As you’ve already read, we’ve renamed Terminal Services to Remote Desktop Services (RDS) in Windows Server 2008 R2. RDS also gives us the ability to leverage Aero Glass from a Remote Desktop Connection.  This is a multi-step process, but there are really two phases.  Phase I is enabling the Desktop Experience functionality on a Server 2008 R2.  Phase II is enabling the Remote Desktop Services functionality on the server.  While an Administrator is able to have one RDP connection to a server, Aero functionality is not enabled until the Remote Desktop Host role is enabled.  I’ve provided a lot of screen shots and narrative as I walk through the process of enabling RDS and the Aero Glass functionality.

Phase I

Install the desktop experience by adding the Desktop Experience feature.

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As you go through this wizard, when you choose the Desktop Experience it will ask you to confirm the installation of the Ink and Handwriting Services as well.  This is required, just choose Add Required Features and move on.

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During the installation of the Desktop Experience feature, the server will require a reboot.  Once the server is rebooted and you log back in, you’ll be presented with the Installation Results screen.

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Now that you’ve installed the Desktop Experience feature, you need to enable the Themes service.  Go into your services and now this Themes service shows up, but it’s disabled.  Set it to Automatic and then go ahead and start the service.

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At this stage, you’ll have the Windows Desktop experience installed on the server.  To take advantage of it from a Remote Desktop Connection, you need to ensure that you’ve enabled 32 bit colors and the Desktop Experience functionality in your RDP connection, as shown below.

Under Colors, choose Highest Quality (32 bit)

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Take note that Aero over RDP is bandwidth intensive, so I’d suggest that you not try to use this functionality over a WAN. 

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Phase II – Enabling Remote Desktop Service Role (RDS).

You have to enable RDS on your server anyway if your providing Remote Desktop Services to your users.  You also need RDS to be installed if you want to use Aero Glass.

Install the Remote Desktop Services Role

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Now you get to choose the detailed functionality in RDS that you want to leverage.

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You need to enable Remote Desktop Session Host if you want Aero Glass, and then we will configure the additional services to be delivered, including the Client Experience.  This is where we get to define the detail of the client experience. 

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Once everything is configured you can confirm that Aero Glass is now enabled on your server in a few different ways.  The first is the obvious, check out the transparent windows in your Remote Desktop connection.  The second way is that the Windows Color screen on the Personalization menu is now “different” than it was prior to the installation of the client experience. 

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Here’s a shot of the new Windows Color screen that now includes the Enable transparency check box.

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Below is a shot of the old screen, before Aero Glass is enabled.  Take note: this “old screen” is still available after the Aero installation, it’s accessed by choosing Advanced appearance settings… from the Windows Color and Appearance window (above).

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Now that we have everything enabled, let me show you a screen shot of the Windows Server 2008 R2 desktop with Aero Glass enabled.

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Here’s a shot of Aero Peek on the same Server 2008 R2 server.

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I hope this helps you setup your remote desktop connections with the same desktop experience as a Windows 7 Desktop.  Remember that with Aero over a Remote Desktop connection, bandwidth is critical.  A LAN connection will provide a much better experience than a WAN connection.

Until next time,

Rob