How to…Use Windows Remote Desktop

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Why would a Windows administrator want to use Remote Desktop? Simply stated, Remote Desktop saves a lot of legwork. You can manage all of your Windows servers and workstations from a single administrative computer. Using Remote Desktop to manage Windows desktop computers will bump any currently logged-on user off their sessions. (This is due to the fact that Windows XP Professional and Windows 2000 Professional normally support only one logged-on user. For the purpose of simplicity here, disregard the Windows XP Fast User Switching feature.) To attenuate this problem, Microsoft offers a feature called Remote Assistance.

In a nutshell, Remote Desktop is the client-side component of Microsoft Windows Terminal Services, which in turn, is a Microsoft thin-client technology that allows a user or an administrator to log on to a Windows system remotely in a so-called “virtual session.” This virtual session is conducted using Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) over Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) port 3389. What’s cool about Remote Desktop sessions is that they can be conducted over a variety of network connections, including LAN, T-1, frame-relay, dial-up, VPN, DSL or cable modem. It should be noted that Windows XP Home Edition does not support the Remote Desktop service.

During a virtual session, only mouse commands and keystrokes are passed from the remote computer to the host computer. The host computer, in turn, transmits a graphical view of its entire Windows Desktop to the remotely connected user. You can remotely access just about anything from the host computer: audio, physical ports, printers and so forth. Figure 1 depicts a “live” Remote Desktop session, with a Windows XP Professional workstation connected to a Windows Server 2003 host.

Figure 1: Live Remote Desktop Session

Basic Requirements for Using Remote Desktop
In order for a Windows XP Professional computer to be managed remotely using Remote Desktop, several prerequisites must be met. First, the “Allow users to connect remotely to this computer” option must be selected on the “Remote” tab of the System Control Panel program. Second, the remote user must either be a member of either the workstation’s local Administrators or its Remote Desktop Users group. Third, if a firewall is used on the computer, the firewall must be configured to allow incoming connections on TCP port 3389.

Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000 Professional do not ship with the Remote Desktop client software. However, you can download the Windows Remote Desktop Connection client software from Microsoft free of charge by visiting The downloadable client software allows you to make outgoing Remote Desktop connections from Windows 9x/Me/2000 computers. Note that the Remote Desktop Connection software is only the client-side component of Windows Terminal Services: the Remote Desktop Client software allows you to establish a remote connection to another Windows computer, but it does not allow another computer to remotely manage the local computer.

How to Use Remote Desktop Connection
Let’s take a quick tour of how to use the Remote Desktop Connection client software. To do so, assume you’re using a Windows XP Professional workstation and are connecting to another Windows XP Professional workstation in the same domain. By default, a shortcut for the Remote Desktop Connection software can be found in the Start menu by clicking Start, All Programs, Accessories, Communications and Remote Desktop Connection. Alternately, if you are a command-line aficionado, you can simply type “mstsc” at the Run prompt to start the Remote Desktop Connection client.

The bare-bones options will get you started. On the General tab, type the IP address or the host name of the target server or workstation in the Computer text box. Complete the User name and Password fields, and enter the domain name if the target computer is a member of a Windows domain. Finally, click Connect. By default, the Remote Desktop session will launch in full-screen mode. This option can be adjusted by visiting the Display tab of the Remote Desktop Connection client and making the appropriate adjustments.

Scenario One: Managing Windows Server 2003 From Windows XP Professional
This scenario is by far the easiest because all of the software is already part of the operating system. Provided that you install Terminal Services on Windows Server 2003 and you are a domain administrator, up to two administrators can simultaneously manage a Windows Server 2003 server by using Remote Desktop. By the way, it does not matter whether Terminal Services is installed in Application Server mode or in Remote Administration mode.

Scenario Two: Managing Windows XP Professional From Windows Server 2003
This particular scenario is a no-brainer as long as you have enabled the Windows XP Professional workstation for Remote Desktop and the workstation is a member of the server’s domain. Because the Domain Admins global group is automatically placed in each domain workstation’s Administrators local group, all domain administrators will automatically have Remote Desktop privileges on all Windows XP Professional domain workstations.

Scenario Three: Managing Windows 2000 Server From Windows XP Professional
This scenario is a little tricky. The key question is: Can you use Remote Desktop in Windows XP to remotely manage an older operating system? The answer is yes, actually. The caveat, of course, is that you must first install Terminal Services on the Windows 2000 Server computer and that you must be a member of the Administrators local group on the target server computer. Recall that Microsoft Terminal Services, when it operates in Remote Administration mode, allows two concurrent connections from administrators. You can then use Remote Desktop from any Windows XP Professional computer to manage the Windows 2000 Server computers. An interesting side-note is that the Windows XP Professional computers do not have to be members of the host server’s domain. That is to say, you can use Remote Desktop on your Windows XP Professional home computer with a high-speed Internet connection to manage any Windows computer (Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server 2003 or Windows XP Professional) on your corporate network—provided you can get through your company’s perimeter network security.

Scenario Four: Managing Windows XP Professional From Windows 2000 Server
This scenario can occur easily so long as you first download and install the Remote Desktop Connection client software on the Windows 2000 Server computer. You then can use the Remote Desktop Connection client software to establish a Remote Desktop session with any Windows XP Professional domain workstation.

Remote Desktop Web Connection
Remote Desktop Web Connection allows a Windows Server 2003 or a Windows XP Professional computer to host incoming Remote Desktop sessions from Web browsers. You can manage your Windows servers and domain workstations from an Internet cafe or from your home computer by opening Internet Explorer, accessing a Web server running on the target computer and downloading a small ActiveX control. Figure 2 shows a Remote Desktop Web Connection in action.

Figure 2: Remote Desktop Web Connection

Remote Desktop Web Connection can be installed using the Add or Remove Programs Control Panel in Windows XP Professional or Server 2003. You also can download the Remote Desktop Web Connection software from Microsoft by visiting www

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