One of the topics that falls under network administration is
that of remote administration. The benefits of being able to use various
technologies to remotely administer workstations and servers are numerous and
can include a decrease in time and cost associated with administering a

For example, if an organization has remote sites, a network
administrator does not necessarily have to visit the location to troubleshoot
technical problems. Instead some of the troubleshooting can be done remotely. Windows
XP includes two technologies that can be used for remote administration: remote
assistance and remote desktop for administration.

In this article, I will describe different tips and tricks
that you can use when remotely administering another computer. This article
assumes that you can successfully establish a remote desktop connection in
Windows XP.

Overview of Remote Assistance and Remote Desktop in Windows XP

Remote Assistance is a tool included with Windows XP that
enables you to remotely assist users with computer problems. Using remote
assistance, the expert or assistant can remotely view a user’s desktop and even
remotely take control of a desktop if permission has been granted. In order to
send remote assistance invitations from a computer running Windows XP, remote
assistance must be enabled using the Remote tab from the System Properties
dialog box.

Another technology used for remote administration is known
as Remote Desktop. When this functionality is enabled in Windows XP, you can
remotely connect to the computer and perform administrative tasks. The obvious
benefit is that you do not need to be physically seated at a computer in order
to administer it. This in turn can save you time and money.

Enable Remote Desktop on a remote computer

Normally, Remote Desktop is enabled using the Remote tab
from the System Properties dialog box shown in Figure A. Selecting the All
users to connect remotely to this computer will enabled Remote Desktop.
However, in order to use this method, you must log on to the local computer.

Figure A

Remote Desktop can be enabled through the System Properties dialog box.

Remote Desktop can be enabled remotely by creating a new RDP
listening port through the remote computer’s registry. You can accomplish this
by completing the steps described below:

  1. Open the Registry Editor on your computer.
  2. From the File menu, click Connect Network Registry.
  3. Locate or type in the name of the remote computer. Click OK.
  4. Browse to the following registry key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Terminal Server
  5. (REG_DWORD) as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

You can enable Remote Desktop on a remote computer through the registry

  1. Change the value data from 1 to 0. This will enable Remote Desktop on the remote computer.
  2. Click OK and close the Registry Editor.

The remote computer must be restarted in order for the
changes to take effect.

Locking a computer remotely

If you are physically seated at a computer, you can easily
lock your workstation by pressing [CTRL][ALT][DEL] and selecting the Lock
Workstation option. Alternatively you can also press the Windows Logo and [L].

However, for those of you who use the remote administrator
feature of Windows XP, you will soon discover that you can not lock the
workstation using either of these methods (for the obvious reasons of course).
What you can do though is create a shortcut on the remote desktop. When you
double click the shortcut, the remote computer will automatically be locked.

Here is what you have to do. Right click on the remote
desktop, point to New and click Shortcut. In the Create Shortcut dialog box,
type in the following as shown in Figure C: c:\Windows\System32\rundll32.exe

Figure C

You can create a desktop shortcut to remotely lock a computer

Click Next. Type in a name for the shortcut, such as Lock
Workstation and click Finish. Now when you double click the shortcut, the
remote computer will then go into a locked state.

Shut down Windows remotely

There are a few different ways that you can shutdown a
computer. You can use the Shut Down option from the Start Menu. Conversely, you
can choose the Shut Down option from the Windows Security dialog box.

If you frequently use remote administration in Windows XP to
manage remote computers, another shutdown alternative is to create shortcut on
the remote desktops. You can then use the shortcut to shutdown Windows XP remotely.

Once you are connected to the remote Windows XP computer,
you need to create a new shortcut using the procedure outlined in the previous
section. When you create the shortcut, type in shutdown -r. This will
shutdown and restart Windows. By default, a dialog box will appear indicating
that the computer will be shutdown in 30 seconds. You can change the wait time
by including -t followed by the number of seconds to wait. For example, shutdown
-r -t 02

Remote Desktop from Windows 98

In order to remotely control a Windows XP computer from a
computer running Windows 98, you must install the Remote Desktop Connection
client software. This software must be installed if you are running any of the
following operating systems: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98SE, Windows ME,
Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 2000.

You can find the Remote Desktop Connection client software
on the Windows XP CD (either Windows XP Professional or Home edition). If you
are running Windows XP you do not need to install this software because it is
installed by default. In any case, you can install the software by inserting
your Windows XP CD. From the Welcome page, click Perform Additional tasks.
Select the option to Setup Remote Desktop Connection as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Remote Desktop Connection client software can be installed from the Windows

Prevent users from connecting to your computer

Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 all
support Remote Desktop. As you already know, this allows users on a remote
computer to connect to your computer and access resources as though they were
physically seated at your desk.

If you have no intention of using Remote Desktop, you should
disable this option to increase security on your computer. If you occasionally
use this feature, you may even want to leave it disabled and only enable it
when you need to use it. You can easily disable Remote Desktop on your
computer. Simply right click My Computer on your desktop and click Properties.
Select the Remote tab and remove the check beside the Allow users to connect
remotely to this computer option. Once you click OK, users will no longer be
able to connect to your computer.

Save Remote Desktop connection settings

There are many different remote desktop related settings
that can be configured. Each time you change the settings, they will be saved
to a file called default.rdp. However, you can create your own file for
connection specific settings. This way the settings for a particular connection
will always be remembered.

From within the Remote Desktop Connection dialog box (click
Start | All Programs | Accessories | Communications | Remote Desktop
Connection), click the Options button. From the General tab, click the Save As
button. Type in a file name and choose the location where you want to save the
file. Next time you want to initiate a connection using those settings, double
click the file you just saved.

Prevent sounds on a remote computer

When you establish a remote desktop connection, sounds will
be played on the remote computer as you perform various tasks. If you do not
want sounds played on the remote computer when you execute a remote desktop
connection, all you have to do is edit the settings within the Remote Desktop
Connection dialog box.

You can open the dialog box using the steps outlined in the
previous section and the click the Local Resources tab shown in Figure E. Under
Remote Desktop Sound, click the drop down arrow and click Do Not Play. This
will prevent sounds on the remote computer (and the local computer).

Figure E

You can prevent sounds on a remote computer

Optimize remote desktop over dial-up connections

Not everyone these days use high speed connections. Dial-up
connections are still very popular. Typically Remote Desktop works well over
high speed connections but you can alter some of the settings to optimize the
experience over dial-up connections.

From the Remote Desktop Connection dialog box shown in
Figure E, click the Experience tab. Use the drop down arrow to choose your
connection speed. For even better performance, consider selecting a speed that
is slightly slower than the actual speed of your connection. You can further
optimize the connection by removing the checks beside the Themes and Bitmap
caching. Once you have configured the settings, return to the General tab and
click Save As so the new settings are saved.

Prevent wallpaper from being displayed

Another way that you can optimize Remote Desktop Connection
is to prevent wallpaper on the remote computer from being displayed on the
local computer. You can do this by editing the Local Computer Policy on the
Remote Desktop host computer.

Open the Group Policy Editor. Navigate to the following:
Computer Configuration| Administrative Templates| Windows Components| Terminal
Services. In the Details pane, double click Enforce Removal of Remote Desktop
Wallpaper, select Enable, and click OK. The desktop wallpaper configured on the
remote computer will no longer be displayed on your computer when you establish
a Remote Desktop Connection.

Remotely possible

Remote Desktop and Remote Assistance make it easier to
remotely administer computers that are running Windows XP. Once you are
familiar with establishing remote connections, you can begin using some of the
tips, tricks, and techniques outlined in this article to enhance your remote
administration experience.