Microsoft RemoteFX USB Redirection: Improve User Experience

Every virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployment aims to deliver a user experience that matches physical desktops’ performance. However, this is often challenging because virtual desktops must share resources with other desktops that do not have their own graphical processing units (GPUs) and suffer from latency.

Microsoft RemoteFX USB redirection can improve the end-user VDI experience by providing advanced codes and redirecting USB devices in virtual machines (VMs). Learn more about how Microsoft RemoteFX USB redirection works and how it can enhance the end-user VDI experience in this article.

Learning about Microsoft RemoteFX

Microsoft RemoteFX is a set of remote desktop protocol (RDP) technologies that facilitate a rich desktop environment for endpoints, including rich PCs, thin clients and ultra-thin clients. It can also enhance the end-user VDI experience by providing a 3D virtual adapter, advanced codecs and the ability to redirect USBs in VMs.

RemoteFX is integrated with RDP by default, allowing for shared authentication, encryption, management and endpoint support. The protocol can enable end users who are working remotely to watch full-motion videos, run 3D applications and enjoy Silverlight animations—all with the fidelity of local-like performance.

RemoteFX is based on the intellectual property (IP) that Microsoft acquired from Calista Technologies and unveiled starting with Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. Microsoft has since then improved the technology, incorporating many features such as:

Understanding How Microsoft RemoteFX USB Redirection Works

VDI users can use the inbuilt, RDP-based remote-desktop USB redirection feature in Windows to connect local peripherals such as flash drives and other input devices to their VMs. This feature supports USB redirection with high-level functions such as:

However, not all peripheral devices are a good fit for remote desktop USB redirection with RDP. Scanners, for example, run sequential processes that consume a lot of resources, making them difficult to work with RDP. Also, audio and video devices consume a lot of bandwidth and can cause problems with remote desktop USB redirection.

With RemoteFX, Microsoft has added significant capabilities and improvements to remote USB redirection. Unlike the remote desktop USB redirection, RemoteFX supports numerous devices such as scanners, and multi-function printers and scanners. In this regard, the RemoteFX USB redirection complements USB redirection when the standard RDP redirection is not enough.

Key Differences Between RemoteFX USB and Standard RDP Redirection

The table summarizes the key differences between RemoteFX USB redirection and standard RDP redirection.

RemoteFX USB redirection Standard RDP USB redirection
Clients do not need to have drivers installed. Clients must have drivers installed for USB redirection to work.
Drivers must be installed on the server. The server does not generally need the device driver installed on it.
It uses a universal redirection method that applies to all peripheral devices. It uses a specific method customized for each peripheral device.
Another client cannot use the peripheral device while the device is in use by another remote desktop session. Multiple desktop sessions can share and control a USB device simultaneously.
It is optimized for local area network (LAN) environments. It works well in both LAN and wide area network (WAN) scenarios.

Publishing and Deploying to Rich and Thin Clients

Microsoft has designed the RemoteFX USB redirection feature to work seamlessly with the RDP-powered USB redirection mechanism. For example, some peripheral devices can get redirected via RDP’s high-level device redirection on rich clients, while others can leverage RemoteFX USB redirection.

This way, users obtain the best of both RemoteFX USB redirection and RDP’s high-level redirection. The RDP publishing mechanism uses the command usbdevicestoredirect:s: to publish and deploy devices for redirection. IT administrators can use this command to specify which devices they would like to redirect either by class or redirection type.

Rich Clients

On rich clients, the usbdevicestoredirect:s:* command provides RemoteFX USB redirection for most devices that do not have drivers or RDP’s high-level redirection mechanism. On the other hand, the high-level USB redirection selects most drivers while Class GUIDs pick up additional devices.

Thin Clients

On thin clients, the usbdevicestoredirect:s:* command selects all the devices without drivers. This way, IT administrators can create an optimized, published RDP file that works for both rich and thin clients by updating usbdevicestoredirect:s:*. Next, they can add class GUIDs for the devices they want to use from rich clients.

IT administrators can achieve more granular control of the redirected peripheral devices by leveraging device installation restriction policy settings. Using these settings, IT administrators can, for example, restrict the device based on its setup class, device identifier (ID) and whether or not the user is an administrator.

Requirements and Supported Devices

Below are requirements to consider when using Microsoft RemoteFX USB redirection:

RemoteFX USB redirection supports the following devices:

Peripheral device Support status Redirection approach
Printer Supported RDP standard USB direction
All-in-one printer Supported RemoteFX USB redirection
Scanner Supported RemoteFX USB redirection
PTP camera Supported RDP standard USB direction
MTP media player Supported RDP standard USB direction
Web camera Supported, but on LAN only. RemoteFX USB redirection
Biometric Supported, but only when the user is in session and not during logon. RemoteFX USB redirection
CD/DVD drive Supported, but only for read operations. RDP standard USB direction
Smart card reader Supported RDP standard USB direction
Hard disk drives (HDDs) and flash drives Supported RDP standard USB direction
USB-to-serial Supported RemoteFX USB redirection
USB network interface cards (NICs) and some personal digital assistants Not supported Not available
USB display Not supported Not available
USB keyboard/mouse Supported RDP standard USB direction

Parallels RAS Provides an Excellent User Experience on All Devices

VDI is a go-to solution for most enterprises that want to provide remote access to their employees because it allows workers to access corporate resources from devices of their choice. However, remote access can make business sense only if the VDI deployment delivers a user experience that matches that of physical desktops.

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Some of the user experiences that Parallels RAS offers include:

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