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How To Access Your Computer Remotely Using Remote Desktop

Access your computer remotely, using remote desktop in Windows XP Professional.

Imagine that you are at work and want to check something on your home computer, or that you are on a business trip and forgot and important document on your office PC, or that you are actually at work (or home) and want to be able to see or control another computer that is located on another floor (or room).

There are several software products and services that let you do just that but why pay expensively and/or install bloated software with unpredictable side effects when there already is such tool on your Windows XP Pro PC?

Remote Desktop, included with Windows XP Professional, allows you to connect to your computer across the Internet from almost any computer, Netbook or Pocket PC. Once connected, you get mouse and keyboard control over your computer while displaying to you what's on the remote screen. You can then access all of your programs, files, and network resources as though you were actually sitting in front of the remote computer.

To simplify the instructions, this article will focus on connecting to a remote computer within your local network (LAN). Usually this means that both the controlling computer and the remote computer are located in the same building.

In a later article, we will provide instructions for connecting to a remote computer across the Internet. This will be a bit more complicated because firewalls, routers and dynamic IP addresses may be involved.

For now, let us focus on the local network scenario (simpler and faster).

Preparing The Remote Computer

Before connecting to the remote computer, we need to set it up to enable remote connection (by default, this feature is disabled for security reasons,). To accomplish that, follow the following steps.

  • Make sure that you are logged in as a user of type Computer administrator.
  • Right-click My Computer (on the Start Menu) and select Properties.
  • Click the Remote tab, select the Allow users to connect remotely to this computer check box, and then click OK.
  • Allow users to connect remotely to this computer

  • Click the Select Remote Users button. This will open the Remote Desktop Users dialog box in which you can select which users will be allowed into this computer. You can allow access for users already defined in the computer or allow access for yourself only.  Note that any member of the Administrators group can connect (even if it is not listed) - as long as it is protected by a password.

    Select Remote Users

  • If you need to add users other than those on the Administrators group, Click the Add button. This will open the Select Users dialog. Once you type a name, click the Check Names button to verify correct spelling and to convert it to a fully qualified user name.
  • Close all dialogs by clicking on their OK button. 

    Select Users

  • The computer is essentially ready now to be controlled remotely (assuming no firewall is blocking access).
  • We now need to retrieve the IP address of this remote computer, so that we can tell the Remote Desktop Connection application where to connect. Using Control Panel, open Network Connections.
  • Network Connections

  •   Then, right-click your network connection (Local Area Connection in this example), select Status menu item, then click the Support tab
  • Write down the address labeled IP Address (typically, on a local network, it will be of the form 192.168.1.x, but your case may vary): 

    Connection Status  

Working from the Controlling Computer (connecting with the Remote Computer)

You are now ready to start working from your controlling computer. To connect your remote computer, follow these steps:
  • Click Start, then select All Programs, AccessoriesCommunications, and then select Remote Desktop Connection.
  • In the Computer box, type the IP address of your remote computer (which you wrote down earlier), then click the Connect button.

Remote Desktop Connection

  • When the Log On to Windows dialog box appears, type your user name, password (and domain, if required), and then click OK.

Log On to Windows

  • The Remote Desktop window will now open, and you will see your remote computer's desktop - as if you were sitting in front of it! :-)

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