Quick Tip: Adding remote desktop access remotely

The title probably doesn’t explain it well. It’s essentially saying, “how do you grant a user Remote desktop access from command line, without having to run (or fly) over to the user’s cubicle”?

This is where the wonderful set of tools called (now Microsoft) Sysinternals Suite comes into the picture. I use it a lot and I will post on it separately. But, it is essentially a Swiss army knife for an Admin on a MS Windows PC. It has many tools, one of them is psexec. Here is the usage:

Usage: psexec [\\computer[,computer2[,...] | @file]][-u user [-p psswd][-n s][-l][-s|-e][-x][-i [session]][-c [-f|-v]][-w directory][-d][-<priority>][-a n,n,...] cmd [arguments]

See below for the complete description of psexec. As you can see, you can execute a command remotely on another machine using this command. Sort of like unix rexec. Using this command,

So, coming back to our topic today, to grant a user remote desktop access to a remote PC,

C:\>psexec \\<server ip> -u <admin id> -p <admin pwd> net localgroup "Remote Desktop  Users" <id> /add

It’s essentially adding a user to the Remote Desktop group. This is done by the command in bold above. See here for more on using net command to do this. But to run the same thing on the remote machine, you pass it to psexec as shown above.The syntax is,

psexec \\<server ip> -u <admin id> -p <admin pwd> <command to run on remote machine>

I used this command to add the <admin id> itself to remote desktop group on the remote machine, so I could actually remote into it, to do the real tasks I was set to do.

Well that’s all folks! I will soon be dedicating an entire post to this wonderful suite of tools.I am including the full help text from the command below, for your reference.


PsExec v1.98 - Execute processes remotely
Copyright (C) 2001-2010 Mark Russinovich
Sysinternals - www.sysinternals.com

PsExec executes a program on a remote system, where remotely executed console
applications execute interactively.

Usage: psexec [\\computer[,computer2[,...] | @file]][-u user [-p psswd][-n s][-l][-s|-e][-x][-i [session]][-c [-f|-v]][-
w directory][-d][-<priority>][-a n,n,...] cmd [arguments]
     -a         Separate processors on which the application can run with
                commas where 1 is the lowest numbered CPU. For example,
                to run the application on CPU 2 and CPU 4, enter:
                "-a 2,4"
     -c         Copy the specified program to the remote system for
                execution. If you omit this option the application
                must be in the system path on the remote system.
     -d         Don't wait for process to terminate (non-interactive).
     -e         Does not load the specified account's profile.
     -f         Copy the specified program even if the file already
                exists on the remote system.
     -i         Run the program so that it interacts with the desktop of the
                specified session on the remote system. If no session is
                specified the process runs in the console session.
     -h         If the target system is Vista or higher, has the process
                run with the account's elevated token, if available.
     -l         Run process as limited user (strips the Administrators group
                and allows only privileges assigned to the Users group).
                On Windows Vista the process runs with Low Integrity.
     -n         Specifies timeout in seconds connecting to remote computers.
     -p         Specifies optional password for user name. If you omit this
                you will be prompted to enter a hidden password.
     -s         Run the remote process in the System account.
     -u         Specifies optional user name for login to remote
     -v         Copy the specified file only if it has a higher version number
                or is newer on than the one on the remote system.
     -w         Set the working directory of the process (relative to
                remote computer).
     -x         Display the UI on the Winlogon secure desktop (local system
     -priority  Specifies -low, -belownormal, -abovenormal, -high or
                -realtime to run the process at a different priority. Use
                -background to run at low memory and I/O priority on Vista.
     computer   Direct PsExec to run the application on the remote
                computer or computers specified. If you omit the computer
                name PsExec runs the application on the local system,
                and if you specify a wildcard (\\*), PsExec runs the
                command on all computers in the current domain.
     @file      PsExec will execute the command on each of the computers listed
                in the file.
     program    Name of application to execute.
     arguments  Arguments to pass (note that file paths must be
                absolute paths on the target system).

You can enclose applications that have spaces in their name with
quotation marks e.g. psexec \\marklap "c:\long name app.exe".
Input is only passed to the remote system when you press the enter
key, and typing Ctrl-C terminates the remote process.

If you omit a user name the process will run in the context of your
account on the remote system, but will not have access to network
resources (because it is impersonating). Specify a valid user name
in the Domain\User syntax if the remote process requires access
to network resources or to run in a different account. Note that
the password is transmitted in clear text to the remote system.

Error codes returned by PsExec are specific to the applications you
execute, not PsExec.

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