The Remote Desktop client is included with Windows XP Pro. If you’re using Windows 9x, Me, NT or 2000, download the client software from www.microsoft.com. Armed with this tool, you’ll be able to remotely control a Windows XP system from a computer running Windows 95, for instance.
In XP Pro Remote Desktop is usually turned off by default. To turn it on, go to Control Panel, System, Remote and tick the Remote Desktop checkbox. If you want only certain users to access your PC when you’re not there, you can create an access list. To do so, click on Advanced and add the users that you want to be able to access your PC.
Windows Firewall has to be instructed to permit Remote Desktop traffic through to your PC. To give the firewall its orders, open Control Panel, Windows Firewall. Ensure ‘Make no Exceptions’ is left blank. Now select the Exceptions tab and ensure Remote Desktop is ticked. Click ok and close Windows Firewall.
If you use a router you may need to set up port forwarding. This tells it which PC to send traffic to when receiving data via a certain port. Remote Desktop uses port 3389. Many routers have special port-forwarding configuration screens for standard applications and special screens for custom applications.
Linksys routers present you with a table, within which you specify IP addresses and the ports that are to be forwarded. With Netgear routers you must add a ‘service’ to a firewall rule to permit inbound or outbound traffic. If the service you require isn’t in the predefined list, you will need to add it.
Remote access is easier if you have a static IP address, but you can use a dynamic DNS service to auto-track your dynamic IP address. And a web address is easier to remember than a lengthy series of numbers. Turn on dynamic DNS support in your router and then visit a site such as www.dyndns.org to register your settings.
To connect to your remote PC, open Remote Desktop Connection and type in either an IP address or its dynamic DNS URL. Type in the username and password. If it’s a standalone PC ignore the Domain entry. Before connecting it’s worth saving your settings, so click the Save As button and give the connection a name.
Customising: you can change the Terminal window size and colour depth by clicking on the Display tab. To hear sounds from the remote PC locally, click the Local Resources tab. You can connect local printers and disk drives here as well. Don’t forget to specify the speed of your connection using the Experience tab.
You can run the remote desktop full-screen or in a window. Running it full-screen can be less confusing and reduces the need to scroll. However, if your desktop has a lower resolution than the remote one, it’s best to run the session in a window. Toggle between full-screen and the window mode with Ctrl, Alt, Break.
You can use Remote Desktop just as productively within your local area network. You might use it to control your server if it doesn’t have a monitor. You can use the IP address or, if you know the remote PC’s ‘Computer Name’, you can use this. Use this method with internet sessions if the PCs are connected via a VPN.
RDC allows you connect to only one PC on a remote network. It is possible to hack the Registry on other PCs to use ports other than 3389, but a simpler way is to launch another Remote Desktop session on the remote PC and use that to connect to another PC on the remote network – perhaps from server to workstations.
As useful as Remote Desktop is, it isn’t available on Windows XP Home Edition and it can’t be retrospectively installed. The precursor to Remote Desktop, NetMeeting, mirrors most of its functionality. To set up NetMeeting, click Start, Run, enter ‘CONF’ and click ok. For information visit www.microsoft.com/windows/netmeeting.
It isn’t always convenient to use the Remote Desktop client. Instead, try Remote Desktop Web Connection. This loads the Remote Desktop client within a browser. By pointing a browser that supports ActiveX controls at a host PC running XP Pro, you can access your remote desktop over the internet.
Version 6.0 of the Remote Desktop Connection client has been released In preparation for Vista. Apart from several security improvements, RDC6 supports multiple monitor spanning, 32bit colour and font smoothing. Download it from www.microsoft.com/downloads or search for KB925876.