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The Windows 7 Remote Desktop

written by: C.D. Crowder•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 4/30/2010

Access your desktop or laptop computer remotely via the Windows 7 Remote Desktop. Learn how to setup and connect to remote computers using this powerful tool.

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    What Is Remote Desktop

    Remote Desktop is a small application included with all versions of Windows 7 that allows you to use a client computer to connect to a remote, or host, computer. You can view and use the host computer’s desktop as if you were actually sitting at the remote computer. This can be incredibly useful for accessing office files from your home computer or vice versa.

    Many users use Remote Desktop to connect to a network computer via their laptop to access shared files, presentations, check email, access necessary applications or enter data into a remote system. Remote Desktop can be used on both desktops and laptops and the procedure for setting up and using a connection are the same for both.

    Please note that some versions of previous operating systems can only act as a host and not a client. The client computer is the computer used to initiate the connection. Windows XP Home Edition and previous Windows operating systems must have the Remote Desktop software installed separately in order to accept remote connections. Also, though the Windows 7 Remote Desktop is available on all versions, only Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate and Windows 7 Enterprise can act as a host computer or accept incoming connections. Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic and Windows 7 Home Premium cannot accept incoming connections, but these versions can initiate connections.

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    Setting Up Remote Desktop

    Before you start trying to connect to a remote, or host, computer, you must set up Remote Desktop in Windows 7. The host computer must be configured to accept incoming Remote Desktop connections. In order to accept connections, press the “Start” button on your desktop, right click “Computer” and choose “Properties.” On the left side of the Properties window, click the “Remote settings” link. You may be required to enter an administrator or user password to continue.

    Under “Remote Desktop,” select a connection option and choose “Select Users.” This allows you to choose which users, groups or computer can connect to your computer. Choose “Remote Desktop Users” and press “Add.” Search for users or groups and press “Add” to add each individual user or group.

    If you want to be able to connect to a remote computer at any time, you must change the sleep and hibernation settings to “Never.” These can be found in your “Power” or “Display” settings menus. If you want to prevent remote access to your computer while you’re working, you can change the Remote Desktop settings to prompt you to accept incoming connections. This is found in the Remote Desktop application’s settings.

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    Connecting Via Remote Desktop

    Open the Windows 7 Remote Desktop application to initiate a new connection. Click the “Start” button and type “Remote Desktop Connection” in the “Search” box. Select “Remote Desktop Connection” when it appears. Type the full computer name or IP address, if you’re on a local network, into the “Computer Name” box. The full computer name includes the name of the host computer, the domain name and all other higher level domain names. For instance, to connect to a computer in the ABCCompany domain, in the Accounting sub-domain, that’s named Fred, the full computer name would be fred.accounting.abccompany. Enter a valid user name and password that has access to the remote computer and press “Connect.”

    Customize your Remote Desktop connection by pressing “Options.” You can change how the remote computer’s desktop appears on your computer, including whether your view the remote desktop’s wallpaper or not. You can also choose how local resources, such as hardware, respond when you connect. This typically includes printing remotely.

    The last three tabs, which are “Programs,” “Experience” and “Advanced,” allow you change which programs on the remote computer’s desktop are available or running when you connect. The last two deal with further customizing the remote computer and even restricting connections to your own desktop computer.