Connect to a Windows computer using remote desktop

If you ever find yourself needing to access your computer from another location it helps to setup remote desktop (RDP) on it. Many IT consultants use RDP to provide off-site services for the their clients. At BD PC Services we use it (and a couple of other “tricks”) to give our clients all over the world the best service we possibly can. It works well, comes with Windows (or can be freely downloaded), is simple to learn, and is effective.

Preparing for RDP connections
Before you can use RDP there are a few things you need to be ready with. Here are a list of those things and how to go about getting and/or preparing them:

The RDP software
In Windows XP/Vista: start->run-”mstsc”->ok (without any quotes) and the Microsoft Terminal Services Client should open up. This confirms that you have the software installed. XP and Vista install it by default so unless you’ve removed it from the installation it should be there. If you are on any other Windows operating system or it is missing from an XP or Vista installation you can download RDP from Microsoft.Once you’ve downloaded the software go ahead and install it on the machine you want to connect to. Please note that the computer you want to connect to must be running Windows XP, Windows 2003 (2008) server, or Vista. Other versions of Windows are able to connect to another computer using RDP protocols, but can not have a computer connect to them using RDP.
Setting up the host computer to receive incoming client connections
First make certain the host computer is using a supported operating system (XP, 2003/2008 server, or Vista) otherwise you’re just wasting your time. Once you’ve established that it is using the proper O/S take the following steps to enable it:

  1. Start->run->”sysdm.cpl” (no quotes)->enter
  2. In the system properties window: Remote (tab)->check “Allow users to connect remotely to this computer”->Ok
  3. Start->settings-control panel->network connections->”Your connection”
  4. Right click on “Your connection”->properties->advanced (tab)->Settings (Windows firewall section)
  5. Give the computer a static IP if you are behind a router
  6. Disable Windows Firewall by clicking the radio button next to “Off(Not Recommended)->Ok->Ok – Please note you do not have to turn Windows firewall off for RDP to work. If you prefer to leave it on the you’ll need to allow exceptions.
  7. Open port 3389 (default RDP port) for incoming and out going TCP traffic on any software firewall solutions (zonealarm, comodo, sygate, etc) you might have running
  8. If you are behind a router you will also need to forward port 3389 to the IP of the computer you want to be able to connect to. There is some great documentation about how that can be done at www.portforward.com
  9. Find out you WAN (wide area network) IP address. Easiest way to do this is go whatismyip.com and just write it down. You’re going to need it later.
Setting up the client computer
Getting the client computer configured to use RDP is much easier. In fact you only need to download and install the RDP client mentioned earlier in this article if your O/S doesn’t have it installed by default. Once you’ve done that there shouldn’t be any need to do anything else aside from connect to the remote computer.
Connecting to the host computer with RDP
If you’ve done everything right you should be able to make a connection from the client to the host using the following steps:

  1. Start->run->”mstsc”->enter
  2. Computer: put the IP address of the host computer in here (the one you got previously in this article). It should look like xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx where the x’s represent numbers
  3. Click connect and follow the prompts. Within a few moments you should be connected to the host computer
Further information about RDP connections with Windows computers
As simple as it seems RDP can become a daunting task when it isn’t working right. If you find yourself stuck the following resources might prove helpful to you:

  1. Get started using Remote Desktop with Windows XP Professional
  2. Enable Your Computer as the Host
  3. Start a Remote Desktop Session

But hey we understand that people are busy and sometimes you just don’t have the time to wade through something like this. If that is the case we at BD PC Services would be more than happy to help you out with the issue. Just let us know and we’ll be happy to help you out.

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