Windows : Install Remote Desktop Services on Server 2016 without a domain / Active Directory

By | April 27, 2018

Microsoft made a lot of improvement on Terminal Services compared to the previous versions. They also made it more complete and complex than just for single servers.

Therefore, you might be in a situation where you do not need all the bells and whistles it provides, if you just want to increase the number of concurrent Remote Desktop simultaneous users.

Unfortunately, you cannot just use the Server Manager and use the regular configuration panels as it won’t let you do so unless your server is joined to an Active Directory domain.

Here is the manual procedure to perform a standalone configuration :

1. Set server name and domain (FQDN) :

a. System > Computer name, domain and workgroup settings > Change settings
b. “To rename this computer or change its domain or workgroup, clickChange” > Change…
c. Make sure to enter the right name for the server in “Computer name” and click “More…” to enter the domain name at “Primary DNS suffix of this computer”
d. NOTE : Server name cannot be changed once the setup is completed, this would result of unlicensing the server if changed

2. Install the required Remote Desktop Services :

a. Server Manager > Manage > Add Roles and Features
b. Role-based or feature-based installation (Do NOT select Remote Desktop Services installation!)
c. In Roles, check the boxes for “Remote Desktop Licensing” and “Remote Desktop Session Host”
d. Once completed, reboot the server

NOTE : The next step (#3) will show how to install the licenses if you own a Microsoft SPLA (Service Provider License Agreement), however you might likely have “Retail Package” type licenses, so simply select the appropriate that match your case in the drop down menu instead.

3. Install the SPLA licences :

a. Administrative Tools > Remote Desktop Services > Remote Desktop Licensing Manager
b. Right click on the server name on the left pane and click Install Licences
c. At License Program drop down menu, select “Service Provider License Agreement”
d. Enter the Agreement number
e. Select the right product version
f. Select the right license type (likely RDS Per User CAL)
g. Enter the right amount of CALs in the “Quantity” field that you or the customer is paying for

4. Configure the Licensing Mode in the Group Policy Editor

a. Open the Group Policy Editor (gpedit.msc)
b. Computer Configuration > Windows Components > Remote Desktop Services :
b.a. Remote Desktop Session Host > Licensing :
b.a.i. Use the specified Remote Desktop license servers > Enter the server name
b.a.ii. Set the Remote Desktop licensing mode > Enabled > Per User
c. You may now reboot the server, setup completed.