Remote Desktop Services deployed and administered by PowerShell alone, without a Domain in WIndows Server 2012 and 2012 R2

Windows Server 2008 R2 allowed deployment of Terminal Server (Remote Desktop Services) without a domain, and without any insistence on domains. This was very useful, especially for standalone virtual or cloud deployments of a server that is managed remotely for a remote client who has no need or desire for any ActiveDirectory or Domain features.

This has become steadily more and more difficult as Microsoft restricts its technologies further and further in each Windows release. With Windows Server 2012, configuring licensing for Remote Desktop Services, is more difficult when not on a domain, but possible still. With Windows Server 2012 R2 (at least in the preview) the barriers are now severe:

  1. The Add/Remove Roles and Features wizard in Windows Server 2012 R2 has a special RDS deployment mode that has a rule that says if you aren’t on a domain you can’t deploy. It tells you to create or join a domain first. This of course comes in direct conflict with the fact that an Active Directory domain controller should not be the same machine as a terminal server machine. So Microsoft’s technology is not such much a Cloud Operating System as a Cluster of Unwanted Nodes, needed to support the one machine I actually WANT to deploy. This is gross, and so I am trying to find a workaround.
  2. However if you skip that wizard and just go check the checkboxes in the main Roles/Features wizard, you can deploy the features, but the UI is not there to configure them, and when you go back to the RDS configuration page on the roles wizard, you get a message saying you can not administer your Remote Desktop Services system when you are logged in as a Local-Computer Administrator, because although you have all admin priveleges you could have (in your workgroup based system), the RDS configuration UI will not accept those credentials and let you continue.

My question in brief is, can I still somehow, obtain the following end result:

  • I need to allow 10-20 users per system to have an RDS (TS) session.
  • I do not need any of the fancy pants RDS options, unless Microsoft somehow depends on those features being present. I believe I need the “RDS Session Host” as this is the guts of “Terminal Server”. Microsoft says it is “full Windows desktop for Remote Desktop Services client.
  • I need to configure licensing so that the Grace Period does not expire leaving my RDS non functional, so this probably means I need a way to configure TS CALs.

If all of the above could technically be done with the judicious use of the PowerShell, I am prepared to even consider developing all the PowerShell scripts I would need to do the above. I’m not asking someone to write that for me. What I’m asking is, does anyone know if there is a technical impediment to what I want to do above, other than the deliberate crippling of the 2012 R2 UI for Workgroup users? Would the underlying technologies all still work if I manipulate and control them from a PowerShell script?

Obviously a 1 word Yes or No answer isn’t that useful to anyone, so the question is really, yes or no, and why? In the case the answer is Yes, then how.




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