Multiple Monitors in Remote Desktop with Windows 7 Pro

The Best Laid Plans…

I’ve recently transitioned from working at home to working on-site at a client. The client did a great job of provisioning a nice desktop PC and large dual monitors. But one of the things I missed from my home office was my standing desk. To remedy this, I planned to bring in my laptop, set it up on a stand, and re-purpose one of the two monitors they provided so I could use Remote Desktop to connect to the desktop PC and still enjoy dual monitors…but there was a small wrinkle in my plan.

I’m Sorry Dave…

Sadly, sometimes the things you think will be easy turn out not to be, especially when it comes to computers. In this case, the problem was that the desktop PC I’m developing on is running Windows 7 Professional. This is fine for development, but unfortunately, Windows 7 Professional does not support multiple monitors when hosting an RDP session, even if the client OS (in my case Windows 10 Professional) does.

Unfortunately, I discovered this only after having brought my laptop stand (this Furinno Laptop Stand (affiliate link), which I picked up on sale at for around $40…you can get one from Amazon for around $45) in to the office, so I figured before admitting defeat, I should try to find a workaround.

Where There is a Will, There is a Way…

Turns out that while Windows 7 Professional doesn’t support multiple monitors as discrete monitors, it does support spanning multiple monitors, which you can enable by saving your remote desktop settings into a .rdp file, and edit that file, adding the line:

span monitors:i:1

to the file and save it. Then use that .rdp file to launch Remote Desktop.

RDP in VS Code
VS Code works great for .RDP files, too!

But that leads to another problem…with spanning enabled, any maximized windows will span both monitors, which is hardly optimal.

It’s a Snap!

The final piece of the puzzle is to leverage the Snap feature of Windows to snap each window to the left or right of the spanned monitor pair (note that this workaround is really only practical when using two monitors). Simply use the Windows key + left or Windows key + right to snap the active window to the monitor you want it on.

Getting Things Done…

The solution isn’t perfect, by any means. But as the old saying goes, “never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

If you want to use multiple monitors with Windows 7 Pro (or another host OS that does not support multiple monitors), give this workaround a try, and let me know how it works for you!

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