Remote Desktop Icons Too Small

Are your remote desktop icons too small? And is the text in your remote desktop programs so small that you’re starting to wonder whether you should get prescription glasses? (Or stronger ones in case you already have them). You’re not alone! (With the small icons, that is - I know very little about the proper strength of glasses).

So you’re struggling with remote desktop scaling. Chances are that you have acquired a new device and now your remote desktop screen size is unworkable. It’s a common thing with more recent devices that come with higher screen resolutions. But you can fix that.

I’ve had to fix it for a client who just bought a new Microsoft Surface Pro 7, which offers a screen resolution of 2736 x 1824. With these kinds of screen settings, working remotely (especially when connecting to older systems like a Windows 2008 server or a Windows 7 desktop) often displays the remote desktop icons too small (way too small).

Fixing The Remote Desktop Icons Too Small Issue

Fortunately, you can remedy this situation and I will show you how. It’s relatively easy to do, although I have to admit that there’s a bit of Windows registry whispering involved. But don’t let that scare you, if you follow the steps exactly, you’ll be amazed how soon you’ll be working with a normal remote desktop screen size again.

For the sake of completeness, I just want to quickly point out that the steps to correct this remote desktop icons too small situation need to be done on the computer where you will launch remote desktop, not the one you are remotely connecting to.

Let’s start with the Windows registry setting. To do so, first press the Windows key + r on your keyboard to open up a run box:

Press Windows key + r

Now in the run box, type “regedit” (without the quotes) like in the image right here and click ok.

Type regedit in the run box

If Windows prompts you with a user account control window like in the image below, click yes to continue.

The user account control screen

This will launch your registry editor, where you can navigate through the items in the left hand side column by clicking the “>” symbols next to the registry keys.

The Windows registry

Navigate to:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\SideBySide

Then, right-click the SideBySide key and select new - DWORD (32-bit) Value (see image below).

The key to fixing the remote desktop icons too small issue

Change the name of the new entry to PreferExternalManifest (exactly like this) and press ENTER.

Then, doubleclick the PreferExternalManifest entry and give it a value of 1, like illustrated in the image below.


Then click ok and close registry editor. That’s all you need to do in the registry, you do however have to carry out one more step in order to fix your remote desktop scaling issue.

You have to add a manifest file in the c:\windows\system32 directory of your computer (or the folder where you mstsc.exe is sitting).

To make that easy for you, I have the correct version of the file you need available for download here (simply click the link to download the file). (You don’t have to worry about downloading this file, you can view it with a text editor to check its contents.)

Once you have downloaded the file, right-click it (it’s a compressed folder) and select “extract all”.

Manifest file to fix the remote desktop icons too small situation

Select a destination to extract the files and leave the option to “Show extracted files when complete” checked so that you’ll automatically land in the destination folder after extraction.

Extracting the file

As a final step, copy the resulting file to your c:\windows\system32 folder (or the folder where mstsc.exe is located on your computer).

That’s it, that should end the remote desktop icons too small situation on your computer. I hope my article was useful and that it helped you fix your remote desktop screen size.


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