Remote Desktop in XP

Before you start

Objectives: learn how to configure XP machine to accept Remote Desktop connections, how to initiate a Remote Desktop connection, and how to configure Firewall settings to enable Remote Desktop.

Prerequisites: no prerequisites.

Key terms: remote, desktop, connection, user, connect, firewall, xp, internet, local, network

About Remote Desktop

Remote Desktop was introduced with Windows XP, however clients for the Remote Desktop can range down to Windows 95. All we have to do is install Terminal Services Client on older Windows operating systems. We can also run applications trough Remote Desktop from older Windows versions. For example, we can run applications that were designed for Windows XP, remotely on a Windows 95 machine. Remote Desktop uses protocol that is known as Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). RDP was originally implemented with Microsoft Windows Terminal Services. RDP allows us to send screenshots from one computer to another (from the host to the client). Of course, video compression is used, so that we don’t send the entire screen every time. Besides video, RDP has a very narrow bandwidth requirement. All it sends to the host is keystrokes and mouse inputs. Windows XP automatically installs the Remote Desktop capability, but before we can use it we have to enable it. If we are going to use the client on operating system older then Windows XP, we have to install the Terminal Services Client so that we can make the connection to the Windows XP host. To use Remote Desktop, we have to create user accounts that are going to be enabled for Remote Desktop. The user has to use a password (can not have blank password). Not every user can make a Remote Desktop connection. We have to authorize particular user or groups of users to use Remote Desktop. Remote Desktop works great on Local Area Network. However, we can also install and configure RDP to run over Internet as well. To enable web access, we have to install Remote Desktop Web Connection. In order for the web connection to work, we have to install the Internet Information Services (IIS). Once IIS is installed, we can enable our clients to connect using Internet Explorer. When connecting over Web, the client will use HTTP protocol. Of course, it will connect to the computer that is hosting Remote Desktop Protocol (using the right port), and it will use the web service that will enable us to connect to the host. This service is called ‘tsweb‘. The full address in our Internet Explorer will look like this: http://hostname/tsweb. This will allow us to connect Remote Desktop client to the Remote Desktop Host.


Let’s configure our Windows XP system to accept Remote Desktop connections. This will allow us to connect to our computer remotely. Let’s go to the Start Menu, right-click ‘My Computer’, and select ‘Properties’. This will open system properties. Now, go to the ‘Remote’ tab.

Remote Tab

Image 244.1 – Remote Tab

Let’s check ‘Allow users to connect remotely to this computer’ and click ‘Apply’.

Remote Desktop Enabled

Image 244.2 – Remote Desktop Enabled

Remember, if we are using Remote Desktop, all our users should have password enabled accounts. Let’s click the ‘Select Remote Users…’ button.

Remote Users

Image 244.3 – Remote Desktop Users

This is a list of users who are allowed to make a remote connection to our computer. Notice that members of the administrators group can connect even if they’re not listed. To add a user, we have to click on the ‘Add…’ button.

Add User

Image 244.4 – Select Users

We can enter a user name, click ‘Check Names’, and then click OK button. In this example, we have entered ‘Kim Verson’.

 User Kim Verson

Image 244.5 – User Kim Verson

We can also select ‘Advanced…’, and then click ‘Find Now’ to generate the list of users on our computer.

List of Users

Image 244.6 – List of Users

In this example we will select anderson. Let’s click OK. These users can now connect to our computer using Remote Desktop.

Remote Users

Image 244.7 – Remote Users

When we select remote users here, we are actually making them members of the Remote Desktop Users group.

Remote Desktop Users Group

Image 244.8 – Remote Desktop Users Group

Configuring Firewall

Another thing that we have to keep in mind are Firewall settings. When we enable Remote Desktop on our machine, Windows will automatically open necessary ports in Windows Firewall. To check our settings, we will go to the Control Panel, Network Connections, right-click Local Area Connection, select its Properties, and go to the ‘Advanced’ tab.

Advanced Tab

Image 244.9 – Advanced Local Area Connection Properties

Here, click on the ‘Settings’ button, and go to the ‘Exceptions’ tab.

Remote Desktop Exception

Image 244.10 – Remote Desktop Exception

As we can see, Remote Desktop is enabled, and it will go trough our Firewall. Let’s select Remote Desktop, and click on the ‘Edit…’ button.

Edit a Service

Image 244.11 – Edit Service

Here we can change the scope of our settings. Let’s click on the ‘Change Scope…’ button.

Change Scope

Image 244.12 – Change Scope

As we can see, Remote Desktop is enabled for any computer, including those on the Internet. We can change that to our network only, or only to particular computers (IP addresses). Let’s click OK, and then OK again. These settings are applied on all connections on our computer. If we want to edit settings for individual connections, we can click on ‘Advanced’ tab, select a connection that we want to edit (Internet in this example), and click on the ‘Settings…’ button.

 Firewall Individual Connection

Image 244.13 – Firewall Individual Connection

In our example, we can see that Remote Desktop is not enabled on the ‘Internet’ connection. However, Remote Desktop will still work. It will work because we have put and exception in our Windows Firewall. If we want to enable ports only for individual connections, we should remove an exception from Windows Firewall. Then we should edit Firewall settings for individual connection. This option is Important when we are sharing an Internet Connection on our computer. When we are using Internet Connection Sharing (ICS), our computer is acting as a Firewall for the whole network. Because of that we have to add an exception in Firewall for Internet connection. The default port for Remote Desktop is 3389.

Creating a Connection

Now we are ready to establish a Remote Desktop Connection. In this example we will connect to another computer on our Local Area Network. Let’s go to the Start Menu > All Programs > Accessories > Remote Desktop Connection.

Remote Desktop Connection

Image 244.14 – Remote Desktop Connection

To make a connection simply enter the computer name or IP address, and then click Connect. However, we can optimize connection properties before we create the connection. To do that, let’s click on ‘Options >>’.

More Options

Image 244.15 – More Options

On the ‘General’ tab, we should enter a name of the remote computer. In our example the computer name will be ‘verson’. Username is Kim Verson. We will also check ‘Allow me to save credentials’.

 General Tab

Image 244.16 – General Tab

Let’s go to the Display tab. Here we can choose the size of our remote desktop. We can also set the color quality. This way we can minimize the amount of data sent over that connection. Because we will use this connection on LAN, we will leave the default settings.

Display Tab

Image 244.17 – Display Tab

Let’s go to the ‘Local Resources’ tab. If we are on a slower connection we can disable sounds. Here, we can also configure the remote system to access resources on our local system. For example, right now, if we want to print something when working on remote computer, it will actually print on the local computer instead of the remote computer. We will leave the default settings.

 Local Resources

Image 244.18 – Local Resources

Let’s go to the ‘Programs’ tab. The Programs tab allows us to launch programs.

Programs Tab

Image 244.19 – Programs Tab

Let’s go to the ‘Experience’ tab. Here we can optimize data for various connection speeds. Notice that right now the connection will be optimized for Dial-up speed.

 Experience Tab

Image 244.20 – Experience Tab

From the drop-down menu we will select ‘LAN’, because our remote computer is on local network. We are ready now to connect to the remote computer. Before we do that, we can save this connection by going to the ‘General’ tab, and clicking on a ‘Save as’ button.

If our remote computer is, for example, at our office (on different network), we can connect to it over Internet using Virtual Private Network. First we have to connect to the Internet. Then we have to initialize a VPN connection to our work network. Then, we can create a Remote Desktop Connection to the remote computer. We can also use Terminal Services Gateway (TS Gateway) to connect to remote computer without having to initialize a VPN connection.


Windows XP automatically installs the Remote Desktop capability, but before we can use it we have to enable it. All our users should have password enabled accounts on the machine which has Remote Desktop enabled. Also, we have to add specific users to the Remote Desktop Users group, which will then be able to connect to our machine remotely. Windows Firewall has to be configured to allow port 3389. When connecting to another computer, we can optimize connection settings such as display, color quality, sounds, etc.

Paths that are mentioned in this article
  • Start Menu > All Programs > Accessories > Remote Desktop Connection – connect to another computer using Remote