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How to Access Windows Remote Desktop Over the Internet

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We’ve covered several solutions for accessing your desktop remotely over the Internet, including TeamViewer and VNC. However, if you have a Professional edition of Windows, you already have Windows Remote Desktop installed.

By default, Windows Remote Desktop will only work on your local network. To access Remote Desktop over the Internet, you’ll need to use a VPN or forward ports on your router.

Before you continue, enable Remote Desktop on your computer and ensure you can access it from other computers on your local network.

Set Up a VPN

If you create a virtual private network (VPN), you won’t have to expose the Remote Desktop server directly to the Internet. Instead, you’ll first have to join your computer to the VPN. Your remote computer will act as if it’s part of the same local network as the computer running the Remote Desktop server. This will allow you to access Remote Desktop and other services only exposed on your local network.

There are a number of VPN applications you can use to create your own VPN, from complicated servers you configure by hand to easy-to-use graphical applications. We recommend LogMeIn Hamachi – download and install it on the computer you want to Remote Desktop to. Click here for more information on setting up Hamachi.

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Once you’ve created an account, you can log into Hamachi on another computer and join both computers onto the same “Hamachi network.” They’ll act as if they’re connected directly, even if you’re doing this over the Internet.

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You can now use the Remote Desktop Connection application on your computer to connect to the Remote Desktop server. Use the IPv4 address of the other computer, which is displayed in the Hamachi window while you’re connected.

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Forward TCP Port 3389

You can also skip the VPN and expose the Remote Desktop server directly to the Internet. If you do this, ensure you have strong passwords set up on your computer. You wouldn’t want malicious people logging into your computer remotely.

We’ll go over the process quickly here. For more detailed help, read our in-depth guide to port forwarding. If you follow that guide, ensure you forward TCP port 3389 to the computer running Remote Desktop.

First, locate the IP address of the computer running Remote Desktop. On the computer running Remote Desktop, open the Control Panel, click View network status and tasks, and click the name of your current connection to the right of Connections. Click the Details button and note the number displayed to the right of IPv4 Address. (Click here for more detailed step-by-step instructions to find your computer’s IP address.)

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Next, access your router’s web interface. If you don’t know its address, it’s probably the same as the “IPv4 Default Gateway” address in the Network Connection Details window. Plug this address into your web browser’s address bar to access the router’s web interface.

Log into the router and locate the Port Forwarding section. Forward TCP port 3389 to the IPv4 address you located earlier.

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You can now log into Remote Desktop over the Internet – connect to your network’s external IP address, also known as its public IP address.

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If you’ve forwarded ports, you may want to set up a dynamic DNS service so you can always connect, even if your network’s IP address changes. You may also want to set up a static IP address on the computer running the Remote Desktop server. This will ensure that the computer’s internal IP address won’t change – if it does, you’ll have to change your port forwarding configuration.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 12/30/12

Comments (16)

  1. Xantes

    1. “They’ll act as if they’re connected directly, even if you’re doing this over the Internet.”
    Well, not really…

    Technically speaking THEY ACT as if they were in the same LAN!
    Even using VPN LogMeIn Hamachi any two computers are never connected peer to peer. They communicate through their server similar as if was a router in between them. The only way of connecting two computer – physically – is by means of a cross-over cable whereas ANY device in between them will not connect two PC directly.

    2. When behind a router NEVER forward a port if you firstly didn’t assign a permanent IP to whatever TCP/IP device either to the device itself or into your router. Only afterwards comes the port forwarding steps or I am certain that you are aware that you are risking rather not accessing that TCP/IP device than accessing at all.

  2. Danny

    How to Access Windows Remote Desktop Over the Internet

  3. RaduDee2

    Suggest translating external port listener to something like 33389 unless one takes pleasure in cleaeing windows security logs regularly. There are bots out there probing 3389 and trying dictionary attacks.

  4. rKiller

    I think team viewer is a better way to go….Although this works…..its a bit difficult (Still I use this way all the time)

  5. krunk_fu

    Opening port 3389 to the internet always make the security logs on your workstation blow up. I’d suggest forwarding a high numbered port, like 43567 or something random on the external to 3389 internally. Then connect with RDP like 123.123.123.123:43567 or mstsc /v 123.123.123.123:43567

  6. Alan

    The non VPN approach does not seem to work for me. I’m very familiar with RDP and router configuration for port forwarding, etc. so I don’t think I missed anything. I use Team Viewer and will probably use that going forward but just wanted to see if this worked.

    Any help would be appreciated.

  7. TheFu

    You can also skip the VPN and expose the Remote Desktop server directly to the Internet. If you do this, ensure you have strong passwords set up on your computer. You wouldn’t want malicious people logging into your computer remotely.

    Using any RDP (Remote Desktop) or VNC remote access without a strong VPN is crazy. Strong passwords are not enough, a VPN is required for any real security. IPSec, OpenVPN, and any non-PPTP VPNs are probably secure enough for business use. PPTP (the built-in tool for Windows), has been hacked a few times and shouldn’t be used.

    Sure, we **can** allow remote desktop connections without a VPN, but that is very dangerous and should never be done.

  8. Kari Lopez

    What about Chrome Remote Desktop? http://support.google.com/chrome/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2596389
    Few restrictions on when, where, and how you use it.

  9. Tom

    FYI on teamviewer:
    is free for home usage only (LogMeIn Hamachi probably also), and is very easy to use.
    Any desktop inside your compagny with Teamviewer must have a licence (more than 600$) but your home computer does not have one.

    A true free vpn is ultraVnc.

  10. mmg1818

    RDC for ruter port is 3398

  11. jasray

    Try tsweb Internet connection–

    http://www.mickyjay.co.uk/blog/?p=29

    http://forums.techarena.in/vista-setup-install/765364.htm

    Better tutorials exist–

    Works fine with Windows 7; the only drawback is having to use IE for the connection. Can even make an SSL cert.

  12. jasray

    Hmmm . . . my comment leading readers to tsweb is gone, but I shall say it again. It’s much safer and easier to use tsweb on any version of Windows than the information presented here. The problem with the method outlined is the need to have Hamachi installed on both sides; on one side of the connection, that could be problematic. However, generating a key and using tsweb (just google for instructions or maybe Chris is going to make it his own project) is simple and wonderful. The quality is much higher as well.

  13. Richard Steven Hack

    I really recommend UltraVNC as well. It has major advantages over other VNC implementations. First, it can be encrypted so you don’t need a VPN, although I have used it over Hamachi (before it went commercial) for additional protection. Second, if you have several machines on a home network, you can set up a “repeater” on one of the machines and UltraVNC will then be able to access ANY machine on your network that also has the UltraVNC server installed by going “through” the one machine with the repeater.

    I used to use UltraVNC over Hamachi to do client support but LogMeIn made the commercial use of Hamachi subject to fees, so I had to abandon that approach. I would set up all the machines at the client site with UltraVNC servers, and one with the repeater. Then I could access any machine on the network remotely.

    Also, on Linux, there is SSVNC which not only does all the usual VNC stuff, but also supports UltraVNC including the encryption capability. So you can access a Windows machine via Linux or a Linux machine via UltraVNC viewer on a Windows machine.

    By the way, there are also Linux Remote Desktop clients so you can access a Windows machine via Remote Desktop from Linux.

    The main reason for using any VNC over Remote Desktop is that it doesn’t affect the user on the other end (if there is one.) Remote Desktop locks out the user on the other end in Windows (unless it’s the same user logging in remotely.) VNC doesn’t. If you’re just accessing your own machine and no one else is using it, then it doesn’t matter.

  14. TheFu

    @rsh: If you want remote access to Linux systems, then ssh is your best friend. ssh is how 99.99999% of UNIX systems are contacted over the internet securely. When/if an issue arises with ssh, it is patched on every impacted platform within 1 or 2 days.

    If you want a GUI-based remote access to Linux systems, NX is your best friend. It is 2-3x more bandwidth efficient than VNC or RDP-based solutions and uses the ssh port connection.

    I avoid running Windows, but when I must, it is inside a virtual machine. Since the VM host is running Linux, access to the Windows PC is still available through NX.

    If I really just want a VPN, then openvpn is impossible to beat. Simple, effective, 100% FLOSS, 100% free.

    Nothing against UltraVNC – I’ve used it, but not in years since discovering NX. NX works well over a slow dialup connection when pure ssh isn’t enough.

  15. KomanderKain

    Three words – Chrome Remote Desktop

  16. antonio brandao

    How to do it without VPN ? You mentioned it but didn’t say how :)

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