Introducing Microsoft RemoteFX USB Redirection: Part 1

Introducing Microsoft RemoteFX USB Redirection: Part 1

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In April, Max Herrmann posted a blog article announcing our newest device redirection feature for Remote Desktop Virtualization Host: RemoteFX USB redirection. In this three-part series, we’ll take a closer look at the feature and how it helps close the gap between the user experience of a local user sitting at their physical desktop and that of a remote user connected to a virtual desktop. The first part of the series gives an overview of the feature and what it can do, and how to set up a basic deployment of the feature.

Feature Overview

The goal of RemoteFX USB redirection is simple: the user should be able to use any device they want, and have it just work. RDP has numerous high-level redirections that allow specific types of devices to be used effectively in a remote session, such as:

  • Easy Print, which allows users to print to local printers in remote sessions
  • Drive Redirection, which allows users to access the file system on any local drive in a remote session, including USB drives
  • Smart Card Redirection, which allows users to authenticate to and in a remote session by using smart cards/e-tokens
  • Plug-and-Play Device Redirection, which allows users to access PTP digital cameras, MTP music players, and POS for .NET devices in a remote session, among others
  • Input Redirection, which allows the use of keyboards/mice in remote sessions
  • Audio Redirection, which allows recording and playback of audio in remote sessions
  • Port Redirection, which allows the use of serial and parallel ports in remote sessions

However, there are many devices which are not covered by these redirections, such as scanners, multifunction printers, webcams, and more. RemoteFX USB redirection acts as a catch-all mechanism that redirects these USB devices! Unlike high-level redirections such as drive redirection, RemoteFX USB redirection happens at the port protocol (USB request block or URB) level, and is similar to how one can redirect serial or parallel ports via RDP. This provides some unique advantages, as you’ll see below. However, RemoteFX USB redirection is meant to supplement high-level redirections, not to supplant them. By combining RemoteFX USB redirection with RDP high-level device redirections, you can have the best of both worlds. Here is a table that compares and contrasts the two forms of redirection.

RemoteFX USB Redirection…

RDP High-Level Device Redirection…

Does not require drivers on the client

Requires drivers for the device to be installed on the client

Requires the device driver to be installed on the server

Generally does not require drivers on the server

Uses one redirection method for many types of devices

Uses a specific, unique method for each type of device being redirected

Forwards URBs to and from the device over the RDP connection

Exposes high-level device functionality in the remote session by using an optimized protocol for the device type

Enables only one session to use a device at a given time; the local client cannot use the device while an RDP session is using it

Enables any number of sessions to access the device simultaneously, including the local client

Is optimized for the LAN, like the rest of RemoteFX

Works with both LAN and WAN

Setting up a Basic Deployment

Now that you’ve seen what RemoteFX USB redirection can do, let’s take a look at how to set up the feature.

Prerequisites

You will need the following:

  • A RemoteFX-capable client (Remote Desktop Connection 7.1 or later)
  • A virtual machine hosted on a RemoteFX host (Windows 7 SP1 or later)
Enabling RemoteFX USB redirection on the clients
  1. In order to redirect USB devices from a given machine, the RemoteFX USB redirection feature must be enabled. In Group Policy, navigate to Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Remote Desktop Services\Remote Desktop Connection Client\RemoteFX USB Device Redirection, and edit “Allow RDP redirection of other supported RemoteFX USB devices from this computer.” Enable the policy, and specify whether you wish to allow all users or only admins to redirect devices.
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  2. On the client machines, run “gpupdate /force” (without quotes) from an Administrator command prompt to enable/disable the feature, and then restart the computer for the changes to take effect. The feature will not work until you restart.
Using the feature
  1. On the client, open Remote Desktop Connection. If the tabs are not listed, click Options to expand the dialog box.
  2. On the Local Resources tab, click More to display the Local devices and resources dialog box. If at least one supported RemoteFX USB device is connected, it should be listed in the device tree under Other supported RemoteFX USB devices.

    Note: The heading “Other supported RemoteFX USB devices” will only appear if the RemoteFX USB redirection feature is enabled on the client (apply the Group Policy setting, run gpupdate, and then restart) and at least one supported RemoteFX USB device is connected and available for redirection.
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  3. After you are connected, the devices that you have selected should appear in the remote virtual desktop.
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I hope you’ve enjoyed this first part in our series of blogs about RemoteFX USB redirection. In Part 2, we’re going to talk about some deployment-related topics, including setting up publishing and RD Web Access for rich and thin clients, and server device security. If you have any questions or comments, please post them to the blog, or send us an e-mail at rfxusb@microsoft.com . We look forward to hearing from you.

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  • This is a great feature!  Great session at TechEd regarding it too.  Since this is a Terminal Services (Remote Desktop Services) blog, I think it is worth drawing attention to the fact that RemoteFX USB Redirection is specific to a VDI implementation, not Remote Desktop Session Hosts.  This disappointed me when I learned this, but we can hope that one day Remote Desktop Services will be supported.  Still, a nice improvement.  Keep up the good work RDS team.

  • Not supported in RDS?! Ouch. That torches our primary use case. Are the reasons technical, practical, or is this simply coming later?

  • well .. would you install drivers for all the different devices ppl attach at the clients on your servers? pls keep this OF our servers .. for VDI its a great thought .. and idd love to see you scale it up on OCS .. as both Citrix and VMware atm cant get it to scale

  • This one is great! Saves me in supporting various peripherals in my single-chip RDP client project. How can I get my hands on a RemoteFX host to go on with custom client side development and testing?

  • This is a great feature!But I wonder know that how can I get this software(Remote Desktop Connection 7.1 or later). The one in win7 sp1 beta version is 6.1.7601.17013...

    When I enable the feature and do the next steps. But the RDC client does not appear the "Other supported remote FX USB device"

  • HI

    May I ask you that whether the RemoteApp support Aero or not through RemoteFX?

    Thanks.

  • G,

    Thanks for your comment, RemoteApp does not require Aero on the server and runs w/o it. On the client side, RemoteApp integrates with the local Aero or desktop windows manager, so all functions of Aero on the local desktops are supported with RemoteApps with one exception: your non-client areas (windows title, scroll bars and so on) will have the theming of the server, no client. This way, RemoteApps can be easily distinguished from the locally installed apps.

    Thanks,

    Nelly Porter

  • Jerry,

    The client version you have is correct, and supports RDP 7.1 including RemoteFX USB redirection.

    In summary the steps you should follow are:

    1. Enable the “Allow RDP redirection of other supported RemoteFX USB devices from this computer” group policy for the given client (see above).

    2. From an Administrator command prompt on the client, run gpupdate /force .

    3. Reboot. (Very important! Otherwise the feature will not work.)

    4. Plug in a supported RemoteFX USB device (such as a webcam or scanner). (Otherwise the heading for "Other supported RemoteFX USB devices." will not appear.)

    5. Start Remote Desktop Connection, and on the Local Resources tab, click the More button. The device should appear under "Other supported RemoteFX USB devices."

    If you have followed the steps above, but the device still does not appear, please send mail to rfxusb@microsoft.com and we will be glad to assist you further.

    Thanks,

    Ben Meister

  • Where can I get the Remote Desktop Connection 7.1 client?

    The one included in Windows7 Sp1 Beta is 6.1.7601.16562 (x64)

    Thanks

  • Hi ,

    Could you tell me how can let the non-client area of RemoteApp also supported by Aero? Just like the local Apps do. Thank you!

  • Hi, is the biometric device with WBF driver supported in such configuration? I'm using the UPEK biometric reader on Windows 7 Enterprise and followed the instruction but does not show up in a remote 2008 R2 (sp1 beta)

  • I have a Server with 2008 r2 SP1 setup, all the new remote desktop and remote FX features are enabled.

    I have a client machine setup with Windows 7 Enterprise SP1

    I have the local policy modified to enable RemoteFX. To be safe its enabled on both the Remote desktop server and the client.

    When I edit the rdp connection “Other supported RemoteFX USB devices” shows up as an option and the webcam shows up as an available device.

    Now when I connect to the server I get full aero, video plays back really well, but the USB camera is not detected.

    I log out and look back at the rdp settings the option “Other supported RemoteFX USB devices” is unchecked again.

    I even saved a custom .rdp file to see if it was something to do with folder redirection of “my documents”, but editing it and saving it always results in “Other supported RemoteFX USB devices” always being unchecked.

    Any help you can provide is greatly appreciated.

    Mykel

  • I'm trying to use Zune software running in a Win7 VM.  My Zune device (a Win Phone 7) is visible is the set of devices exposed through USB redirection, yet it doesn't appear in the guest VM.  Any idea what could be happening?

  • Any info on getting Windows Phone 7 redirection to work for Zune?

    Stuck in a rock and hard place. Need Windows Server 2008 R2 for Hyper-V, but need Windows 7 for Zune.

    Maybe Windows 8 will have support for Hyper-V one day.

  • Can some one help me out for that senerio (having confusion) ???

    I have a Windows Server 2008 R2 where I enabled RD Web Access  and using RemoteAPP. Is it possible that My remoteAPP (installed on Windows Server 2008 R2) will access the Webcam on the Client machine by using RemoteFX USB ?

    For that is it required Windows 7 SP1 installed on cleint machine where I am accessing RemoteAPP (RD Web Access) ?

    please help.

    Ghazanfar Latif

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