Sending CTL+ALT+DEL to a remote Windows Server via MS Remote Desktop (aka RDP)

I work with remote Windows Servers on an intermittent basis, and occasionally I need to send a “CTL+ALT+DEL” command to a remote Windows OS where the desktop interface has stopped responding.

As you may have noticed, “CTL+ALT+DEL” is reserved to the host machine.  As a result this key combination won’t flow thru to the remote server when using an MS Remote Desktop Session (aka RDP).

However, the RDP client does offer a solution.  When accessing a remote Windows Servers via RDP, use the key combination “CTL+ALT+END”.   Unless the machine is totally hosed, this will bring up the familiar Windows Security dialog box.  From there, you can try troubleshooting steps such as:

  • access the TaskManager and try to identify a hung process
  • use TaskManager | File | New Task (Run…) to manually restart the Windows Explorer (aka desktop) or other process.
  • Or just give it this equivalent of the ol’ three fingered salute and shutdown/restart command.
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