Note: This post has been superceded. Please see this update for a better way to do this.
As a follow up from my previous post about scaling the screen for a remote session, here’s a new hack that allows you to scale the screen of your local session! Using this trick you can set the desktop to a resolution that is not supported by your monitor and it will be scaled down nicely to fit. There is of course a performance hit, but depending on your usage this could be very useful. For example I am writing this post in a comfortable Firefox window in 1600×1200 on a monitor that supports only 1280×1024.
There have been a number of hurdles to overcome: I needed to connect Remote Desktop to the machine I was currently using, and Windows does not make it easy for the user to do that. Windows XP does not allow multiple interactive users to log on at the same time normally, and Remote Desktop refuses to connect to localhost on port 3389. Now this simple tutorial will take you past those problems in no time.
Here’s how you do it:
1. How to allow multiple users to connect at once on Windows XP.
Get the Terminal Patch and install it. It’s really easy, just run the installer, there’s nothing to it. You need to reboot.
You can now login into your machine using multiple accounts at once, locally and using Remote Desktop.
2. Create a new user account and enable Fast User Switching
Add a new user whose sole purpose will be to Remote Desktop to localhost. Log-in as the new user for the remaining steps. No need to set the theme or anything.
To add a new user, open the Control Panel, open User Accounts, click “Create a new account”. Then enable Fast User Switching by clicking “Change the way users log on or off”.
3. Trick Remote Desktop into letting you connect to localhost
By default Remote Desktop will not let you connect to the local computer (even using another account) saying that you are already using it. That’s dumb because you can use Remote Desktop from another machine to connect to your computer fine.
Download a port forwarder and create a shortcut for it. Open the shortcut properties and change it like this:
"C:\Documents and Settings\Lionel\Desktop\portforward.exe"
"C:\Documents and Settings\Lionel\Desktop\portforward.exe" 5000 127.0.0.1 3389
Run it, this redirects all connections to port 5000 to port 3389 which is used normally by Remote Desktop. Now when you connect, use 5000 instead of the default port and you will get connected fine.
4. Create a saved RDP session with scaled settings
Follow the instructions from the previous post to create a .rdp file and add “smart sizing” to it.
Set the server to “localhost:5000” as we setup in the previous step.
Set the username as your normal username, not the new one.
That’s it! When you want high-res, simply log-in with your new account, start the port forwarder with the shortcut, start the connection by double-clicking on the .rdp and you’re connected as your usual user.