Configuring and Using Remote Desktop in Windows 7

Before you start

Objectives: Learn how to enable and how to use Remote Desktop Connection in Windows 7.

Prerequisites: you should know what is Remote Desktop in general.

Key terms: Remote Desktop, remote management, Windows 7, session

 Remote Desktop

In this demo we will see how can we use Remote Desktop in Windows 7 to manage remote computers.  The first thing we we need to do is enable Remote Desktop on the destination computer. We can do that in Control Panel > System and Security > System > Remote Settings.

 1 Remote Settings

Remote Settings

In Remote Settings we can allow Remote Desktop in two ways. We can allow connections from computers running any version of Remote Desktop (less secure), or we can allow connections only from computers running Remote Desktop with Network Layer Authentication (more secure). In our case we will select the option with Network Layer Authentication since we only have Windows 7 machines on our network.

 2 Enable Remote Desktop

Enable Remote Desktop

If we select the less secure version, we will be able to connect to this machine from Windows XP or even older versions of Windows. Network Level Authentication will first authenticate the Remote Desktop connection before opening the actual session.

By default only members of the Administrators and Remote Desktop Users local group are able to make connections to a client running Windows 7 using Remote Desktop. On the Remote settings tab, we can click on the Select Users button, and add additional users to this list. Those users will be added to the Remote Desktop Users group. This list displays all the current members of that group.

3 Remote Desktop Users

Remote Desktop Users

Initiating Connection

On the source computer we can go to Start > All Programs > Accessories > Remote Desktop Connection. This will open the Remote Desktop Connection software.

4 Remote Desktop Connection Software

Remote Desktop Software

If we click on the “Options” link, we will be able to specify all options for the connection. On the Geearal tab we can specify the name of the remote computer.

 5 General Tab

General Tab

In our case we will connect to “WIN-7-VM2” machine. We can also specify the username we want to use to connect. We can also save this actual connection as a connection file. This way we will be able to simply double-click on that connection file and the remote session will start with our saved settings.

On the Display tab we can show the Remote Desktop session in full-screen or use different resolution, depending on our computer screen. We can also choose the color depth of the remote session. Lower color depth can give us little better performance.

 6 Display Tab

Display Tab

On the Local Resources tab we can specify the audio, keyboard and devices and resources settings.

 7 Local Resources Tab

Local Resources Tab

If we click on the Settings button in the “Remote audio” section, we can specify if we want to bring the audio onto this computer, play it on remote computer or choose not to play audio. We can also choose to record audio from our computer or not record audio at all.

 8 Audio Options

Audio Options

When it comes to keyboard settings, we can specify when to apply key combinations. In our case, when we are in full-screen mode, the remote computer will receive the key combination we press.

Under “Local devices and resources” we can specify if we want to connect the printers that are on this source computer into the remote computer so we can print from the remote computer to my locally attached printers. We can  even select to use local clipboard on remote computer. If we click More button under this section, we can even specify if we want to use smartcards, serial or parallel ports, drives and other plug and play devices on the remote machine.

 9 More Devices And Resources

More Devices and Resources

On the Programs tab we can specify a program that we want to start when the connection establishes.

 10 Programs Tab

Programs Tab

On the Experience tab we can select different visual settings for the session. The more options we remove, the faster our connection will be, and vice versa. We can also simply choose a connection speed and it will optimize all options automatically.

 11 Experience Tab

Experience Tab

In our case we have selected LAN option, since we will be using this connection in our LAN.

On the Advanced tab we can configure server authentication settings when connecting to a server that does not support Network Level Authentication. Here we can also configure settings to connect trough Remote Desktop Gateway which allows us to connect to a remote computer on another network over a public or Internet network.

 12 Advanced Tab

Advanced Tab

We have now saved this connection on our Desktop. When we double-click it, we will get this warning:

13 Warning

Connection Publisher Warning

Since we are not in a domain environment, there is no trust implemented between our two computers, so we get a warning about that. In our case we know that it’s a trusted computer, so we’ll connect to it. We can also choose the “Don’t ask again” option.

When we click Connect, we will be asked for credentials.

 14 Credentials


This is actually the Network Level Authentication part. There is no Remote Desktop session open until we provide our username and password. If we didn’t have Network Level Authentication enabled, it would first open the Remote Desktop session and then would’ve asked us for credentials.

When connecting through Remote Desktop we are using certificates to secure the connection. Also, because these machines are in a workgroup environment, the certificates are self-signed and created on each machine.

 15 Certificate


Since we trust this machine, we can click Yes, and the Remote Desktop session will be established.

When we connect to the client, we will see the actual desktop on the remote computer. Users on the remote computer will see that someone is logged on remotely, but they won’t see or be able to use the computer. So, the shadowing is not supported and users on the remote computer can’t view the screen. So, we actually take control of the computer.

If we tried to login as a different user, and there was a user currently logged on the remote computer on the other end, we would see this warning:

 16 Another User Warning

Another User Warning

Also, the user on the remote machine would’ve been asked if they want to allow us to connect.

 17 Question

Another User Question

If they don’t respond, they will be logged out and we will be allowed to connect. Once we are connected, we can simply click on the X mark to disconnect the session.

 18 Disconnect

Disconnect Button

We can also go to the Start menu and log off, and this will actually log us off from that remote machine. If we disconnect,  we actually stay logged on. So, this way we can connect to our remote machine again (or log on locally with the same user account) and everything will be as we left it when we disconnected.

We can also run Remote Desktop from the command line. For example, to connect to the “WIN-7-VM2” machine we would enter the following command:

mstsc /v:WIN-7-VM2