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Use Remote Desktop To Access Other Computers On a Small Office or Home Network

If you have a home or small office network with computers in several locations, you may want to work on them all from one machine. Today we take a look at the Remote Desktop feature in Windows that allows you to connect to each computer on the network in XP, Vista, and Windows 7.

Note: Remote Desktop is not a client and host feature available in Home version of Windows.

Enable Remote Desktop in Vista and Windows 7

The first thing we need to do is enable Remote Desktop on a Windows 7 or Vista machine. Right-click on the Computer icon on the desktop or from the Start menu and select Properties.

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Now click on the Advanced system settings link.

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Click on the Remote tab and under Remote Desktop select the bottom radio button… Allow connections only from computers running Remote Desktop with Network Level Authentication (more secure).

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You can also select what which users on the network will have Remote Desktop access.

sshot-2010-01-19-[23-02-57] 

Enable Remote Desktop in XP

Enabling XP in Remote Desktop is basically the same. Right-click on My Computer and select Properties, click the Remote tab and under the Remote Desktop section, click the box next to Allow users to connect remotely to this computer.

remotedeskxp

Using Remote Desktop

Now when a co-worker or member of your family needs help, or you want to work on computers in other locations and don’t want to site at each machine, you can remote into them. Pull up Remote Desktop and enter in the name or IP address of the other computer.

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The first time you try to remote in (where in this example I’m remoting into a home server), you may get a security screen which you’ll want to allow and can select to not show again.

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When you log in you will need to type in the name and password before connecting.

6saved credentials

Now you can work on the Windows Home Server from a desktop computer in the living room.

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Logging into a Vista machine is the same process…enter the user name and password for that machine.

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And then you can can start working on the Vista machine.

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Here we’re remoting from a Windows 7 machine into an XP computer on the home network, and another security message is displayed. It’s a bit different than when remoting into a server, but again you can choose not to have it pop up every time you connect.

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Working a way on the XP laptop…

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Options

When remoting into a machine, there are different options you can select before starting the session that will change the Remote Desktop experience. You’ll need to experiment with these settings to find what works best for you. If you’re looking to make the process faster, especially on older hardware, turn down the display size and color of the remote connection. It might not be as pretty, but you can get work done more quickly.

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While you’re logged into the other computer, the user will be locked out while your in it…

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So make sure the person sitting at the machine your working on doesn’t try to log in during your session because they will log you out.

13vista

Conclusion

Unfortunately Remote Desktop is not a client and host feature in Home editions of XP, Vista, or Windows 7. You can use Remote Desktop to initiate a connection From any edition of Windows. However, you can’t use it to connect to computers running Starter or Home versions. There are several free utilities and services you can use to get the same results, and we will take a look at some of them in the near future. IT guys already know about the great benefits of Remote Desktop, but if your starting out with a small network, this should help you get started in using it. If you do have Professional, Business, Enterprise, or Ultimate editions of Vista or Windows 7 or XP Pro installed on the machines on your network, using Remote Desktop is a great way to work on them from a central machine.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/20/10

Comments (21)

  1. Mike

    Thank you for the great tutorial. I’m looking forward for some of the free utilities and services that you guys are going to test out. I only have Home Edition of Vista and W7. Thanks.

  2. J.P>

    There are hacks out there that allow Remote Desktop on windows 7 home edition.

  3. Cade

    I’d love to know how I can get Remote Desktop working on my Windows 7 home edition :)

  4. Ant101

    On the remote pc’s I use, I don’t have any passwords set for any users. Do I need to setup a new user account with a new password on all the pc’s I wish to Remote Desktop to? Or can I just use the existing user account which has no password?
    Great rightup ! Thanks

  5. DjKilla

    Where would you get or find the ip address needed to remote log-in to the other computer?

  6. Mysticgeek

    @DjKilla: Depending on the version of Windows you’re running… for Vista and Win7 Click start and type CMD into the Search box and enter… then type in ipconfig and hit enter … that will give you the IP address.
    XP… Start \ Run type in CMD and then type in ipconfig…

  7. zOmgHawtSauce

    What windows xp Skin is that?

  8. angelfire

    This tutorial is great… It works! Although I’m looking forward for the info on how I can remote desktop computer without notice by the users… In this guide, the current user of the computer you’re accessing will be log out and if he log-in again you will be disconnected.

  9. Jr.

    TeamView is the best ever made!

  10. Arshad Malik

    Thanks for your valuable info but i could never use Remote Desktop Connection over the internet while using Ultimate Win 7 on both sides. I think it is useful for only within home or office purposes.
    Pls let me know how to use it over the internet if possible and which external ip i would write?

  11. brojaf

    I followed your excellent tutorial but I received the following error when I tried to connect my Vista Ultimate and Windows 7 Pro.

    An authenication error has occured: The local authority cannot be contacted

  12. Jochan

    How many concurrent connection is allowed with remote desktop on Window 7 ?
    Some tell me only one, others 5!
    I want to share 1 big tower destop with my family who are using old laptop on their bedroom.
    I was able to do it with XP PRO but I am not sure it will work with W7.
    Any clues ?

  13. Bob Dobbs

    If your version of windows doesn’t have remote desktop support, try the free/personal/trial/etc versions of vnc for windows. If you like vnc, install linux on your server and start securing your network :)

    http://www.tightvnc.com/download.php

    or

    http://www.realvnc.com/products/personal/index.html

  14. Kat

    so I tried all of this, but in the second image, my computer does not have that option for some reason, I even upgraded my computer to windows 7 so I could do this, and it will not work. can someone please help me?

  15. Eric

    @angelfire, i recently installed a software called Winconnect Server VS (http://www.thinsoftinc.com) on my Windows 7 Pro 64-Bit desktop. It costs a onetime $300 for 3 users but now I can have 3 computers access the same computer without effecting the person sitting at that computer. There are other products that may suit your needs but this product works great.

    Anyone know how to allow RDP connections from outside a network? I would like to access the computer mentioned above from my home (computer is at my warehouse) but cannot find any info. Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks

  16. Nishant

    pls tell me can i access user account with Remote Desktop connection who have no password in his pc???????

  17. UncleDavid

    Anyone seen a decent, useful tutorial on TeamViewer ?

  18. how to work at home

    You’ve got great insights about How to work at home, keep up the good work!

  19. shusil

    good but how to get password????????
    any idea?

  20. Pat

    I would also recommend to try web-based remote desktop tools. Some applications are free and are much easier in use, in my opinion. One of the most popular is Logmein. There is also Gotomypc is very reliable in work and has ability to connect up to 20 different systems. Webex is a good tool for mobile phones users. You can have more than 1 person access review the system at a time.
    Techinline is my favorite at the moment. It combines simplicity in use and quality in work.Has all necessary functions and very handy “pay as you go” option for occasional use.
    Hope,you find it helpful!

  21. PEERA

    Nice Tuition

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