How-To Geek

IT: How to Correctly Install Applications on a Remote Desktop Server


When installing an application on a Terminal Server, because multiple people will be using the application at once, there is actually a special method that you should use to install the applications. Here’s two methods to do it the right way.

Note: this is part of our ongoing series teaching IT administration basics, and might not apply to everybody.

Command Line Method

The first method we can use involves the command line. You will need to change your user mode to installation mode by using the following command:

Change User /Install


At this point you could go ahead and safely install the application, but once the application is installed don’t forget to change back to execution mode, you can do so by running the following command:

Change User /Execute


The GUI Method

If you think you are going to forget to switch back to execution mode, or maybe you just don’t like the command line you can always do the same thing using the GUI.  To get started open control panel


Switch to the small icon view, and look for Install Application on Remote Desktop Server, double-click on it


Now you can simply go through the next, next, finish style wizard which will help you get the application installed.

Why Must I Do This?

When you use “change user /install” before installing an application, you actually create .ini files for the application in the system directory. These files are used as master copies for user-specific .ini files. After installing the application,  when you type “change user /execute”  you are reverting to standard .ini file mapping. The first time you run the application, it searches the home directory for its .ini files. If the .ini files are not found in the home directory, but are found in the system directory, Terminal Services copies the .ini files to the home directory, ensuring that each user has a unique copy of the application .ini files. Each user should have a unique copy of the .ini files for an application. This prevents instances where different users might have incompatible application configurations.

Taylor Gibb is a Microsoft MVP and all round geek, he loves everything from Windows 8 to Windows Server 2012 and even C# and PowerShell. You can also follow him on Google+

  • Published 01/12/12

Comments (12)

  1. The_Nobody

    I mentioned this soo many times in a lot of different situations, seems a lot of people aren’t aware of this. Thanks for the support to bring this to the folks :)

  2. Trevor

    I am still a bit confused as to why you should use this method. How is accessing the .ini file handled if you utilize something like the standard install file for an application that you download from the internet (install wizard style)?

  3. Jon

    ‘change’ is not as an internal or external command, operable program or batch file.

  4. Jon

    ‘change’ is not *recognized* as an internal or external command, operable program or batch file.

  5. Taylor Gibb

    @Trevor i dont quite understand what you don’t understand? are you wondering how multiple users are able to use an application that is installed normally (wizard style)?

  6. Trevor


    So the article states you should use one of these methods to install applications on a server because it does “this.” First of all, what are the alternatives to these methods that are not acceptable? What are the repercussions of using one of those methods instead?

    I am a bit new to the server world, so thanks in advanced!

  7. George

    @Jon just to clarify, this article is talking about a terminal server, even though the title mentioned “Remote Desktop” server, the author is talking about it being in “Application” mode (i.e: Terminal Server), not “Administration” mode. Could be the reason, the change command may not be available.

  8. Taylor Gibb

    @Trevor Depending on how the programs that you will be running on a the terminal server were designed the effects of not installing them properly will vary. Personally i have experienced issue where a particular program was not installed correctly and a user had customized the toolbar, when a another user logged on they got the customized toolbar of the first person instead of getting the default toolbar (i wont mention the software’s name for obvious reasons). After all it isnt that hard to do it properly in the first place, while normally thing will work without this kind of install, it will save you a lot of headaches in the future if there is a problem. Also good luck getting support from MS if you dont do it correctly ;)

    @George Terminal Server, Remote Desktop Server, since the change in name in Server 2008 i tend to use the terms interchangeably, thanks for clearing that up

    @Jon This might sound like a very stupid question, but would you by any chance be trying to do this on Windows 7?

  9. EOB

    I love this IT series, please keep it up!

  10. Joe

    Thank you very much for this article. I have had a bit of experience with Windows Server and had been told about doing the “Terminals Server” install of programs but did not totally understand WHY – now it makes total sense. I look forward to seeing your further articles.

  11. Tim Owers

    Also, remember if the installations log file(s) are written to the current users temp folder (%temp%), that folder is cleared whenever a reboot or log off is performed. This folder is know as a user’s per-session temporary folder, and as the name implies is available for the current session only. So, copy any files you may need to use at a later date out to an alternative ‘permanent’ folder BEFORE you log off.

  12. Azizullah

    very useful information regarding to installing an Application in Remote Desktop Services Server, one question i saw in (70-643) exam. I easily answered it from this information that provided by How to Geek website…

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