I had another good tip dropped on me by Sinjen that I thought should be shared with those of you that have multiple Windows-based HTPCs in your home. If you use Remote Desktop to access them remotely (or have not yet ventured into that yet), then you may find this tool extremely useful – the Remote Desktop Connection Manager (RDCMan).
Remote Desktop Connection Manager allows you to group and manage all of your RDP-accessible systems, making it easy to quickly connect to any configured RDP-enabled system to do what you need to do. The first thing you’ll need to do is download RDCMan from here. Supported operating system include everything back to XP, but XP and 2003 must have RDP client version 6 installed. RCMan is also platform independent (x86/x64 OK).
After downloading, go ahead and double-click to install. Just accept the defaults for everything as you click Next throughout the dialog boxes.
After installation completes, we can find it in our recent programs menu in Vista/Win7. Otherwise, it will be in %PROGRAMFILES%\Remote Desktop Connection Manager. You will probably need to create a shortcut to it for quick access…it didn’t create one for me. Running it for the first time brings up a very blank screen.
After we’ve got it running, let’s get right into setting it up. Click on File -> New Group to create the container for our systems. We receive a prompt to provide a name and location to save the group file to.
We now see our newly created RDC group in the left-hand column. Right click the group and choose Add server.
We will get a warning that you can ignore unless you happen to have to manage dozens of HTPCs.
The Add Server configuration box will open. The first tab is Server Settings and should be self-explanatory. Fill it out. If you have name resolution issues on your home network, you should probably supply the IP address in the Server name field (and have a static IP assigned to that system).
The next tab is Logon Credentials. By default, Inherit from parent is checked. If all of your HTPCs use different username/password combinations, we need to uncheck that and supply the relevant information for each system we added to RDCMan (username and password of the HTPC). If you like to simplify things (like me), we can specify logon credentials directly to the RDC group we created earlier and leave Inherit from parent checked and all systems created under that group will use them (I use the same username for all my HTPCs). For demonstration purposes, I changed the group logon credentials to apply to all systems added within the group and then left the server setting checked to inherit.
Now, notice that I did not supply a password for the group credentials. This is not because I do not want anyone seeing my password masking – it is because I do not use passwords on my dedicated HTPCs. If you also do not use passwords, then we need to perform a few additional steps so that RDP can work with no passwords. If you do use passwords, you can glaze over this.
If you are using Windows 7 Pro, Ultimate or Enterprise (or Vista equivalents), go to the Search programs and files and type in gpedit.msc. Approve any UAC prompts. If you are not running one of those versions of Windows 7 (or Vista equivalents), download this registry file and install it. It will work with any version, but you do want to understand what it does, right? In the Local Group Policy Editor, go to Local Computer Policy -> Computer Configuration – > Windows Settings -> Security Settings -> Local Policies -> Security Options. In Security Options, we’re looking for Accounts: Limit local account use of blank passwords to console logon only. The default setting for this is Enabled, denying any connections with no password defined. Double click the entry and change the radio button from Enabled to Disabled.
That’s it. Close the editor and return to RDCMan where we can accept our changes and see our newly added system in the left hand column.
All that’s left now is to connect – if you have RDP enabled for the systems you added. You do have RDP enabled, right? If not, no worries. It’s quick and easy to do so. Just go to the system you want to enable it for, right click My Computer and choose Properties to open the System Properties screen. Look for Remote Settings on the left and click it.
After clicking on Remote settings, the System Properties box will open with the Remote tab selected. We want to enable Remote Desktop by choosing the middle radio button (for compatibility purposes). Click Apply and OK to close. The system info screen can also be closed.
All that’s left now is to connect, so let’s return to RDCMan, right click the system to connect to and choose Connect server.
If everything goes well, there will be a familiar logon prompt asking for credentials.
Supply the necessary userna,e/password for that system and, alternatively, check the Remember my credentials box and we’ll get this:
Hopefully, this little tool will help you manage your growing HTPC network!