How do I… Configure Microsoft Windows XP Remote Desktop?

Microsoft Windows XP's Remote Desktop application biggest benefit is that it provides access to a desktop as if you were sitting in front of the system. Follow these steps to configure Windows Remote Desktop and administer systems remotely.

Supporting remote systems is much easier thanks to Windows XP's Remote Desktop application. The application's biggest benefit is that it provides access to a desktop as if you were sitting in front of the system. In addition to receiving the actual desktop GUI, you can access network shares and printers as if seated at the PC.

While remote users can request help using Windows XP’s Remote Assistance feature, often administrators must update settings and make configuration changes to remote machines. Occasionally employees must work from home, too. Windows XP’s Remote Desktop simplifies the process. Follow these steps to configure Windows Remote Desktop and administer systems remotely.

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Windows Remote Desktop

Connecting to a remote desktop is fairly straightforward, but a few elements must be in place first:

  • The host desktop must have Internet access (preferably high-speed).
  • The local system (the PC connecting to the remote desktop that will serve as the host) must be running Windows XP Professional (or a Windows 2003-flavor server) or have the appropriate Terminal Services tools installed.
  • Firewalls between the local system and the remote host must be configured to pass the appropriate traffic.
  • Remote Desktop must be installed and enabled on the target system.

Installing Remote Desktop

Remote Desktop is an optional Windows XP Professional service. To install it on a host system (to enable a computer to accept a remote connection request), Microsoft recommends you:

  1. Click Start.
  2. Click Control Panel.
  3. Select Add Or Remove Programs.
  4. Select Add/Remove Windows Components.
  5. Select Internet Information Services.
  6. Click the Details button.
  7. Select World Wide Web Service.
  8. Click the Details button.
  9. Check the Remote Desktop Web Connection checkbox.
  10. Click OK.
  11. Click Next.
  12. Click Finish to complete the wizard.
  13. Click Start.
  14. Select Run.
  15. Enter Net Stop w3svc and click the OK button or press Enter.
  16. Click Start.
  17. Select All Programs.
  18. Select Microsoft Update.
  19. Select Scan For Updates.
  20. Install all critical updates on the host system.
  21. Click Start.
  22. Select Run.
  23. Enter Net Start w3svc and click the OK button.

Installing Remote Desktop connection on non-XP systems

Non-Windows XP systems can also access Windows systems running Windows Remote Desktop. The local system used to access the remote computer must have the remote connectivity client software installed. To install the required Terminal Services components:

  1. Insert a Windows XP Professional CD in the local system’s CD or DVD drive.
  2. From the resulting Welcome To Microsoft Windows XP screen, click Perform Additional Tasks.
  3. Click Setup Remote Desktop Connection from the What Do You Want To Do Screen.
  4. The InstallShield Wizard will open; click Next on the Welcome To The InstallShield Wizard for Remote Desktop Connection.
  5. Read and accept the license agreement and click Next.
  6. Enter the customer name and organization, and specify whether the desktop connection is to be available to all users or only the logged in user and click Next.
  7. Click Install.
  8. Click Finish.

The older Windows system can now open the Remote Desktop Connection menu by clicking Start | Programs | Accessories | Communications | Remote Desktop Connection or by opening a command prompt and typing mstsc.

Firewall settings

Before attempting a Remote Desktop session, ensure the host system’s Windows Firewall is set to enable the connection. Follow these steps to confirm the Windows Firewall is properly configured:

  1. Click Start.
  2. Click Control Panel.
  3. Access the Windows Firewall menu (by clicking Windows Firewall using Control Panel’s Category View or by clicking Security Center and selecting Windows Firewall using the Classic Vew).
  4. Click the Exceptions tab.
  5. Confirm the Remote Desktop checkbox is checked and isn’t overridden by a group policy.

When working with other firewalls, it’s usually best that port 3389 (and port 80) be opened to enable Terminal Services traffic (and the connection to the Remote Desktop application). This is especially true when attempting to connect to Small Business Server 2003 desktops.

Enabling user access

To ensure a remote system is configured to support Remote Desktop, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start.
  2. Click Control Panel.
  3. Select Performance and Maintenance and click System (if the view is set to Category; if the Classic View is in use simply click the Control Panel’s System applet).
  4. Click the Remote tab.
  5. Confirm the Remote Desktop checkbox is checked (Allow Users To Connect Remotely To This Computer).

Next, you need to specify which users can access the system remotely. To do so:

  1. Open the Remote tab again (following the steps just described).
  2. Click the Select Remote Users button, shown in Figure A.
  3. Click the Add button.
  4. Specify those users that should receive permission to access the system remotely.
  5. Click OK to close the Select Users window.
  6. Click OK to close the Remote Desktop Users window.

Figure A

Confirm a system is set to enable a Remote Desktop connection using the Control Panel’s System applet’s Remote tab.

By default, any members of the Administrators group can connect to the system, even if they’re not specifically authorized using the Remote Desktop Users window. Should you wish to remove a user’s permission to log on remotely, highlight that user’s name and click the Remove button.

Configuring Remote Desktop

Once those conditions are met, users and administrators should be able to access systems using Remote Desktop by:

  1. Clicking Start.
  2. Selecting Run.
  3. Typing mstsc and clicking OK.

Alternatively, one can:

  1. Click Start.
  2. Click All Programs.
  3. Click Accessories.
  4. Click Communications.
  5. Click Remote Desktop Connection.

The Remote Desktop Connection Screen will appear. By default, an abbreviated version displays, as shown in Figure B

Figure B

By default, a simple Remote Desktop Connection menu appears.

To display more remote connectivity options and configure additional settings, click the Options button. Clicking the Options button reveals five tabs, from which additional settings are configured, as shown in Figure C

Figure C

Clicking Options reveals a host of additional Remote Desktop Connection settings.

From the General tab, you can enter the IP address or fully qualified domain name (FQDN) of the computer you wish to connect to within the Computer field. If you use the default menu shown in Figure A the remote computer will prompt you for a username and password.

However, from the General tab, you can specify the username, password and domain in the appropriate fields and skip the logon process. Saving this information makes quick work of logging on to remote connections, such as those used often by employees wishing to connect to their office desktops from home.

The Display tab, shown in Figure D provides options for configuring the desktop size. It’s important to match the remote system’s desktop size to the local PC, otherwise the user may go crazy trying to navigate menus that can consistently reach beyond his or her monitor’s range if configure incorrectly.

Figure D

The Display tab enables changing desktop size and color settings.

Use the Local Resources tab, shown in Figure E to set sound, keyboard and local device options. For example, you can configure remote system events to generate sounds on the local PC (by selecting Bring To This Computer within the drop down box within the Remote Computer Sound section or automatically connect to remote printers, disk drives and even serial ports (by selecting the respective checkbox from within the Local Devices section).

Figure E

The Local Resources tab provides access to remote printers and disk drives and enables triggering system sounds, among other options.

The Programs tab, shown in Figure F, permits users to trigger a specific program upon establishing the remote connection. To enable the feature, check the Start The Following Program On Connection box and specify the program’s location using the provided fields.

Figure F

Use the Programs tab to start a specific program upon connecting to the remote system.

The Experience tab, shown in Figure G makes it possible to configure the remote connection’s look and feel. For example, you can set the connection speed to maximize performance, apply the remote system’s theme and even display its desktop background. Or, to optimize performance, you can turn off menu and window animation, forego displaying the remote system’s desktop background, etc.

Figure G

Configure options on the Experience tab to optimize the remote connection’s network performance.