Keeping Terminal Server Connections Alive

by Chris Sanders [Published on 12 Feb. 2008 / Last Updated on 12 Feb. 2008]

Connections to a Windows Terminal Server have a habit of being flaky when left idle for too long. Here is a quick remedy for that.

If you have users who work through a Terminal Server session and leave it on for long periods of time, you may have had complaints about their terminal sessions timing out on people. These timeouts don’t necessarily kill the connection for good but they will often make the user wait a short amount of time while the connection is picked back up. This wait is usually only 5-10 seconds but for a typical end user that might as well be 5-10 hours.

One way to fix this is by enabling the Keep Alive setting in the registry. This setting is enabled on the server and causes it to send “heartbeat” packets to connected clients every so often. This will cause connections that have been idle for a while to stay just active enough to not get disconnected.

You can enable this setting by opening your registry editor and browsing to HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Terminal Server and creating a DWORD value named KeepAliveEnable with a value of 1.

Once you enable this you should hear a lot less complaints about disconnected terminal sessions after long periods of inactivity.

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Chris Sanders is a consultant for KeeFORCE, one of the most popular network consulting firms in western Kentucky. Chris is the author of the book Practical Packet Analysis as well as several technical articles. His personal website at http://www.chrissanders.org contains a great deal of information, articles, and guides related to network administration, network security, packet analysis, and general information technology.

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