Since its beginnings, Windows Remote Desktop became an essential tool for IT professionals. There is not a day that goes by, that I don’t use it at work. It has saved me major aggravation, specially when I am at home and I need to access the office to solve any problem. A few days back I wrote a tutorial on how to enable Remote Desktop in Windows XP; now is the turn of Windows 7 and Vista. The concept is basically the same, however, since things changed substantially starting with Vista, the steps are a little different. Before we start, it is important to mention that Remote Desktop is not available in the home versions of Windows Vista or 7.
Note: If both computers are on the same network or on a VPN connection, this first section of the instructions will be enough to get you connected.
In order for Remote Desktop to be operational, it needs to be enabled in the computer you will be connecting to (the destination computer). To enable it in Windows 7 or Vista, do the following:
1) Click on the Start orb.
2) Right-click on “Computer“.
3) Click on “Properties“.
This will open the computer’s system window. On the lower right-hand side of the screen, you will see a link named “Change Settings“; click on it.
This will open the “System Properties” window.
Click on the “Remote” tab.
Then, you have two options you can choose to enable remote desktop:
1) Allow connections from computers running any version of Remote Desktop (less secure).
2) Allow connections only from computers running Remote Desktop with Network Level Authentication (more secure).
Which option to choose?
While the last option seems to be the obvious choice due to its higher security level, it might not be appropriate for everybody; bear in mind that if you choose it, you won’t be able to connect using Windows XP or Linux, since they do not support “Network Level Authentication”. I always use the previous option since in my home and work networks, I have different operating systems. However, this is entirely up to you.
You should now be able to connect remotely to this machine using the main “Administrator” account. If you would like to give permission to additional users, read the next section.
Allowing Additional Users (Optional)
If you want to add other users besides “Administrator”, do the following:
1) Click on the Start Orb.
2) Right-click on “Computer“.
3) Click on “Manage“.
4) On the “Computer Management Window“, under “Local Users and Groups“, click on “Users“.
Note: Skip step 5 if your user is already on the list.
5) On the right-hand side of the window, right-click anywhere on the white background and select “New User“. Fill out the information and add it to the list.
6) Right click on the new user (or modify an existing one) and click on “Properties“.
7) On the new window that will pop-up, click on the “Member of” tab.
8) Click on the “Add” button.
9) On the next screen, on the blank field, type “Remote Desktop Users” and click “OK“ to add your user to this group.
And that is all. Your user should now have permission to connect remotely to this computer.
Opening Ports in the Firewall (Optional, not for VPN Users)
If you decide to connect directly from the web without having a secure connection such as a VPN, you can open the right ports in the firewall. Please note that it is not recommended to leave these ports open all the time, since even though your computer might be password protected, you are making it easier for hackers to access your computer. This, however, can be done when a quick remote access connection is needed and there is no other alternative.
All routers are pretty much the same, but they can use different terminology. Basically, you have to enter your router’s configuration; look for the “Port Forwarding” section and forward port 3389 for both TCP and UDP protocols.
Just remember to remove the port forward once you are done working with Remote Desktop; you do not want to leave your computer exposed to hackers.
Connecting “To” and “From” Other Operating Systems Via Windows Remote Desktop
Did you know you can connect remotely to a Ubuntu Linux machine using Windows Remote Desktop? Did you know you can connect from Ubuntu Linux to a Windows Machine using the real Remote Desktop as well? (not the VNC knock-off that comes with Ubuntu which is slow as molasses). I have written the following articles just for this: