Session 0 is a specialised Windows Session where the GUI components (e.g. windows, dialog boxes, popups, etc.) of interactive Windows Services are displayed in complete isolation from your regularly logged in Windows desktop session. Session 0 Isolation first showed up in Windows Vista / Server 2008 in order to mitigate a variety of security risks including shatter attacks. Session 0 Isolation is not present on all Windows Server Core variants, Windows XP, Server 2003 or earlier versions of Microsoft Windows.
"Features" to note about Session 0:
- You cannot log in to it directly - you must switch to it - akin to Fast User Switching or Switch User
- It has no "normal" session characteristics (e.g. Windows Explorer, 3D graphics acceleration and so forth)
- It is inaccessible by default on all Windows installations. It must be enabled
- Once enabled, you will be greeted with the Windows default Session 0 "nag dialog" in your logged in session task tray. Use this dialog to switch to Session 0.
- You may see errors or warnings in the Windows Event Logs in relation to services running interactively in Session 0 being "invalid" or "in error" or "disallowed". These can generally be safely ignored
- You may find you lose all network connectivity if you switch to Session 0. This can be problematic if you are using RDP or other remote control software
- You may just see a black screen when you switch to Session 0
- You may see badly redrawn application windows and dialog boxes on Session 0
- You will be automatically logged out after 30 seconds of inactivity and returned to the Windows Login screen. If connecting via RDP, you RDP session will be terminated
- If you are running Windows 10, Server 2016 or Server 2019 your keyboard and mouse will be completely ignored on Session 0 (ie. your keyboard and mouse will appear to not work)
- Session 0 is available but inaccessible on Windows Server Core operating system variants and on some Windows 10 builds and Server 2019 (see below).
The various sections below outline how to resolve the limitations listed above. You can still continue to use FireDaemon Pro to create interactive Windows services despite all of the limitations listed above.
Deploy FireDaemon Zero (Session 0 Viewer)
Please consider deploying FireDaemon Zero if you are creating interactive services using FireDaemon Pro and you must work interactively on Session 0. The product assists in resolving most of the issues above. The two key issues Zero cannot resolve are Session 0 black screen (see below) and Windows 10, Server 2016, Server 2019 keyboard and mouse being ignored. To find out more and download the product, please visit the FireDaemon Zero product page or consult the fine manual!
Reinstall Your Graphics Drivers to Avoid Session 0 Black Screen
When you switch desktop to Session 0 for the first time you might just see a completely black screen. This is completely normal. To resolve this you must completely uninstall then reinstall your graphics drivers. If you are seeing this in a virtual machine, then uninstall and reinstall the corresponding virtual machine "helper" drivers - for example, VMware Tools. If you are running Windows 10 Version 1803 or Server 2019 and experience this - see the section below.
Fully Patch Microsoft WindowsWe have seen several Session 0 issues resolved just by patching Windows. Hence, before deploying any FireDaemon product and before attempting to use Session 0 you should fully patch your Microsoft Windows operating system via Windows Update. This means all critical and recommended patches and updates including IE11.
Use Specific Service User Accounts to Avoid Application Issues on Session 0
Windows Services can run under a variety of user credentials. When using FireDaemon Pro the application will be run by default as the user LocalSystem. This account is a specialised highly privileged user account used by the Windows Service Control Manager. Running as this account might cause your application to not work properly. If you experience application issues, you should try and run the service as the specific user under which you installed the software originally. That user should always be a local or domain administrator, especially if your service is to interact with the desktop on Session 0. You can change the FireDaemon Pro Windows Service Logon Account in the logon section of that particular service.
Keyboard and Mouse Are Completely Ignored on Session 0 on Windows 10, Server 2016 or Server 2019If you switch to Session 0 on Windows 10, Server 2016 or Server 2019 your keyboard and mouse will not work. Please refer to this article for a detailed discussion and workarounds. Also check out our ZeroInput driver which mitigates the issue.
Session 0 Inaccessible On Server Core Variants
Server Core is the headless version of Microsoft Windows. Server Core is designed to be centrally managed via Server Manager. Microsoft has released a variety of Server Core variants including Server 1709 and Server Nano. You can enable RDP on Server Core (via the sconfig utility) however, once you RDP in, you will only be presented with a single command prompt. Additionally, many GUI based applications are not installed, or if they are installed you will need to launch them via the command line manually. Note that the Interactive Services Detection Service (UI0Detect) is not installed at all on Server Core. Whilst its possible to install FireDaemon Pro and setup FireDaemon Pro based services, it's impossible to switch to Session 0 by virtue of the Interactive Services Detection Service (UI0Detect) being absent. However, you can try deploying FireDaemon ZeroInput plus FireDaemon Zero if you are desperate to get to Session 0 on these server variants.
Interactive Services Detection Service Removed On Windows 10 Version 1803 and Server 2019
Microsoft has removed the Interactive Services Detection Service (UI0Detect) on Windows 10 Version 1803 Build 17134 and Server 2019. You can use the latest versions of FireDaemon ZeroInput plus FireDaemon Zero to restore access to Session 0.
Immediate RDP Disconnection - Server may Become Unresponsive After Switching To Session 0
Under extremely rare circumstances when switching to Session 0 over RDP:
- Your RDP Session will be immediately terminated
- You won't be able to connect to the server again for anything up to 20 minutes
- All applications running in Session 0 that utilise the Microsoft message queue will freeze during that time, resuming once the blockage self-corrects.
This is a known bug in Microsoft Windows (specifically observed on Server 2012 and Server 2012 R2). This is due to either the RDP display driver running on Session 0 crashing or the RDP User Mode Port Redirector crashing. Check the Windows Event logs to detemine what is failing. Microsoft are aware of the problem and are investigating a fix. You can try the following workaround to see if it alleviates the problem:
- Ensure Windows is fully patched - everything ... literally everything - don't skip anything
- Ensure you upgrade your network card and graphics drivers to the very latest available
- Ensure you are using the latest version of the RDP client (10.2 or later). If you are RDP'ing to Server 2016 or 2019 ensure you do so from Windows 10 or other Server 2016 or 2019 computers. Avoid Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 RDP clients if possible.
- When you RDP to the problem server ensure you have disabled all forms of drive, printer, clipboard and audio mapping and redirection across the RDP session. This can be achieved by changing settings in your RDP client, via Group Policy or via Local Policy on the remote server. The screenshot below shows what needs to be changed in your RDP client configuration.