If you’ve never used Remote Desktop, this is a really great way to remotely connect to another computer (office, home, etc.) and get work done that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do if you weren’t physically on the machine. I regularly use Remote Desktop to connect to servers in our office, connect to users’ computers for technical support, and to connect to my home computer for file access.
To use Remote Desktop, you need to understand a few things. First, Remote Desktop only works with Windows XP and Windows 2003. I mean you can only connect to a Windows XP or 2003 machine. You can use Windows 98, ME, or 2000 to connect to a Windows XP machine. or 2003, but you cannot connect to a 98, ME or 2000 machine remotely. If you want to be able to connect to a Windows 2000 or earlier computer, you will have to buy commercial software.
Since this post is over 7 years old, the above statement is out of date. You can also connect to a Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8 computer. Also, since Microsoft recently ended support for Windows XP, this guide will become less useful over time. If interested, check out my post on setting up Remote Desktop for Windows 8.
Second, you need to make sure that you are logged in as a computer administrator on the machine in order to configure it for remote access. If you brought your computer from a store or received it directly from the manufacturer, the first username you create will always be an administrator account.
An easy way to check if you are an administrator is to go to the Start menu, Control Panel and then click User Accounts. You will see your username and it should say Administrators or Computer Administrator next to it.
Third, the administrator account on your computer must have a password. If you do not need to enter a password to access Windows when you start your computer, then you do not have a password set and Remote Desktop will not work. Remote Desktop prevents you from connecting to a computer with a user account that does not have a password.
When you go to User Accounts and click on the administrator account, you will see the option to create a password for the account. Do this before moving on.
Then, if the computer you are connecting to is running Windows XP SP3, you need to open the firewall to allow remote desktop connections. To do this, go to Start, Control Panel, Windows Firewall and click the Exceptions tab.
Make sure the Remote Desktop check box is selected. The last thing to do for Remote Desktop to work properly is to tell Windows that we want to allow users to connect remotely. So far we have just completed the requirements, but now we need to allow remote connections to this computer.
Go to Start, Control Panel and click System. Click the “Remote” tab and make sure the “Allow users to connect to this computer remotely” checkbox is selected. Don’t worry about clicking the Select Remote Users button, because administrators have access by default. If you want to grant remote desktop access to an account without administrator rights, click this button and add the user.
And it’s all! Your computer is now set up for Remote Desktop! First, try connecting to the XP machine from another computer on your home network. To connect, navigate to another computer and click Start, All Programs, Accessories, Communications, and Remote Desktop Connection. If you want to connect to an XP computer from Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8, just click Start and search for Remote Desktop Connection. In Windows 8, go to the Start screen and start typing to search.
In the dialog box, you can enter the IP address or computer name. The best way to connect is to enter the IP address of your computer. To get the IP address of the computer you want to connect to, go to your computer and click Start, Run and type CMD.
In the black command window, type the word “ipconfig” without quotes as shown below and press Enter.
You will see your IP address listed along with other information, but you have nothing to worry about. Make a note of this IP address (192.x.x.x or something similar) and enter this number exactly in the text box of the remote desktop on the other computer (the computer you are connecting from).
Click “Connect” and you should see a login popup, which means that you have successfully connected to another computer. Now you can enter the username and password of the computer administrator.
If you get a message that the computer cannot accept new connections, etc., it means that something has been configured incorrectly. Remember that you need to give the administrator account a password, open a port in the firewall and check the “Allow remote connections” checkbox in the system properties. All three points must be performed on the computer to which you want to connect.
Once you can connect from the same network, you can now try to connect from the outside. So if you want to connect to your home computer from the office, you can, but you have to do a few extra things.
First, you need to get your public IP address (not 192.168.xx number), and you can do this by going to the computer you want to connect to and going to the website http: //www.whatismyip .com / and this will give you your public IP address. This is a unique address that can be used from anywhere in the world to connect to your specific location. Unfortunately, on most home connections, this public IP address changes frequently and without prior notice. Basically, to fix this problem, you need to use dynamic DNS. I won’t go into details in this post, but read my other posts on how to set it up:
Configuring Your Router for Dynamic DNS
What is dynamic DNS and how to set it up
The second thing you need to do is open a port on your router (unless you are connecting your cable modem directly to your computer) and forward that port to the computer you want to connect to. This is how you would do it on a Netgear router (like mine), and the procedure is almost the same for other routers, except it can be called something else. Most manufacturers’ websites have articles on how to configure a particular router for port forwarding as it is very common.
You will need to log into your router by entering its IP address into the address bar of your browser. You can find out the IP address of your router by going to any computer on your network (to which you want to connect), opening a command prompt as we did above and typing ipconfig again. In addition to the IP address field, you will also see the default gateway, this is your router. The screenshot above shows that mine is 192.168.244.2.
Enter this address into the address bar of your browser as shown below and press Enter:
Most likely, you will be prompted for a username and password. This can usually be found in the documentation or on the underside of the router. For my Netgear router, the username was “admin” (lower case) and the password was “password”.
Once you log in, you should see a Port Forwarding / Port Triggering option or something very similar. I know Netopia calls these holes, and in Linksys it could be a service or applications.
When you go to the port forwarding page, you can see various layouts / options. The main parts will give the forwarding a name, for example “Remote Desktop”, select the external port and internal port, protocol and select the IP address for the device to which data is supposed to be forwarded.
For remote desktop, you should always choose TCP as the protocol. By default, Remote Desktop uses port 3389, so enter it in the Internal and Export Port fields. Finally, the internal IP address must be the IP address of the XP machine. In some settings, you will be asked for a start port, end port, and start port. Just put 3389 for any ports.
Click Apply and you’re done! You should now be able to use your public IP address (enter it in the Computer text box in the Remote Desktop Connection dialog box) to connect through your router to your computer!
If you’re having trouble connecting remotely to your Windows XP computer, please leave a comment here and I’ll try to help. Enjoy!