This past week, our managed services team at OrcsWeb ran into an issue with Remote Desktop Services 2012. We had a client setup request for RDS on their Windows Server 2012 machine. We were to install the Session Host, Web, and Service Broker roles. This server was to point to our existing 2008 R2 RDS Licensed server. This 2008 R2 server’s only job is to provide central point of management for RDS CALs.

A Windows Server 2012 box cannot point to anything but another Windows Server 2012 box for licensing. This was not an issue, we just stood up a Server 2012 box to replace our 2008 R2 RDS box, where its only role would be a license server.

Once the new server was up and running, RDS licensing role installed, configured and validated with CALs for our server versions, including Server 2012 RDS, we attempted to point our RDS session host installation to the new licensing server.

To do this, I launched Server Manager, selected Remote Deaktop Services from the left panel, in the Role section I selected Overview, then selected the tasks drop down in Deployment Overview and selected Edit Deployment Properties.

RDS screenshot

I then went to the RD Licensing section to add my license server. I added my licensing server via FQDN, and was promptly greeted with an error message.

“The license server specified is not valid. Verify the server name and specify a valid server name before saving the settings.”

RDS Lic Error Msg

So I immediately began to check obvious things. Can I ping the license server? Check. Are the appropriate firewall rules enabled on the license server? Check. Triple-check that the license server had been truly validated and had appropriate CALs? Check. Restart the licensing service on the license server? Check. Check event logs on both license server and session host server? Check. I even went screen by screen looking at my previous 2008 R2 Licensing server and compared with the new one.

Nothing seemed to get me past this issue. Then I turned to the super-secret ultimate IT tool, Google. It took a bit of searching and forum crawling, but I was finally able to track this down where another user had encountered this:

The fix for this issue, is to set the licensing server and the per user/device settings in the local group policy on the Session Host server. You need to edit two entries in the following directory:

Local Computer Policy\Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Remote Desktop Services\Remote Desktop Session Host

We are looking for:

-Use the specified Remote Desktop license servers
-Set the Remote Desktop licensing mode


I am not sure of the root cause at this time; however, this problem is something that can be reproduced. The model of a single server responsible for just licensing and other servers hosting other roles would be a common scenario for RDS I would imagine. This problem does not exist in the 2008 R2 RDS implementation. Having to set group policy instead of utilizing a wizard seems to be a step backwards for the RDS platform. That being said, the remote application presentation and web access configuration are quite excellent in implementation and fairly easy to configure. Also, having 120 days to try it before licensing is a very nice feature.


  1. Gabe


    Hi Rich, glad this worked for you. Our team submitted this issue to Microsoft Connect at the time. I am planning to test this in Server 2012 R2 in future and will update this post on my findings.


  2. Ian B


    I also had the issue. Installed the license as I have done a few times before and it just wasn’t taking it. I was getting the pop-up with the grace period (as was my client) and also the Licensing Diagnoser was showing no licenses. It was properly set in Server Manager but not working. Made the changes in group policy and instantly fixed. Thanks.

  3. Spinkick


    no idea why this particular server did this, but this fixed it. Interesting enough this server does not use a collection for remote desktop services. Anyone else have this problem when not using collections?

  4. Mr_Blink


    You sir, are a wizard. The fact that you can no longer manage the session host settings from anything but local GP is insanity. I would have never found this on my own and was driving me insane.

    • Gabe


      Ha! I’m glad this post has helped you and a few others. I was also questioning my sanity while figuring this out.

  5. Thurein aung


    Hi Sir. Is there any way to retake back license from RDS host? For example, my session host A connect to license server which has 20 CALs. After 5 RDP session to host A, license server show that 15 lic available. But I want session host A to release back that 5 lic count to license server because other session hosts might need it.

  6. powdereddonuts


    Thanks for this. I couldn’t get this working via Deployment properties. I didn’t get that error message, but it didn’t recognize the license server until I edited the local policy per your instructions.

  7. kyle


    Thank you for posting this! It worked like a charm. I know its a broken record, but it is hard to believe Microsoft would put out such a broken deployment wizard. Its as if the licensing info specified is Server Manager is just disregarded. For anyone interested, this fix worked for a situation where the RDS host was also the licensing server.

  8. Neil Lubke


    thank you thank you THANK YOU for pointing me to local group policy! I had setup the server under a different name at first and the old server name was still present in gpedit.msc. Change name, reboot, voila!

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