If you are having problems using Remote Desktop (RDP) with your Windows server, there are a couple of things that could be at fault. This troubleshooting guide aims to help in ruling out some of the most common causes for poor functionality.

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Problems connecting

Even while you might have trouble connecting using Remote Desktop, you should always be able to log in to the Web Console at your UpCloud Control Panel, or by VNC connection, which settings can also be found at your server details.

Once you’ve connected to your server, through either of the methods mentioned above, you should be greeted by Windows lock screen. Sign into your server with an account that has administrator privileges to continue troubleshooting.

If the connection shows something other than the lock screen, try if the server seems responsive, should it not react to commands you might have to restart your server.

Remote Desktop settings

When you are logged in and the server seems to be working, but RDP still cannot connect, make sure a remote connection is allowed. The easiest way to get to the option is to open sysdm.cpl by searching for it on the start menu, and moving to the Remote tab.

The Remote Desktop needs to allow connections from other computers for the feature to work. If your server was set to allow remote control with Network Level Authentication, make sure your own computer supports this or select to allow any connection. You can find more information about Network Level Authentication at Microsoft’s TechNet.

While still at the RDP settings, check the allowed users by clicking the Select Users or by pressing S. All users with administrator access are automatically permitted to connect, but all normal users must be added to this list. If you were trying to connect with user credentials that do not have admin rights, add the username you wish to connect with to the list of allowed users.

Firewall

The Windows Firewall might be a little restrictive at times, for example, inbound ICMP protocol that ping connections use are disabled by default. Open the Windows Firewall with Advanced Security by searching for “firewall” in the start menu. Move to the Inbound Rules list and scroll down to Remote Desktop rules by pressing R.

Windows Server 2008 should show two rules: Remote Desktop (TCP-In) and Remote Desktop - RemoteFX (TCP-In). Both of these would in most cases be enabled as long as the server is still using the standard 3389 TCP port for RDP connections.

With 2012 Windows Servers the rules are split between Domain and Private, or Public profiles as well as TCP and UDP protocols, which translates to 4 separate Remote Desktop - User Mode rules, all of which would usually be enabled.

Optionally while at the firewall settings, you may wish to enable ICMP for ping. You can find the rules, called File and Printer Sharing (Echo Request - ICMPv4 - In) and v6 for both IP versions, by pressing F.

When you are certain that Windows Firewall is allowing RDP connections, also check the server specific firewall settings at your UpCloud Control Panel. If you have set the default incoming rule to reject, remember to add a rule to permit traffic to the port Remoter Desktop server is listening to, 3389 by default. You can find out more about the UpCloud Firewall at the support documentation.

Network connection

Test the internet connection on your server to make sure all your network resources work as they should. Start by pinging out from your server. Open the Command Prompt by typing cmd in the start menu search and press enter then use the command below.

ping 8.8.8.8

If you enabled the echo requests from Windows Firewall, you can also attempt to ping your server from your own computer. You can find the server’s public IP address on your UpCloud Control Panel under Network and Public Network.

In case the internet connection does not seem to work, check your IP configuration on Command Prompt with the following command.

ipconfig

The output will list all of your servers network connections, you should see 3 Ethernet adapters: private network, public IPv4 and public IPv6. Check that these match with the network information in your server details under Network tab at your UpCloud Control Panel.

If you see differences in the ipconfig output and your server network details page, check that all network interfaces are set to obtain the IP addresses automatically. To do this, search for Network Connections in the start menu and press enter to open it. Open the Properties for one of the Ethernet adapters, select Internet Protocol Version 6 or 4 and click on Properties button underneath. Make sure both radial buttons are set to automatic and press OK to save. Check through all of the network adapters on the server the same way.

Slow connection

If your Remote Desktop connection works, but feels slow or disconnects at times, you should try updating the network drivers. You should download the latest Virtio drivers for Windows.

After downloading the ISO file on your server, with Windows Server 2008 you will need to have a program like 7zip to unpack it, on Server 2012 you can simply mount the file as a disk.

With the files available, open the Device Manager simply by searching for it by name in the start menu and pressing enter. Browse down to Network adapters, select each adapter one by one and run the Update Driver Software. In the update wizard, select Browse my computer for driver software, enter the driver location to the search field and press next. Note to keep the Include subfolders selected.

If you were connected through Remote Desktop while updating the network drivers, you’ll probably get disconnected for a moment, but the client should be able to restore the connection automatically after the drivers have been installed successfully.

Port conflict

In some cases, it is possible to have another application unintentionally using the same port as Remote Desktop, which can cause connection issues or prevent RDP from connecting.

Check the ports used by programs by entering the command below on Command Prompt.

netstat -a -o

Netstat will print out a list of IP addresses and port numbers they use. Look for rows with your RDP port number (3389 by default) and check the program ID (PID) at the end of these lines. One PID will belong to the RDP service, but if you see another PID using the same port these will conflict with one another.

To find out which programs the PIDs belongs to, use the following on Command Prompt.

tasklist /svc

Remote Desktop will be listed as svchost.exe TermService, any other PID using the same port number is causing issues.

Change RDP port number

Should you find a port conflict, you can resolve it by changing the port used by one of the applications. Microsoft recommends to ideally change the port used by any other applications, but if this is not possible, the port number Remote Desktop listen to can be changed with a couple of steps.

Changing the port number can also help to reduce intrusion attempts through obfuscation, but this should not be your only method of security.

To change the port number, you’ll first need to choose a free port not used by anything else on your server. Check the ports currently in use with netstat -a -o as described previously. The new port number can be anything from 1024 through 49151.

Add the port number you’ve selected to the Windows Firewall Inbound rules by creating a new rule. In the New Inbound Rule Wizard, select the following

  • Rule Type: Port
  • Protocol and Ports: TCP, Specific local ports, <port number>
  • Action: Allow the connection
  • Profile: all options ticked
  • Name: Remote Desktop – TCP <port number>

In the steps above the <port number> is the new port you wish RDP to listen to. Make sure your new firewall rule is set up correctly, as once you change the RDP port you’ll need it to work to be able to connect again.

The port number for RDP was not designed to be changed, and the only way to do so is through editing registry. We highly recommend that you make a backup of your server before making any changes.

Open the editor by searching for regedit in the start menu and pressing enter.

Locate the following key in the registry file system.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Terminal SErver\WinStations\RDP-Tcp\PortNumber

Open the PortNumber registry key for edit, change the display to Decimal, enter your new port number and click OK to save the changes.

For the changes to get applied, you will need to restart the RDP service. Open Services again by searching for it in the start menu and pressing enter to run the program.

In the Services (Local) list, scroll down to find Remote Desktop Service, and restart it. A confirmation popup will ask to restart other related services as well, click Yes to continue.

You will get disconnected if you were using RDP to make these changes. Afterwards just reconnect to your new port by defining it in the Computer field on RDP connection.

windows.server.example.com:34567

With the new port, you should get uninterrupted reliable remote access.

Getting help

If you ran into deeper trouble or need help with something else, don’t hesitate to ask. To contact UpCloud Support, please follow the instructions in your UpCloud Control Panel, under My Account and Support tab. Try to explain the problem to the best of your ability, and include any steps you’ve already taken together with their results while troubleshooting the issue, it will help our support team with solving your problem.