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STT Virtual Desktop

Jump to Getting Started - Personalizing - Logging Off - Moving Files - Questions

The STT department maintains a virtual desktop environment for use by the members of the department. This system performs a number of tasks:

  • Allows for department members access to servers that have more resources than a desktop computer - currently, the cluster is 2 servers with 32 3 GHz processor cores and 128GB RAM each. This gives STT members a place to do medium volume processing without tying up their personal desktops (MSU's Institute for Cyber-Enabled Research maintains a high performance computing cluster for high volume processing)
  • Keeps files secure, since they don't leave campus. The servers are located in MSU's Crecent Road datacenter - when being accessed remotely, only the 'picture' is being transferred to your local computer.
  • Allows access to resources only available on-campus.
    Occasionally, even on the campus VPN, some sites will not be available - browsing the web from the remote server guarantees that your web browser is on campus.
  • Allows users access to software not available on individual desktops.
    Many users make occasional use of a paid software like Adobe Acrobat or Minitab - for occasional use, buying a dedicated license for that user doesn't make much sense, so that software is available on the virtual desktop (and for some programs (Minitab) multiple versions are available as well).

Getting Started:

There's a few ways to connect to this system:


The first time you connect to the Virtual Desktop system, it will take slightly longer to log in while it creates your user profile - after that the login process should go quickly.
You'll then be presented with a normal Windows desktop - there's a bit of configuration you'll probably want to do - unlike the MSU lab machines, you can personalize your settings and these will be saved after you log out.
Certain programs (like Outlook) are preconfigured when you log in to the machine, however, most users want to change some settings to match their preferences.

  • To set your default programs, click the start button and select Settings (⚙️) and then Apps. Click each section and select your preferred application. The STT recommended settings are:
    • Email: Outlook
    • Maps: (leave blank)
    • Music player: VLC Media Player
    • Photo Viewer: Windows Photo Viewer
    • Video player: VLC Media Player
    • Web Browser: Google Chrome - but only because it can be synchronized with your NetID to allow you to keep a common set of bookmarks/plugins. Firefox and Edge are also installed.
  • You may also want to personalize your theme - use Start -> Settings (⚙️) -> Personalization to change your background, colors, themes, font size, and more.
  • To make it quicker to access your commonly used software, it's recommended that you pin these programs to the taskbar. Their icons will then show up at the bottom of the screen, even when closed, so you can open them from there instead of needing to find them.
  • You may also want to change the tiles in the Start menu to reflect programs you use often - to make an application appear as a start menu tile, find the normal application icon, right click, and select 'pin to Start' - to remove a pinned program, right click the tile and select 'unpin from Start'

You're now ready to start using the virtual desktop system.

While you're using this system, please keep in mind that the resources of these machines are shared amongst all users currently logged in to the system, so don't try to 'max out' the servers - that causes issues for everyone. Most software is designed to 'play nice' - but some can be configured to consume more resources than available (for example, using a multi-threading package in R and asking it to create 100 threads). If your processing is taking up too many resources, and is affecting other users, you'll be asked to reduce the load or move the job to another environment - if you want to check and see what resources a job is taking, and make the most of the system, please consult the IT staff by emailing STT.ITHelp@msu.edu.

Logging Off:

There are two distinct ways to be done using the Virtual Desktop system - you can disconnect or sign out - they do different things.

  • Disconnect
    This should be used sparingly. If you have a job running, or a set of windows open that needs to stay open, you can use the 'Disconnect' option - this is similar to closing your laptop screen. Your 'session' stays active, your programs stay open and running, and connecting to the system again will bring you back to this session. This means resources are being consumed even if you aren't running anything. It also means that regular maintenance cannot be performed on the servers. That may mean that your session has to be forced closed, and any unsaved work will be lost. There's a few ways to disconnect:
    • Start -> Power symbol -> Disconnect
    • Close your remote desktop application without logging off
    • Right-click the Start button -> Shut down or sign out -> Disconnect
  • Sign Out
    This will close all your open programs and end your session. This frees up resources for others, and allows you to be directed to the best server the next time you log in. If possible, do this every day when you're done working.
    • Start -> User (default icon is a grey circle with a outline of a person in it - this may also be a picture of you) -> Sign Out
    • Right-click the Start button -> Shut down or sign out -> Sign out

Moving Files:

To get files in or out of this system, for small files or folders, you can use the copy/paste function over remote desktop - if you 'copy' a file on the remote desktop, minimize the connection (but don't disconnect), and 'paste' it on your local machine, the remote desktop software should transfer the file automatically.
For larger files, you can connect directly to where your files are stored without using the remote connection at all (as long as you're connected to the VPN) - they're at \\es.msu.edu\stt\RDSHRedirects
In that folder, there's a folder for your username, which contains your files from your Virtual Desktop. There's folders like Desktop that contains the files that are on the desktop, as well as folders like Documents, Downloads, etc...)

  • For Windows users: To view this location, just open any folder and paste that location into the address bar - it'll ask you to log in - use your MSU credentials (again, you may need to add CAMPUSAD\ before your username)
  • For Mac users: In Finder, from the Go menu, select 'Connect to Server...'
    In the Server Address field, paste in smb://es.msu.edu/stt/RDSHRedirects and press Connect
    You'll be asked for credentials, make sure the 'Registered User' box is checked, and use your NetID as username (may need a CAMPUSAD\ in front of it) - one more connect and you should see the folder.


If you run into any issues getting connected or moving your files, please reach out to the IT staff - easiest way is emailing STT.ITHelp@msu.edu to open a ticket, you can also stop by C407 Wells Hall, or call 517-432-4068.


May 3, 2022 Yuehua Cui elected as a Fellow of American Statistical Association

Yuehua Cui, Professor and Director of Graduate Programs in the Department of Statistics and Probability (STT), has been named an elected Fellow of the American Statistical Association (ASA). 

April 19, 2022 Dr. Huan Lei honored with NSF Early CAREER Award

Huan Lei, assistant professor in the Department of Statistics and Probability (STT) is among five Michigan State University (MSU) researchers from the College of Natural Science (NatSci) who have received NSF Early CAREER Faculty Awards. Their cutting-edge research pushes the limits of science, while their devotion to education is preparing the next generation of scientists to propel their field even further. Collectively, over the next five years (2022-2027) they will receive more than $3.7 million in National Science Foundation (NSF) funding.

March 18, 2022 STT PhD student awarded IMPACTS fellowship for 2021-2022

Sikta Das Adhikari, in her third year with the STT PhD program, was awarded an IMPACTS fellowship for the 2021-2022 academic year. Integrated training Model in Plant And Compu-Tational Sciences (IMPACTS) is an NSF-funded program for training doctoral students to employ advanced computational/data science approaches to address grand challenges in plant biology.

March 17, 2022 Dr. Maiti named AAAS fellow for his contributions to statistics and data science

Tapabrata “Taps” Maiti, MSU Foundation Professor in the Department of Statistics and Probability, was recently named an American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS, fellow for his distinguished contributions to the fields of statistics and data science, particularly for contributions to data-driven discovery, and for outstanding teaching and training of the next generation of data scientists.

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