Fun with VMs: Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server Edition.

Since my HP Proliant lets me run VMs on it’s quad core Xeon CPU, I’ve decided to make use of it….by throwing various OSes running in VMWare on it.

Windows NT (pre 2000) is probably one of the more obscure versions of Windows, especially online. After all, it was shipped mostly on business PCs, used in businesses, and only caught on with version 4 (3.x is even more obscure, and has issues running on faster/newer hardware). Only when the NT 5.x line came out did NT gain popularity with consumers, and only because 2000 and newer had better driver support, DirectX (OpenGL games such as Half-Life, Quake, and UT will work however), APM (Drivers were made by laptop companies for NT4 and APM), USB (There are NT4 USB drivers that even support flash drives), and NTVDM/DOS support (for XP).

On the other hand, NT became popular in businesses, and eventually replaced the old, primitive, 9x Windows for a good reason (And later, Windows CE, with Windows Phone 8 and RT being based off the NT kernel). It was a far more modern and stable operating system than 9x ever wished it could be.

While NT 4.0 had both a client and server version, the most interesting version is the “Terminal Server” edition.

terminal server client

Powered by licensed Citrix technology (Citrix and MS share code for RDP and Citrixes own products), and a modified version of Windows NT (The login screen looks closer to that of 2000/XP/2k3), Terminal Server Edition of NT4 allows you to use any PC (with a Pentium and 32MB RAM) or DEC Alpha capable of running NT4 to run a “Terminal Server”. Nowadays, this technology is called Remote Desktop Protocol, and it has a few differences from the current version. For example, you can’t connect with RDP 6.0 (or newer) to a NT4 terminal server. Likewise, you can’t use the original NT4 Terminal Services client to connect to RDP 6.0+ servers, you are set at a fixed screen resolution (RDP 5.2 for example lets you use any screen resolution, even on a NT4 server), you are set to 256 colors only, and you cannot share devices such as sound, connected devices, or files.

terminal server client 2

Installing it can be a pain as well, while installing it is the same as NT4, you need to grab a special version of the service packs (WTSi386.exe and WTSAlpha.exe, depending on which CPU you are running it on) which can be hard to find since MS seems to have pulled a lot of NT4 related files and a lot might be corrupt, so YMMV. While one of the corrupt files seemed to install fine, I’d try to see if someone can source another installer off say, an MSDN CD or something.

Once you install it though, you don’t need to connect it to a domain whatsoever, you can just install your favorite NT4 apps and host them, as long as you have a client like RDP 5.2 or the one that comes with NT4 (In \wtsrv\system32\clients\tsclient, also available for 16 bit Windows and DEC Alpha). It’s good if you’re trying to run say, an old program that requires NT but isn’t a game without having to run a VM on your PC.

Also notable: This is the only version of Terminal Services that doesn’t make you online activate CALs. You can actually crank the number up high without having to activate, of course breaking the EULA obviously.

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