There are lots of blogs and MS FAQs you’ll find on this topic… but none of them concisely explain what is required to make this work. So, here’s a single source for all you should need.
There are two type of multi-monitor RDP connections. There is span mode which is useless in my opinion and there is true Multi-monitor support which is great because it’s just like the experience of being on the computer with multiple monitors connected. This allows you to click maximize and have it only maximize to the screen your on. In the span mode, it’ll maximize across both. For more info on the differences between the modes see this article: http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/window-on-windows/use-multiple-monitors-with-windows-7s-remote-desktop-connection/5785
Server Requirements (ie the remote machine)
The only OS’ that support this (as of 11/2/2012) are:
- Windows 7 Ultimate or Enterprise or Windows Server 2008 R2
- At the time of writing Windows 8 wasn’t out yet… It’ll probably be similar to Win7
- Any version of Windows 7.
- WinXP computers can download RDP 7 and then make use of multiple monitors.
- From a Mac —> Still no version that offers the “good” multi-monitor support. Some do the span mode though. Please post a comment if someone comes out new RDP client for Mac.
- You do not have to have multiple monitors connected to the Server machine. You can have 1 monitor (or no monitor for that matter)… Connect to it from a client machine which has say 5 monitors and use all of them. The number of real monitors / number of video cards in the remote computer is completely irrelevant.
The server side OS is what really matters. There is no way to remote into an older OS (WinXP) or basic version of Windows 7 (home or pro) and have the good Multi-Monitor support. But, you can (assuming you have the new RDP client installed) connect to one of the OS’ listed above and use all the monitors connected to your older WinXP machine.
I found this handy as I had an old crappy winxp box and some spare monitors. I set them up at my home office and RDP into my badass dev box (win7 ultimate) at my office.