Recently when testing a new XenApp 6.5 farm we discovered Remote Assistance (msara.exe /offerra) didn’t work. Where on the existing XenApp 5.0 / Windows Server 2008 farm it could be used by desktop support staff no problem, now the app failed to launch with the error:

“There was a problem starting Remote Assistance. Remote Assistance is unavailable for the current user account. If you are using a Windows Guest account try logging in with another account. If you are not using a Guest account, try restarting your machine.”

A quick bit of online investigation uncovered that Microsoft have adjusted the security behind Remote Assistance and from Windows Server 2008 R2 it won’t work if you’re using Mandatory Profiles.

To fix

You can get round this with a GPO setting as outlined below.

Hive: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
Key path: SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList\%LogonUserSid%
Value name: State
Value type: REG_DWORD
Value data: 0x10 (16)

16 = Roaming Profile

5 = Mandatory Profile

Have spoken with Microsoft and though 0 or 2 are referenced as required on other blogs and discussion forums, (and do work), they are not the values as per Microsoft internal knowledge base.

Now if you check the users local profile folder you’ll see that it’s still created based on the mandatory profile and HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentSession\ProfileList\UserSID\CentralProfile  REG_SZ will also match the mandatory profile path.

However Advanced System Settings-User ProfilesSettings shows that the Profile Type is set to Roaming

The down side of this fix

Be aware that while this will make the user profile behave as a Roaming Profile thereby allowing Remote Assistance to work, you’ll also start to have the usual problems with Roaming Profiles on your RDS/XenApp server that you’re trying to avoid in the first place.

And worse, you’ll create a new issue because Windows will refuse to delete the profile when the user logs off – irrespective of whether you have the GPO ‘Delete cached copies of roaming profiles‘ set. Needless to say, this is something you’re trying to avoid by using clean mandatory profiles in your XenApp environment and leads to all sorts of problems and inconsistencies across the farm.

As I mentioned above, this will fix Remote Assistance, but it will then break Mandatory Profiles. You’ll need to decide which is more important.

In my option, maintaining a consistent user environment is far more important than a single application, so the best approach is to look into an alternative Remote Assistance support tool – GoToAssist, LogMeIn Rescue, WebEx, etc.