Remote Desktop is disabled by default in Windows, but it’s easy enough to turn on if you want your PC to be remote control requests from the network. Today we’ll cover how to enable it from Windows 10 and earlier versions.
Remote Desktop allows you to take remote control over another networked PC. It’s comprised of a Remote Desktop server service that allows connections to the PC from the network and a Remote Desktop client that makes that connection to a remote PC. The client is included in all editions of Windows—Home, Professional, Enterprise, and so on. The server part is only available on Professional and Enterprise versions. This means that you can initiate a Remote Desktop connection from pretty much any PC running Windows, but you can only connect to PCs running a Pro or Enterprise edition.
Of course, if you are running a Home edition of Windows on a PC to which you want to make a connection, you can always use a third party service like TeamViewer, or even Chrome.
We’re covering Windows 10 and earlier versions in this article, but you can also easily enable Remote Desktop connections on Windows 11.
To enable Remote Desktop connections, open up the Start Menu and search for “remote desktop settings” to directly access the Remote Desktop panel from the PC Settings app. You could also open up Settings and then search from it within there, but it’s simpler to do it this way.
Once you’re at the Remote Desktop settings panel, you can simply flip the “Enable Remote Desktop” toggle from Off to On, which will enable incoming connections from a Remote Desktop client. When you flip the toggle, you’ll be asked to verify that you really meant to do that, and you can simply confirm that you do.
Once Remote Desktop connections are enabled, you’ll be presented with multiple options for keeping your PC awake or making it discoverable, but you’ll have to click through the Show settings for each to get to the details for them.
If you select the Advanced Settings link you can do other things like change the RDP port on Windows 10 or Windows 11, or change whether you are using Network Level Authentication, but those are generally things only advanced users should be doing, so you might want to leave them alone.
If you scroll down further on the Remote Desktop settings panel, you can click the “Select users that can remotely access this PC” option to choose whether you want specific users to be able to access the PC—but it’s worth noting that accounts with Administrator privileges can automatically access the PC, and you’re almost certainly using an Administrator account if this is your personal PC.
You’ll also note that you can find your PC’s name on this screen, which is handy for when you connect from another computer.
The old-school Control Panel still exists in Windows 10, and you can use it to enable Remote Desktop connections. For many of us, this is the easiest way to do things.
To enable Remote Desktop Connections with the old Control Panel, use the WIN + R shortcut key combination to pull up the Run dialog, and then type in
sysdm.cpl and hit the Enter key.
You’ll be presented with the System Properties panel, where you’ll want to switch to the Remote tab on the right. Once you are there, you can simply select “Allow remote connections to this computer” from the Remote Desktop section, click the Apply button, and you’ll be ready to go.
You can use the “Select Users” button to configure exactly which users have access to connect to this PC, but it’s worth noting that users with Administrator access are already enabled by default, so you probably won’t need to bother with this.
In Windows 8 and 10, the option for only allowing connections from PCs running Remote Desktop with Network Level Authentication is also enabled by default. Modern versions of Windows all support this level of authentication, so it’s best to leave it enabled. If you must allow connections from PCs running Windows XP or earlier, you’ll need to disable this option.
If you’re using Windows 7 or Vista, you’ll want to use the WIN + R shortcut key combination to open the Run Dialog, type in sysdm.cpl, and hit Enter. From there, you’ll select the Remote tab.
Things here work the same as in Windows 10, but are presented in a slightly different way. Notice that you have three distinct options in Windows 7—don’t allow remote access, allow connections from any version of Remote Desktop, and allow only connections that run with Network Level Authentication.
On any version of Windows, you can also click the “Select Users” button to set up specific users that are allowed to make remote connections. When you’re done setting things up, click the “OK” button to have your PC start listening for remote connections.
If you’re planning to connect from other PCs on the same local network, that should be all you have to do. Windows automatically creates exceptions in the Windows Firewall to allow remote connection traffic to get through.
You can start a remote connection from those computers by clicking Start, typing “remote,” and then choosing the “Remote Desktop Connection” result. Just type in the name or IP address for the PC to initiate the connection.
If you’re planning to connect to the remote PC over the Internet, you’ll have to do a little extra setup that involves allowing Remote Desktop traffic through your router and forwarding those types of packets to the right PC. Check out our guide to accessing Remote Desktop over the Internet for more information about that.
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