidating multiple RDP connections into a single window, thus reducing desktop clutter.
Microsoft took RDCMan off the market in 2020 because of critical security flaws, but the tool is back as part of the Sysinternals Suite. The updated RDCMan fixes the previous critical vulnerability. This newer version runs on Windows 8.1 or Windows Server 2012 and higher and has relatively the same functionality as its previous version.
RDCMan is part of the free Sysinternals Suite that can be downloaded from the Microsoft website. However, Microsoft urges its customers to use the Microsoft Terminal Services Client or a universal remote desktop client for Windows 10 instead of RDCMan, stating that the RDCMan tool is unable to keep up with continuing advancements in technology. Some users may, however, still prefer the features in RDCMan.
RDCMan works with various programs, including Windows Remote Desktop, Windows Remote Assistance, TeamViewer and R admin. It includes a database where users can save their login credentials, facilitating automatic login to sessions, including RDP and Terminal Services. The tool also supports several virtual private networks (VPNs), including Microsoft VPN and Cisco VPN. Admins can add on features, such as Java Web Start and MySQL tools.
Other key features are as follows:
- users only need to unpack and run RDCMan, as being part of Sysinternals means RDCMan doesn't require installation;
- virtual machine connect-to-console support;
- client size options that come from the application configuration file;
- support for credential encryption with certificates;
- smart groups, which group servers and configuration information based on a dynamic set of rules;
- recent virtual groups, which contain recently accessed servers;
- connect to virtual group, which automatically adds a server in the connected state to a connected virtual group; and
- support from Restricted Admin and Remote Credential Guard.
How to set up Remote Desktop Connection Manager
To set up RDCMan, users first need to download Sysinternals from the Microsoft Store. Sysinternals is a suite of more than 70 freeware utilities used to monitor, manage and troubleshoot the Windows operating system. These utilities are executable files that don't require installation to run. So, unlike the previous RDCMan version 2.7, the more recent 2.81 and later versions don't require an installation to begin using.
How to use Remote Desktop Connection Manager
RDP sessions can manage multiple sessions in one window, creating a treelike structure with the remote Window hosts.
RDP connections can be saved as configuration files (.rdp) in folders. Connections can individually be organized by different criteria. With this, users can find connections with the search function. The group, Hyper-V Connections, is included in version 2.8 of RDCMan if a hypervisor is activated on a computer. To add more groups, the user must create a separate ".rdg" file. Configuration files can be created by pressing Ctrl + N or clicking File and then New in the menu. The name of the file should be the same name assigned to this group. As the user adds more RDP sessions to RDCMan, they can drag those sessions to the appropriate group. The RDP connections can be structured by any criteria the user chooses.
Without using a Client Access License, or if the licensing server isn't available, the "Connect to console" option enables the connection to a server's console. This mode simulates a direct connection of the RDS server to the local monitor of a server.
To add a host to an RDCMan group, the user does the following:
- Right-click on the group and Add a server.
- Specify the server name by giving a hostname or IP address and providing the display name that will be shown on the RDCMan console.
Users can also import servers from a text or CSV file using the following steps:
- From the RDCMan console, select Import Servers in the Edit menu.
- Specify the path to the text file that has a list of servers and select Import. The imported servers can then be split into groups using Edit > Add smart group.
The future of RDCMan
Microsoft discontinued its Remote Desktop Connection Manager application in March 2020 after the discovery of a major security flaw. This flaw could enable an attacker to retrieve data from the computer of an RDCMan user. The cause of the security flaw originated from RDCMan, which sometimes improperly parsed Extensible Markup Language (XML) inputs that reference an external source. Attackers could exploit this to read files by creating a Remote Desktop Connection Manager file with specifically made XML content to convince an authenticated user into opening the file.
Instead of fixing the vulnerability, Microsoft decided to retire RDCMan at version 2.7. The application was last updated in 2014. Instead of using RDCMan, Microsoft recommended that users select other Microsoft apps in its place, like a built-in remote management tool in the Windows OS.
This would not last for long, though, as Microsoft added RDCMan to the Sysinternals toolkit in late June 2021. This release, version 2.8, includes a security bug fix and single-file executable. In January 2022, RDCMan was updated to version 2.90.
Learn about the remote desktop protocol, which can help network administrators remotely access a user's system to diagnose and fix a problem, and provides remote users access to their devices.