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Using Remote Desktop in Windows XP

By: Arie Slob


If you enable Remote Desktop in Windows XP Professional, it will give you the ability to access your desktop from a remote location. You can access your applications, files and network resources as if you where sitting behind your computer. Remote Desktop is an evolution of the Terminal Services functionality formerly available only in the Microsoft® Windows® 2000 Server family of operating systems. Remote Desktop is not available in Windows XP Home Edition.

How to enable Remote Desktop

When you install Windows XP Professional, Remote Desktop is disabled by default. You need to enable Remote Desktop before you can use it to connect to the computer remotely:

  1. Make sure you are logged in as an Administrator
  2. Click Start, right-click My Computer, and then click Properties
  3. In System Properties, select the Remote tab
  4. Select the Allow users to connect remotely to this computer check box

To enable remote access on your Windows XP computer, you need to be a member of the Administrators group or of the Remote Desktop Users group. To add users to the Remote Desktop Users group:

  1. Make sure you are logged in as an Administrator
  2. Click Start, right-click My Computer, and then click Properties
  3. In System Properties, select the Remote tab
  4. Click the Select Remote Users button
  5. In the Remote Desktop Users dialog box click Add
  6. In the Select Users dialog box, type the user name(s) you want to add, or click the Advanced button, and click Find Now. This will find all the users on your system. You can also change the locations to find users on the network.
  7. After adding the user(s), click OK

Select Users

The names of the selected users appear in the Remote Desktop Users dialog box.

Remote Desktop Users

Installing Client Software

To use your computer to connect to a system running the Remote Desktop, you need to set up your computer as a Remote Desktop client. For that you will need to install a Remote Desktop Connection (or Terminal Services Client). You can also install a web-based version of the client software, Remote Desktop Web Connection. Another requirement is that your computer must be able to connect to the remote computer by means of network connection, dial-up, or Internet connection.

Client software versions for various operating systems are:

Operating System

Client Software


Windows XP (all versions)

Remote Desktop Connection (installed by default)

Start > All Programs > Accessories > Communications > Remote Desktop Connection

Windows 2000 Professional

Remote Desktop Connection (installed by the user)

Install from the Windows XP Professional CD

Windows 2000 Server

Terminal Services Client (installed by default if Terminal Services is installed)

Start > Programs > Terminal Services Client
Recommended: Install the latest version of Remote Desktop Connection from the Windows XP Professional CD

Windows 95/98

Remote Desktop Connection (installed by the user)

Install from the Windows XP Professional CD

Windows NT 4.0

Remote Desktop Connection (installed by the user)

Install from the Windows XP Professional CD

To install Remote Desktop Connection on computers running Windows 95 / 98 / NT 4.0 / 2000 Server / 2000 Professional:

  1. Insert the Windows XP Professional operating system CD into your CD-ROM drive
  2. From the Setup menu click Perform Additional Tasks, and then click Set up Remote Desktop Connection
  3. In the Remote Desktop Connection-InstallShield Wizard, follow instructions until installation is complete


Establishing a Remote Desktop Session

After installing the appropriate client software on the client computer, you can connect to the remote computer:

  1. Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > Communications > Remote Desktop Connection
  2. In the Remote Desktop Connection dialog box, in the Computer box, type the name or IP address of a computer running Windows XP Professional for which you have Remote Desktop permissions
  3. Click Connect
  4. In the Log On to Windows dialog box, type your user name, password, and domain (if required), and then click OK

You can pre-configure your Remote Desktop sessions by pressing the Options button in the Remote Desktop Connection. Here you can:

  • Pre-configure your settings and click the Save As button. Enter a filename and click Save. Each time you want to open that particular session, click Open, and then double-click the filename.
  • Adjust the display size of the Remote Desktop session to fit your display configuration. On the Display tab, move the Remote desktop size slider. You can also select the color depth.
  • Adjust other actions, such as sound from the remote computer, keyboard functions, and local devices.
  • Adjust the performance from the Experience tab, where you can adjust some windows effects of the Remote Connection.

Note: Terminal Services clients use TCP port 3389 to communicate with the remote computer, so you must ensure that this port is not blocked by a firewall.

Security in Remote Desktop

To enhance the security of a Remote Desktop session over the Internet, you should prevent automatic password passing. To do this, you can enable the Always prompt client for password upon connection in the Terminal Services Group Policy setting. When this setting is enabled, you must supply your password in the Windows Logon dialog box whenever you start a Remote Desktop session.

To access Terminal Services Group Policy

  1. Click Start > Run, type mmc in the Open: box, and click OK
  2. On the File menu, click Add/Remove Snap-in
  3. In the Add/Remove Snap-in dialog box, click Add
  4. In the Add Standalone Snap-in dialog box, click Group Policy, click Add, and then click Finish
  5. Click Close in the Add Standalone Snap-in dialog box, and click OK in the Add/Remove Snap-in dialog box
  6. In the Console Root pane, double-click Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Terminal Services
  7. The Always prompt client for password upon connection policy is under Encryption and Security

You can further enhance security by using the settings under Client/Server data redirection here you can disable:

  • Clipboard redirection
  • Smart card device redirection
  • COM port redirection
  • Client printer redirection
  • LPT port redirection
  • Drive redirection
  • Audio redirection

Microsoft Knowledge Base Articles Relating to the Remote Desktop:


HOW TO: Connect to Terminal Services with Color Resolution That Is Greater Than 256 in Windows XP


HOW TO: Shadowing a Windows XP Professional Remote Desktop Session


How a Remote Desktop Connection Affects Windows XP Professional


How To Turn On Remote Desktop Automatic Logon in Windows XP


Remote Desktop Session Appears to Disconnect the Session


Uninstalling Remote Desktop w/ MSI Does Not Remove Mstscax.dll


Installing Remote Desktop Web Connection in Windows XP


Remote desktop connection "The local policy of this system does not permit you to logon interactively"


Audio Redirected When Using Terminal Services Sounds Garbled


MIDI Files Not Playing w/ Audio Redirection in Remote Desktop


You receive an error message when you attempt to establish a Remote Desktop connection to connect to another computer


The Features of the Remote Desktop Client in Windows XP


Windows XP Theme Is Not Available in Remote Desktop Session


Can't See Program in Remote Desktop\Terminal Services Connection


ClearType Is Not Supported in a Remote Desktop Session


Some Windows Key Combinations Dont Work on Remote Desktop Client


Remote Desktop Connection Client Does Not Start Properly


Connectivity Problems When Language Is Different from Client


"Logoff" and "Shutdown" Are Missing From the Start Menu


Err Msg: Unable to Log You on Because of an Account Restriction


Configuring Remote Desktop Client to Connect to Specific Port


How to Disable Remote Desktop by Using Group Policy


How to Change the Listening Port for Remote Desktop


Cannot paste information between local and remote computer during Remote Desktop connection


Desktop Icons Retain Position of Remote User w/ Remote Desktop


Remote Desktop Connection Does Not Stay Minimized


How To Make a Local Printer Available During a Connection to a Remote Desktop in Windows XP Professional


How to Remove Entries from the Remote Desktop Connection Computer Box


How to gain access to local files in a remote desktop session to a Windows XP-based or to a Windows Server 2003-based host computer


Remote Desktop Connection software may cause an access violation if FilterQueueType is set


Remote Desktop Connection does not permit loopback connections to ports that it is not listening on


Hotfix that lets you control whether a user can save a password for Remote Desktop Connection sessions to a terminal server in Windows XP or in Windows 2000


How to enable Remote Access logging in Windows XP


You receive a "Remote computer has ended the connection" error message when you use the remote desktop connection tool on a Windows XP SP2-based computer


A Windows XP-based client computer may leak memory when the Remote Desktop utility is configured to connect serial port devices to the host computer


A Windows XP-based remote computer no longer automatically enters standby or hibernation after you disconnect from that computer


How to limit Remote Desktop Connection connections to a specific network interface in Windows XP