Windows Remote Desktop Licenses – RDLs – What are they? Do I need them?


Many computer manufacturers (OEMs) have introduced a new desktop environment using blade hardware technology and Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional.

This technology solution enables end users to access Windows XP Professional running on these blade PCs that are stacked securely in a data center rather than sitting under or on an end user’s desk.

In this solution, end users connect to the blade PC using a small connection port and one of many different types of access devices, ranging from a desktop PC to a thin client.

Businesses can employ a variety of devices for access: desktop PCs or thin client devices running an embedded operating system. RDP (or a similar technology) is used to access Windows XP Professional running on the PC. Unlike server models which provide simultaneous access of multiple users to a single piece of server hardware, each blade PC can have only one user accessing it at a time.

Licensing Desktop Operating Systems for blade Infrastructures

The Microsoft® Remote Desktop License for Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional has been added to the Volume License programs as of November 1, 2004.

RDLs are procured in the form of a license; there is no software provided with them.

The RDL permits a remote device (laptop, PDA, cell phone) to access any other device that is running Windows XP Professional without the need for the remote device to be licensed separately for Windows XP Professional.

Please Note: An RDL does not provide you the right to access any desktop application running on the blade PC. It permits access to the Windows XP Professional software experience and to files and other data on the PC. Customers must refer to the use rights for any other application that resides on the blade PC to determine if this kind of access is permitted under the use rights for that application.

The accessing devices use RDP or similar technologies to access the Windows XP Professional software. Like some server Client Access Licenses (CALs), the customer has the flexibility to choose to license the accessing devices in their infrastructure in one of two ways —by device or by user:

  • · Device-based RDLs allow customers to license the access by devices (device can be used by any user, although each device will need to be licensed with an RDL)
  • · User-based RDLs allow customers to license the access by named user (each user can use any number of devices to access Windows XP Professional).

Each business can decide whether they want user-based or device-based licensing of RDLs, or a mix of the two. This will depend on what makes the most sense economically, technically, and operationally for each customer.

Did you know: When a customer acquires blade PCs from their OEM partners, Microsoft Windows XP Professional Blade PC Edition is preinstalled. Each preinstalled license of Windows XP Professional Blade PC Edition includes one RDL license. Only blade PCs acquired from OEMs will include one RDL license with Windows XP Professional Blade PC Edition. Additional RDLs will be available from OEMs and through all volume license programs.

Basic Licensing Model

The following cases compare the RDL model to the licensing model that existed prior to November 1, 2004.

Case 1: Pre-RDL solution Case 2: New solution (device-based)

In both cases, the customer needs a total of 25 licenses. However, with the pre-RDL solution, the customer would need to acquire a total of 25 licenses (all Windows XP Professional). In the new RDL solution, the customer only needs to acquire 15 licenses (10 Windows XP Professional Blade PC Edition and 5 RDLs). Because 10 RDLs are included with each license of Windows XP Professional Blade PC Edition preinstalled on the blade PCs, they only need to acquire an additional five RDLs for Windows XP Professional.

In Case 2, we assumed the customer has decided on a device-based solution. The following section explores the options a customer has for choosing the environment (device-based, user-based, or mixed) that best suits their business needs.


Scenario 1: Mixing user-based and device-based RDLs for Windows XP Professional

Assume we have the same scenario as in Case 2 above, but with 15 users instead of 15 accessing devices. Nine of these fifteen users are shift workers in three shifts of three and never overlap. Each shift has three devices available, one for each user on the shift. The other six users are sales staff each of whom has 3 devices they use to access a blade PC. In this scenario, the customer would elect three device-based RDLs for the shift workers and six user-based RDLs for the sales staff. With a mixed RDL approach, the customer needs to have nine RDLs. Since they are licensed for to up to 10 RDLs that were included with Windows XP Professional installed on the blade PCs, there is no need for additional license purchases. In fact, they have one RDL for Windows XP Professional that is unused and available for future growth.

Two months from now, the customer adds two more workers per shift and two more thin client devices to support the new workers on each shift. Also, assume the customer hires three more sales staff each requiring the use of three devices. The table below shows the additional licenses they will need to acquire from their OEM or volume licensing reseller.


Scenario 2: Using desktops already licensed for Windows XP Professional

Let’s go back to our Case 2 example above. Assume 10 of the 15 accessing devices are thin clients running an embedded operating system, and five are desktop PCs running Windows XP Professional. How many RDLs for Windows XP Professional do you need? Per Volume Licensing Product Use Rights, below, devices already licensed with Windows XP Professional do not need RDLs to access other workstations running Windows XP Professional. You will only need 10 RDLs for the ten thin clients. The 5 accessing devices (in this case desktop PCs) which are already licensed for Windows XP Professional do not need RDLs. And, in this case, the 10 RDLs for Windows XP Professional were included with your Windows XP Professional Blade PC desktop operating system license from the OEM, so you do not need to acquire additional RDLs.


When do I need to acquire a Remote Desktop License (RDL) for Windows XP Professional?

If you need remote access to PCs running Windows XP Professional, you will need an RDL unless you meet the criteria in the Windows XP Professional EULA or Volume Licensing Product Use Rights for Windows XP Professional: you are the primary user of the PC, or the device you are using to access the PC is already licensed for Windows XP Professional. If you set up your blade PC infrastructure so that each blade has a single, primary user[1], then the primary user will not require an RDL to access their blade PC. They will need an RDL if they access another person’s blade PC

[1] The primary user is the individual who uses the computer most of the time it is in use.


From the PUR

Remote Desktop. The single primary user of the licensed device may access a session from any other device using Remote Desktop or similar technologies. A “session” means the experience of interacting with the software, directly or indirectly, through any combination of input, output and display peripherals. Other users may access a session from any device, using these technologies, if:

  1. the remote device is separately licensed to run the software; or
  2. the user or remote device has the appropriate Remote Desktop License (RDL).


For other common FAQs see the RDL Brief here


1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the information. Can\’t seem to find the SKUs for RDLs. They don\’t seem to have been in the parts list for a while.An example part number was V3H-01122 (with the following description – Win Pro Remote Dsktp Lic Sngl MVL Device CAL). They don\’t seem to be available in the current parts list. Can you please help. I don\’t know if the name has been changed or if they have been removed .Thanks in advance.

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