I may use the following terms here and there, so let me start by defining them…
RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) – the act of accessing a Windows system remotely using integrated technology.
RDC (Remote Desktop Client) – the software program used, such as the integrated Remote Desktop Connection program, or a mobile version.
VPN (Virtual Private Network) – the act of bridging two separate networks with a private, “virtual” tunnel.
WAN (Wide Area Network) – the “internet” side of most networks, also called your “public IP”. See it at http://www.WhatIsMyIP.com.
FQDN (Fully Qualified Domain Name) – the full name of your domain at the office, such as mydomain.local.
That said, utilizing Remote Desktop is fairly simple, especially from any Windows machine (XP or above). You should NOT be connected to a VPN that links you to the network where the remote system is, as it won’t work the same way if you are. (You can do it by changing the computer/hostname. The local connection, if on a VPN or just if you’re on the same network, is just the name of the computer, frequently without any of the port stuff listed below.) It depends on how your IT support has set things up – they WILL need to configure everything and provide you with the correct details before any of this will work! (Port and protocols need to be forwarded through any firewalls or routers too.) The actual steps/locations/names/icons will vary slightly by operating system and version, but they all work the same way. Here’s Microsoft’s official instructions: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/connect-using-remote-desktop-connection
Basically, here’s the longer (text) version of what’s in the video…
To begin, head into the Start Menu, then look under “All Programs -> Accessories” (and maybe Communications if needed) for “Remote Desktop Connection” and click it to open it. Once open, it will ask you for a Computer or Host name. The proper format for this is:
Where IP is the name or IP of the remote system you wish to connect to and PORT is the specific port assigned to the computer you want to connect to. (The default port is 3389, but you can change it to be ANY available port. This is required if you want multiple systems to be available behind the same public/WAN IP.) They are separated by a colon (:) with no spaces anywhere. For example, if you wanted to connect to a computer at “remote.my-domain.com” on port 3390, you would type the following into the “Computer” (or Host) field in the Remote Desktop Connection box:
At this point, you could just click the Connect button, and it would start the process of connecting. (The first time you do it, you’ll get a few warning popups. I recommend checking the boxes about “don’t show me this again” at the bottom of each before clicking OK through them.) Eventually, it should ask you for a username and password. This is frequently the same information you use at the actual computer (be it at the office or home). Your IT provider will need to provide this if you don’t know it. If it doesn’t work when you just type your username (like MyName), then add “@DOMAIN” after it (like MyName@DOMAIN) where DOMAIN is the FQDN of your network (or just the name of the computer if it’s on a workgroup). This tells the system to check your user and pass against the list held by your domain controller (or computer). Once finished with the remote connection, I’d recommend logging off so the system is available for someone else to use. (This is by choice, as if you have a system that ONLY you use, feel free to just close off the RDC via the X on the bar and it will be the way you left it when you return later, be it locally or remotely.)
That’s all you need to do and know to function. If you want to to tweak it a bit more to make it a better experience, before hitting the connect button, click the Options in the lower left. On the first screen, you can type your username (and domain as stated above) so it doesn’t ask you each time, as well as check the box about saving credentials, which will allow you to not have to type the password each time either. At the very bottom, I’d recommend clicking the “Save As…” button, then saving a copy of your settings to an easy to find place, such as your Desktop. Make sure to name it something that makes sense to you (like “Office Computer” or whatever). If you just hit “Save” instead, it will overwrite the “Default.rdp” file, which is what controls the standard settings for all future sessions. Usually it’s best to save a copy and mess with that instead of messing with everything you’ll ever do from this point forward, but it’s not a huge deal if done by accident.
If you don’t change anything on the next tab (Display), the RDC will display the connection in full screen mode (giving you a small hovering bar at the top for minimizing or closing it). Dragging the top slider will change this behavior, giving you other resolution options. (I wouldn’t go below 1024 x 768 or else you’ll have issues seeing everything within the window.) This is handy to change if you want to work on both the remote system and the local system, as having it in a window instead of full screen makes switching easier. You can lower the color depth (next drop down below the slider), which will help for slower connections. Otherwise, it will just look uglier. =)
Under the Local Resources tab, I recommend clicking the “Settings…” button under the “Remote audio” section and changing “Remote audio playback” to “Do not play”, unless you need the little Windows dings and such to be streamed from the remote system to your local one. The rest of the options are best left as they are, but feel free to explore and tweak them if desired. (We can make it so you can print to your local printer through the RDC by installing your local printer on the remote system. It’s easier than it sounds.)
The next tab (Programs) allows you to launch a program a program on the remote system when you connect, such as Quickbooks. By making a shortcut to the program you want to launch, then opening the properties of that shortcut, you can copy/paste the information requested.
Under the next tab (Experience), I recommend changing the drop down to “Modem (56Kpbs)”, which will allow it to function the fastest. You’ll give up a little bit of eye candy, but it will worth smoother. You can play with these settings to find the best balance of ease of use, speed and functionality for your individual needs.
Lastly, on the “Advanced” tab, I’d recommend changing the drop down to “Connect and don’t warn me” to avoid silly pop-ups and warnings that are meaningless. Leave the “Connect from anywhere” stuff alone, as we don’t have a gateway server configured.
Once complete, make sure to save it as stated above and you’re good to go! You can also right-click on the saved RDP file and select “Edit” to alter these settings at any time. (Just make sure to save it when finished, if you so desire.) As always, let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!
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