This will be important when we talk about Windows based networking services and how to set them up remotely, like Network Monitor for example. You could set up a remote Windows Server with Network Monitor, remotely control it via Remote Desktop and watch the packets flow over the wire from your VPN at home! Remote Desktop is definitely a tool you will want to master the use of.
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What is Remote Desktop?
With the Remote Desktop feature in Windows XP, you can remotely control a computer from another office, from home, or while traveling. This allows you to use the data, applications, and network resources that are on your office computer, without being in your office. In the Illustration below, you can see that an Systems Administrator can quickly (and securely) get into their corporate offices and do that, system down, no problem, you can fix from anywhere you can find an Internet connection that is stable enough to let you work.
Remote Desktop is the new name for the older Windows based Terminal Services Client that (like with Windows 2000), would allow you to connect to and manage a server remotely for up to two connections, allowing you to do maintenance on the server and so on. Remote Desktop (Windows Server 2003 / XP), allows the same functionality, except it's enhanced and easier to use.
To use Remote Desktop, you need the following:
- Windows XP Professional installed on your office computer, or whichever computer you plan to operate remotely. This computer is known as the host. This article was written using Microsoft’s most current operating system – Windows XP Professional.
- Display data and keyboard data are sent over a WAN or Internet connection so make sure that you are working over a good connection… to use Remote Desktop over a slow connection could be a burden. It will work, but it may not respond as well as you would like. You can use low bandwidth connections, it will allow you to remotely control a system.
Get Remote Desktop
- The Remote Desktop Connection software is pre-installed with Windows XP so to verify that you have it, use the following URL:
- Start => All Programs => Accessories => Communications, => Remote Desktop Connection
- If you don’t have it, then you need to get it. There are options. First, you can get the Remote Desktop Connection software on the Windows XP Professional and Windows XP Home Edition product CDs
- If you don’t have a CD, then you can get it online. Use the links I provided in the links and references section to get the clients if you don’t have it currently available on your system.
The Remote Desktop Connection software can be installed on any supported Windows platform. One you get it, install it and open it up.
Let’s look at how install Remote Desktop (if not already installed)
Install the Client Software
To install Remote Desktop Connection software on a client computer
- Insert the Windows XP CD into your CD-ROM drive.
- When the Welcome page appears, click Perform additional tasks, and then click Setup Remote Desktop Connection as shown below.
- When the installation wizard starts, follow the directions that appear on your screen.
- You will have to agree to the license agreement
- Enter your personal information and click Next
- Finish the installation and you will now have Remote Desktop Installed on your XP system.
Enable Your Computer as the Host
Before you use Remote Desktop, your systems have to be set up properly to allow it to be ‘controlled’. One of the first things you will need to do is to ‘enable’ the remote control of a system. To do that, you will need to make a quick setting change in the System Properties.
- Log in as an Administrator (or as a member of the Administrators group)
- Open the System Applet in the Control Panel.
- Click Start => Control Panel => System Applet => Remote Tab
- On the Remote tab, select the Allow users to connect remotely to this computer check box, as shown below.
- Make sure that you have the proper permissions to connect to a computer remotely, and click OK.
Remote Desktop and XP Service Pack 2
If you're running Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) and you enable Remote Desktop, Windows Firewall will be automatically configured to allow Remote Desktop connections to your computer. There is one exception; this will not happen unless you have the Windows Firewall configured to allow no exceptions.
To allow exceptions in Windows Firewall:
- Open the Control Panel, Double Click the Security Center applet
- When the Security Center opens, Click on Windows Firewall
- Make sure you Clear the check box next to “Don't allow exceptions”
Start a Session
Once you have enabled your Windows XP Professional computer to allow remote connections, and installed client software on a Windows-based client computer, you are ready to start a Remote Desktop session.
Remember, as I laid out in the diagram in the beginning of this article, you must first establish a virtual private network (VPN) connection or remote access service (RAS) connection from your client computer to your office network. Without a connection ‘into’ the corporate network, you will not be able to remote a server, especially if its not internet facing *like on a DMZ* and using a private RFC 1918 address.
To create a new Remote Desktop Connection
- Open Remote Desktop Connection.
- Click Start => All Programs => Accessories => Communications => Remote Desktop Connection
- In Computer, type the computer name or TCP/IP (shown below) address of the host you want to control… remember, they have to be ‘allowed’ to be controlled first.
- Fill in your credentials, Domain if needed, save the connection as a ‘profile’ so you can quickly go back to it later and use it again.
- I don’t recommend checking the ‘Save my password’ check box because if your system becomes compromised, your servers (or other systems) have now become exposed to the Hacker. Now in the server, the whole corporate network is potentially exposed.
- Once you have put in your credentials and all other pertinent information, Click Connect.
- Your request will now be sent to the system you want to connect to. The Log On to Windows dialog box appears.
- In the Log On to Windows dialog box, type your user name, password, and domain (if required), and then click OK.
- The Remote Desktop window will open and you will see the desktop settings, files, and programs that are the system. The system that is in the corporate network can remain locked and safe while you are now inside it, working on it. Whatever you are doing cannot be seen by someone watching the console.
- Problems do occur, most commonly it’s just that the connection is either refused or it timed out because of latency. Here is a commonly seen error message:
To change your connection settings, (such as screen size, automatic logon information, and performance options), click on the other tabs available when you open the Remote Desktop Client.
To open a saved connection
- Saved connections are stored in you’re my Documents folder
- Windows Explorer => My Documents folder
- Click the .Rdp file for the connection you want to use
A Remote Desktop file (*.rdp) file is a profile that holds a bunch of settings. You can make copies of them as you would any other file and just change the options internally to that profile and save it with another name. You can copy all the *.rdp files and store them in a folder on your desktop; you can even edit the Start Menu and make a folder called RDP with all your profiles in it. Whatever makes it easy for you to manage…
To edit an *.rdp file and change the connections settings it contains, right-click the file and then click Edit.
To log off and end the session
- In the Remote Desktop Connection window => click Start => Shut Down.
- The Shut Down Windows dialog box appears
- In the drop-down menu, select Log Off <username> => click OK
In this article we covered the basics of Remote Desktop. We covered what its used for, how to install it, how to configure it and how to use it. Make sure you don’t leave this article out of your tool belt, in future articles you will see just how handy Remote Desktop can be.
Direct Download from Microsoft.com to your Desktop
Click here to download the client straight from Microsoft.com
Note – if this link no longer works, just go to Microsoft downloads page which can be found on the homepage.
Click here to go to the Microsoft downloads page
Remote Desktop Connection for Windows Server 2003 [5.2.3790]
Click here to view the Windows Server 2003 download page
Avoid the Commute: Work at Home
“Connect to Your Office”
Published: June 30, 2004 (Microsoft)
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Remote Desktop in Windows XP Professional lets you control your computer remotely using another PC. (Microsoft)
Windows XP Remote Desktop Web Connection Overview
With the Remote Desktop Web Connection in Windows XP, you can run Remote Desktop session from within Microsoft Internet Explorer. (Microsoft)
Set Up Your Computer for Remote Desktop
Read up on the three things you need to set up your computer to use Remote Desktop (Microsoft)
Enable Your Computer as the Host
Learn how to turn on the Remote Desktop feature on your office computer so that you can control it remotely from another computer. (Microsoft)
Install Remote Desktop Communications Client
If you're running Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition, Windows Me, Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 2000, you'll need to install the Remote Desktop communications client. (Microsoft)
Start a Remote Desktop Session
Once you have enabled your Windows XP Professional computer to allow remote connections, and installed client software on a Windows-based client computer, you are ready to start a Remote Desktop session (Microsoft)
Frequently Asked Questions about Remote Desktop
Get answers to common questions about the Remote Desktop feature in Windows XP (Microsoft)
How to change the listening port for Remote Desktop
Describes how to change the port that Remote Desktop listens on
Installing Remote Desktop Web Connection in Windows XP
Describes how to install the Remote Desktop Web Connection in Windows XP (Microsoft)
List of Remote Desktop fixes in Windows XP Service Pack 2
Lists the Remote Desktop fixes that are available in Windows XP Service Pack 2 (Microsoft)
How to configure the Remote Desktop client to connect to a specific port when you use Windows XP
Explains how to reassign a port number for a Remote Desktop client (Microsoft)
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Resolves an issue with Windows that returns an error message if you try to use the Remote Desktop Connection tool when you are not an administrator. (Microsoft)
How to Use Remote Desktop Sharing in NetMeeting
This article describes how to use the Remote Desktop Sharing feature in NetMeeting. (Microsoft)
How to Turn On Remote Desktop Automatic Logon in Windows XP
This article describes how to turn on Remote Desktop automatic logon. (Microsoft)
The Features of the Remote Desktop Client in Windows XP
This article describes the features of the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) 5.1 client, which is included in Windows XP. (Microsoft)
How to Disable Remote Desktop by Using Group Policy
Remote Desktop is a new feature in Windows XP Professional that allows you to connect to your computer remotely and work as though you are sitting at the console. (Microsoft)
Remote Desktop Connection Client Does Not Start Properly
When you start the Remote Desktop Connection client, you may find that the window size is the same as the remote desktop size, not full screen as expected. (Microsoft)
How a Remote Desktop Connection Affects Windows XP Professional
This article describes how Microsoft Windows XP Professional functions when you use a remote desktop connection. (Microsoft)