Overview: Client Hyper-V Enhanced Session Mode in Windows 8.1

One of the new features in Windows 8 was native Client Hyper-V support. The inclusion of Client Hyper-V means that with Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 you don’t have to install extra software or add-ons to run Virtual Machines (VMs), all you need is a PC with hardware virtualization capabilities. In Windows 8.1 Client Hyper-V includes some great improvements including what’s called “Enhanced Session Mode”.

Enhanced session mode provides the following new capabilities for Virtual Machine Connection sessions:

  • Display Configuration
  • Audio redirection
  • Printer redirection
  • Full clipboard support (improved over limited prior-generation clipboard support)
  • Smart Card support
  • USB Device redirection
  • Drive redirection
  • Redirection for supported Plug and Play devices

The best news: you don’t need a network connection to the VM session like you would with Remote Desktop Connection. Enhanced Session Mode is enabled by default on Windows 8.1. Note that this feature works with all editions of Windows 8.1 (host running Client Hyper-V) but only with the following VM images:

  • Windows 8.1 Enterprise
  • Windows Server 2012

More information about supported features by OS edition is available in this blog post.

Next I’ll guide you through how to ensure that Enhanced Session Mode is configured to work properly. First check to make sure that the Enhanced Session Mode policy is enabled in the Hyper-V Settings as shown here: (click/tap to enlarge)

Client Hyper-V Settings Enhanced Session Mode Policy

By checking the “Allow enhanced session mode” checkbox, you’ll ensure that you can use all of the new features in Virtual Machine Connection sessions. You’ll also need to ensure that the user account that you log in with in the VM image is a part of the “administrators” and/or the “remote desktop users” groups.

When you start a Virtual Machine Connection, click on the appropriate checkboxes in the “Local devices and resources” groupbox:

VM Connect Settings Local Resources Dialog Only

By clicking the “More” button, you’ll have more options:

VM Connect Settings Local Resources Other Tree

Here you can see that I’ve enabled both my Canon 5D Mark III DSLR camera, and other devices that I may plug in later. With enhanced session mode enabled, I can access local printers and USB devices just like I do when running a native (non-VM) session. This is quite handy!

Now when I plug in my Canon 5D Mark III, it shows up in my Windows 8.1 Virtual Machine Connection session just like it would on the physical machine that the camera is plugged into. Here we see the device stage view next to an actual picture of the Canon 5D Mark III:

Device Stage -vs- Reality 5D Mark III

Nice! I also printed directly to an Epson Artisan 800 connected via USB from my Virtual Machine Connection session. Enhanced Session Mode certainly can make life easier. If you are running Windows 8.1 you’ll check out these new features in Client Hyper-V!

For more information on Enhanced Session Mode in Client Hyper-V, please see the documentation on Technet.

Find me on twitter! @GavinGear