Ok, I finally decided to write my own post on the subject of how to configure Windows Virtual PC, and/or Windows XP Mode, to run in multiple monitors. Why another article. Simple, I searched high and low and managed to find bits and pieces, but no one seemed to give all the information, and certainly not clearly. I thought I’d share a simple, visual, step by step illustration of what I did to make it work for me.
As I have found out, it can be done, and it isn’t very hard to accomplish, but it does come at a little cost. Why Microsoft does not have a span multiple monitors setting directly in the Virtual Machine Settings beats me and based on the number of posts, why they still have not come out with an update or new version, bloes my mind. Regardless, we have a round about way to make it happen, and here is how to implement it.
The process involves using Remote Desktop to connect to our Virtual PC/Virtual Machine. Since Virtual PC/Virtual Machine does not allow multiple monitors we will benefit from Remote Desktop’s ability to do so instead.
- Before being able to use the remote desktop, we first need to configure our Virtual Machine to allow a Remote Desktop Connection. Go to your Virtual Machines folder, select the Virtual Machine that you wish to configure to work using multiple monitors and click on the Settings button in the nav bar
- Select the Networking heading and then ensure that your network adapter is one of your computer’s physical network adapter and not ‘Shared Networking (NAT)’ (for instance). By doing so, when your Virtual Machine is launched it will take an IP address, thus allowing us to make a Remote Desktop connection.
- Select the Logon Credentials heading and click on the Delete Saved Credentials (first ensure you have this information somewhere username and password otherwise you will not be able to log back into your Virtual Machine).An alternative to this is to leave the logon credential as is, and open your vitrual machine normally and then log out of it immediately.
- Start Windows Run Command
- Start Remote Desktop by issuing the mstsc.exe /span command
- On the General Tab -> Logon Settings, enter the computer name of your Virtual Machine in the Computer control and then your Virtual Machines’ logon username in the User name control. Notice how I also include the computer name in the User name control to enure that the proper domain is used for authentication.
- On the General Tab -> Display Configuration, ensure the Use all my monitors for the remote session checkbox is checked.
Finally, click Connect.
A few things to keep in mind for this to work
- Your monitors must be configured to all be using the same resolution! Furthermore, I have read that the combined resolution of all your monitors must not exceed 4096 x 2048 pixels.
- You must set your Windows Firewall to allow Remote Desktop Connections as an exception (by default it is not allowed)
- You must be actively connected to your network for the Virtual Machine to take an IP address to be able to connect to with Remote Desktop. There is a mean to not be required to be connected to a network by using the ‘Microsoft Loopback adapter’. I will investigate this in the near future and post back with the results.
- This may not need to be explicitly stated, but your Virtual Machine needs to be running when you initiate the Remote Desktop session.
Drawbacks to this method
Beside having to take these extra steps to accomplish what I deem should have been a normal feature to include in Microsoft’s Virtual PC, this solution does present 3 distinct drawbacks:
- You have to have to be connected to a network. This isn’t too big a deal since I doubt your travel with a second monitor! As such, you will typically be using this technique in office, so you should have network access.
- Your monitors have to have the exact same resolution.
- The computer will consider the 2 monitors, 1 giant monitor. So this means, windows snapping will no longer work and maximizing an application will make it span both monitors. So you will manually have to resize your applications within your screen.
So what other solutions are available, instead of jumping through all these steps… to enable a make shift dual monitor functionality with Virtual Machines. Well, the solution is to switch Virtualization Software. For Instamce, VMWare supports multiple monitors at the click of a button ‘Cycle multiple monitors’. If you need true multi-monitor support, perhaps you need to look beyond what Microsoft is currently offering and hopefully they will update the application to support it natively in the future (One can hope!).
I hope this article saves you some of the time and frustrations I had trying to get this to work!
Below are a few links that helped me figure everything out, along with a few helpful posts in the Virtual PC forum:
Using Virtual PC with Multiple Monitors, Sort Of
Virtual PC on two monitors without additional software
VPC 2007 Dual Monitor support