Remote Desktop

One of the most useful management tools available for Windows users is Remote Desktop. If you need to log on to a distant computer as if you were sitting in front of it and perform some management tasks you can use the Remote Desktop functionality found in Windows 7 computers. Previous versions of Windows have this functionality but in this article we will focus on Windows 7 operating systems.

Let’s start with some operational conditions that effect remote connections.

  • Both computers need to have network connectivity and that there is no device in the path that blocks remote desktop traffic. By default, Remote Desktop listens on port 3389 (via TCP).
  • You can perform a remote logon of no one is currently logged on to the remote computer.
  • The remote computer needs to be switched on, unless it has the Wake On LAN configured to turn on the computer when an incoming remote desktop session is detected. This applies also to when the computer is in sleep or hibernate mode. However, you can turn off these modes from the Power options.
  • If another user is logged on when an incoming Remote Desktop session is initiated, she/he will get a message indicating that another user wants to log on remotely. The logged on user has the ability to deny or accept the connection.
  • If a user is remotely logged on and a local user attempts to log on, the remote user will be prompted in the same way as above. Therefore, a logged on user, whether that login is remotely or local can deny or accept the other user’s request.
  • If a user is disconnect while in session that session remains in memory and can become active later on when the same user reconnects.
  • Remote connections can be made through NAT/Firewall devices over the Internet and over modem or VPN links. Connections can use both the IPv4 and IPv6 protocols.
  • Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise editions can be hosts and clients while the rest can only initiate a remote connection as clients.

Configuring Remote Desktop

Remote Desktop is not enabled by default while Firewall rules are automatically set up when you enable it. To start a Remote Desktop connection as a client, type Remote Desktop in the Start search text box and click the Remote Desktop Connection link. From the Remote Desktop Connection window type either the computer name or the IP address of the remote computer in the Computer text field as shown below:

To configure Remote Desktop on a computer click the Remote settings item from Control Panel\System and Security\System and you should get the System Properties as shown below:

When you enable Remote Desktop you need to select either to allow connections from any computers running any version of Remote Desktop client software or to restrict connections running Remote Desktop with Network Level Authentication. Although, the latter is more secure only clients running Windows Vista and Windows 7 support this feature. Windows XP requires Service Pack 3 to be able to support this feature. If you want to allow a standard user to connect remotely you must add his/her account to the local Remote Desktop Users group through the Select Users... button. From the Remote Desktop Users window use the Add… button to add users. In addition you can remove listed users through the Remove button. Note, that members of the Administrators group can connect even if they are not listed.

Finally, note that if after enabling Remote Desktop on a computer you reset Windows Firewall to its default settings you need to re-enable the Remote Desktop firewall rules manually. If you are not sure how to re-activate these rules you can simply disable and re-enable Remote Desktop from the System Properties window!