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Using Windows 2003 Server, WinFax PRO & Terminal Services/Remote Desktop Services

In this article I will describe some of the challenges of installing WinFax PRO with a Windows 2003 Server, and also the use of Terminal Services/Remote Desktop Services.

One of the main components of WinFax PRO is its printer driver, the printer driver allows you to fax from other applications. Without this driver, you cannot send faxes from other applications. WinFax PRO is crippled without the installation of the included printer (WinFax) driver, without it, all you can fax are single cover pages that are built into WinFax.

The first problem with installation of WinFax PRO under Windows 2003 is that the printer driver support in the operating system was moved from kernel to user mode. The reason is that the use of kernel mode printer drivers can possibily cause a server to hang, result in a blue screen and require a reboot. This isn’t something you want happening on a server. Because of this possibility, Microsoft decided to block the installation of all kernel mode printer drivers in Windows 2003.

During the installation of WinFax PRO, a kernel mode printer driver (also called version 2 printer driver) is added to your list of installed printers. By default, Windows 2003 won’t allow you to add this printer, and during the installation it is either ignored silently or a printer driver related error message is displayed.

Fortunately, in Windows 2003 you can bypass this restriction. You can set a group policy in Windows 2003 to allow the installation of kernel mode printers. Once you’ve done this, you should be able to successfully install WinFax PRO under Windows 2003.

Using Terminal Services / Remote Desktop Services with WinFax

One of the reasons of a Windows 2003 Server installation is because you can then use Terminal Services/Remote Desktop Services to have users connect remotely. We get a lot of requests regarding using WinFax with Terminal Services/Remote Desktop Services. This article may save you a lot of time and headaches.

Many printer drivers just don’t support terminal services (now called Remote Desktop Services), and WinFax PRO’s kernel mode drivers are no exception. If you attempt to print to the WinFax PRO printer driver, the output results will only appear on the console session (session 0), not the users remote connection. There is a document from Microsoft which explains how to shadow the console session 0 with a remote session here. Not a solution, but you can see what is going on here.

So the problem here is anyone using Remote Desktop Services trying to send a fax from their local machine are not going to see the WinFax Send screen asking them enter a fax number/name for the document they want to fax. While you could shadow the console session 0, its not always a good solution.

Alternative solution and sharing WinFax PRO with other clients

WinFax PRO includes a feature called Fax Sharing. It allows you to configure one computer to be a “WinFax Host”, and then you can connect (up to 25) other “WinFax clients” to it. The clients you connect don’t require a fax modem, they just require WinFax PRO to be installed on the local machine. Faxes are then routed to the Host from the client and are sent through the installed fax modem on the Windows 2003 server. Each client has its own send & receive log, and installed WinFax printer driver so everything is generated on the client computer. Remember that each client must be using an OS that WinFax can support, like Windows XP.

With Fax Sharing, you can configure the Windows 2003 machine as a WinFax Host. You can then install WinFax PRO on each user’s machine, and then connect to the Host. The Host machine doesn’t even need the have the WinFax PRO printer drivers, they are not required if all the faxes are going to be processed from the client machines print drivers. We’ve not experienced any problems with the WinFax PRO printer drivers, they are fairly stable, but if you don’t want to stay clear of Kernel mode drivers installed under Windows 2003, then you can remove them or just leave blocking of kernel mode printers on during the installation of WinFax.

I hope this article provides you a better understanding how WinFax interacts with Terminal Services/Remote Desktop Services, and some of the issues with using WinFax with Windows 2003 Server machines. There are of course other technical requirements when dealing with Fax Sharing and Windows XP SP2 or SP3 clients, which will be covered in another article.