Scott Hanselman

How to remote desktop fullscreen RDP with just SOME of your multiple monitors

March 26, '20 Comments [25] Posted in Win10
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I saw this over on the Microsoft Remote Desktop Uservoice

Allow ability to choose subset of local monitors for RDP session (full screen)

Allow ability to select a subset of current monitors with full screen. Currently can choose all or 1 but cannot choose for instance 2 of 3 (full screen).

That seems useful, I wish it did that. I know about this checkbox that says "Use all my monitors" but I can't say just use 1 and 2 but not 3, right?

Remote Desktop

Turns out that you CAN span n monitors but it's just buried/internal and has no UI.

Save your RDP file, and open it in Notepad. Everyone's RDP file is different but yours may look like this:

full address:s:x.x.x.x:3389
prompt for credentials:i:1
administrative session:i:1
screen mode id:i:2
span monitors:i:1
use multimon:i:1

I can put on selectedmonitors:s:x,y and then use the zero-based numbers to indicate my monitors. To get a list of monitors, I can run mstsc /l to LIST out all my monitors on my machine. I can also use mstsc /multimon as a command line to use multiple monitors.

MSTSC /l showing a list of my monitors

So I set my selectedmonitors:s:0,1 to use my left and middle monitor and skip my right one.

In this picture, I'm RDP'ed into a remote Windows 10 machine in Azure on Monitors 1 and 2 while Monitor 3 is my local one.

RDP on 1,2 and 3 is my local one


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Thursday, April 02, 2020 2:10:17 AM UTC
Yet one more reason why you're awesome, Scott. I saw this on my feed today and was so ready for this to be an April Fool's prank. I'm sooo glad it's not. How is it that this isn't more commonly known? Thanks for sharing and saving all of us remote folks with many monitors!
Thursday, April 02, 2020 3:16:31 AM UTC
I've needed this for a long time, classic Edge would keep full screen Netflix above the rdp screen. But, new Edge and Chrome don't.
Thursday, April 02, 2020 5:13:30 AM UTC
Wow, impressive, many thanks! ;)
It's also impressive how much more demands and requests there about same feature rose over past 2 weeks (me including). Remote work is doing its' job.. ;)
Thursday, April 02, 2020 10:11:28 AM UTC
Thursday, April 02, 2020 1:18:59 PM UTC
Yeah Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000!
Thursday, April 02, 2020 1:23:09 PM UTC
You are the best!
Thursday, April 02, 2020 1:59:09 PM UTC
O. M. G.

I've been wanting this for years, and I opened a suggestion for just that on the Windows Insiders page years ago, and it got a few hundred upvotes.

At first I couldn't get it to work as I only had added the "selectedmonitors" line to an .RDP file I already have. It's only after I've added the half-dozen other lines you mentioned that it started working for me.

Worth a mention: mstsc /l doesn't show the same monitor indexes as the applet that comes up when you right-click on the desktop and select Display Settings (even if you subtract 1 from everything to make the indexes 0-based).

Also worth a mention: This does *NOT* work for non-adjacent monitors. In my case, mstsc /l shows indexes 0, 3 and 4 (why they're not contiguous, I don't know but it doesn't matter; they're physically laid out in that order, left to right). 0 and 4 don't work together, but 0 and 3 (or 3 and 4) do.
Thursday, April 02, 2020 2:19:57 PM UTC
Just, thanks!
Jonathan Menzel
Thursday, April 02, 2020 2:27:40 PM UTC
Any ideas on how to change the location of the Remote Desktop status tab to the side or bottom of scrren? Any time I go to a browser tab, it takes over the top of my screen. Full screen mode works well but I can't ever exit it with my laptop for some reason. It does not have the correct keys and the key combos I've seen to get around that, don't work either.
Dan Harmon
Thursday, April 02, 2020 4:02:07 PM UTC
Does this work on Win 10 only?

Command 'mstsc /l' is not recognized and selectedmonitors parameter doesn't work on my work laptop (Win 8.1). Is there any alternative? Thanks in advance.
Thursday, April 02, 2020 5:51:45 PM UTC
Mmmm.... Cheese crackers!
Thursday, April 02, 2020 6:25:30 PM UTC
Awesome! One important typo you should fix:

The sentence toward the bottom says "So I set my selectedmonitors:0,1 to use my left and middle monitor and skip my right one." but should be "So I set my selectedmonitors:s:0,1 to use my left and middle monitor and skip my right one." That extra "s:" is required.
Thursday, April 02, 2020 7:04:07 PM UTC
Now, for the encore... Can you do this with vmconnect's Enhanced Session settings? I do all my work stuff in a VM Enhanced Session, which I believe is just a type of RDP connection. I'm just not sure how these settings are stored.
Friday, April 03, 2020 3:56:16 AM UTC
Andy, thanks, fixed!
Scott Hanselman
Friday, April 03, 2020 8:44:22 AM UTC
Great post Scott thanks!
Now if only it were as easy to mix & match remoted MacOS machines and PCs and switch around the number of monitors each gets...
Joan Miro
Friday, April 03, 2020 2:22:07 PM UTC
Does anyone have a fix for multiple monitor RDP where every time you connect, ALL the open windows on the target machine jump to just one monitor instead of saying where I left them?
Andrew Wall
Saturday, April 04, 2020 7:24:24 PM UTC
Unfortunately, as far as I know, there's no multi-monitor support that isn't full-screen on all monitors.
If I have two screens, and I want to use them both in my RDP session, I can no longer see my host taskbar.
So to interact with anything on my host, I have to restore down the RDP session, at which point I can't see most of the screen real estate in the remote session.
A common use case for that is playing music, for example. When I'm working on something remotely, I'm playing audio locally, and to pause or adjust volume or change tracks the host needs focus.
Conferencing apps are in the same boat.
This is disruptive enough to my workflow that Hyper-V's reliance on RDP is the reason I don't use it for virtualization, and in fact I have a bare-bones VM set up in VirtualBox (which is happy to have a resizable window per each virtual monitor, and set the guest screen dimensions to exactly whatever the windows get resized to on the host) just so I can use it to RDP to other boxes and have the screen experience I want. Which is a ridiculous and inefficient workaround 🙄
RDP is capable of showing a session in a window and not having to use the whole screen, and mouse capture across the edge of that window works exactly as one would expect.
It's also capable of setting an arbitrary screen resolution for that window on the guest if you edit the .rdp file.
It's also capable of using multiple monitors, and as you now have demonstrated, is capable of not using ALL the multiple monitors available...
So why can't we just have two windows. And why can't they resize accordingly when we maximize them.
Because of all of those pieces, it feels to me like the protocol might already be fully capable of this but the client app is not?
Saturday, April 04, 2020 8:39:15 PM UTC
To think that someone went to the trouble of implementing this and then when it came to the UI someone else decided to bury it.
Sunday, April 05, 2020 2:14:34 PM UTC
Thanks for sharing this info with us.
Monday, April 06, 2020 5:04:29 PM UTC
OMG!!! I have been wanting this tip for years! One monitor is too little but four monitors is too much bandwidth. THANK YOU!!!
Tuesday, April 07, 2020 4:19:26 AM UTC
The monitor numbers keep changing randomly between reboots. The same two monitors are 0,1 on one day and 1,2 on the next. Is anybody else seeing this? Any idea why the numbers keep changing? As annoying side effect, the main monitor (with the main taskbar) is also changing each time, and the remote monitor that used to be left is then on the right and vice versa.
Tuesday, April 07, 2020 1:26:31 PM UTC
with the advent of ultra wide monitors it would be nice to assign part of the screen (say, an half) to the RDP session, a sort of opposite of what has been explained here. Maybe there are internals even for this?
Wednesday, April 08, 2020 5:11:20 AM UTC
Yes! Thank you for posting this. Been trying to figure out how to do this.
Thursday, April 09, 2020 9:06:03 AM UTC
One of the best blogs out there. Love your work! Your tips are really amazing. Thank you so much for sharing.
Thursday, April 09, 2020 7:19:34 PM UTC
Would be great to add reminder to not have RDP open to the internet. Go via VPN or something!
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.