Command line alternatives to Remote Desktop

Most days I’m connected to a client’s VPN working on a project and lately I’ve converted from using Remote Desktop (RD), Terminals actually and highly recommended btw, to psexec and $g(taskkill) to get things done. Using psexec I start/stop CCService, run CCNET from the console, use SVN and build from the command line to name a few. The machine I connect to most of the time has a limited simultaneous RD users and occasionally I’m unable to get a connection so having an alternative is crucial. One caveat I ran into was TortoiseProc.exe fails to terminate when run remotely with psexec and has to be killed manually and unfortunately the SVN command line tools are not installed, at least not yet. Occasionally, I use remote.exe from the NT Resource Toolkit though I haven’t used that in quite awhile not to mention the EXE I have is from 1997, not that that makes it any less effective.

Do you do something similar? What utilities do you use?

[Update: Feb 23, 2009] I also use psloggedon which is useful to see who is using the machine. Additionally, it’s nice to be able to launch a console window on the remote machine as well like this (though as Bary notes below ssh is also an option):

psexec.exe \\machine -w d:\ cmd.exe

5 thoughts on “Command line alternatives to Remote Desktop

  1. I often use ssh to run just command line utilities. I use cygwin sshd, and when combined with screen (a kind of detatchable terminal session), it works out quite well.
    The only problem really comes if you try to use ssh-agent to reduce password typing. Sshd isn’t able to completely emulate password login with just ssh-agent public key stuff, so crypto utils, encrypted files and network drives aren’t fully working then.

  2. Windows has also a telnet server, although not the most secure one, it can be enable when needed with sc or psservice. A VPN connection should protect the connection enough. Thanks to heaven MS has discovered that sometimes a remote machine can be easily administered via the command line and 2008 should be more friendly in this regard, although I didn’t test it yet.

  3. Steve, sincere thanks for taking the time to post this info, its exactly what I’m looking for – I’m automating a remote web app deployment to Tomcat on a windows box when I’m used to *nix environments for this. I’m thinking of using psexec to remotely execute a .bat script on the server to restart the web server and shuffle a few files around. Do you have any suggestions for performing remote deployments to windows boxes?

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