How To Access Your PC Remotely
It’s the nature of small businesses that owners often need to work while they are not in the office. For some, it’s a matter of needing files and programs at home. For others, it’s important to have access to office documents while on the road. Millions of office workers and business owners find a solution in remote desktop tools, which provide access to the resources of one (host) PC from another (client) PC, generally using the Internet as the conduit for connection. One of these, Microsoft’s RDC (Remote Desktop Connection), became more powerful and easier to use with the release of Windows 7. In this article, we’ll detail what RDC can do for you and show you how to use it. We’ll also help you determine if shortcomings with your current environment might not make it a practical solution. If this is the case, we’ll point you to a best-ofbreed, third-party remote tool, Go-ToMyPC (see the “Go To It” sidebar).
The Road Rules
RDC works with a number of Windows versions, and it also works with newer Macs. However, it works most elegantly with specific configurations and not at all within certain parameters. As you’ll see, it’s more about your setup-rather than the tool itself-that might make RDC a bad candidate for your needs. To act as a host computer for RDC, a PC must be running a business edition of Windows XP/Vista/7. These are Windows XP Professional; Windows Vista Business, Ultimate, or Enterprise; and Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, or Enterprise. (Server versions of Windows can also act as hosts, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.) Home versions of WinXP/Vista/7 and any earlier versions of Windows can act only as clients (the PC accessing the data remotely) for RDC. We use Win7 in our examples here. Setting up RDC for truly remote (over-the-Internet rather than inside your network) access requires special router configuration. It’s not rocket science, but it does require some technical aptitude. It also leaves your PC more open to penetration, so if you are not running stringent security software, consider another option. However, if your primary need for RDC is in-network convenience-for example, to control your home office PC on a laptop from the comfort of your couch or patio, or to remotely control another PC on your office network, the process is a breeze and works beautifully. (We’ll tell you which steps you can skip below.)
RDC Benefits & Compromises
With RDC running, the remote interface literally replicates that of your host PC (at least initially), even down to the Start button and System Tray. You can then use it exactly as if you were on the host itself, running installed programs, opening and editing files, accessing USB drives and printers, and more. You can also copy or cut files from a host drive, minimize Remote Desktop (at which time your client interface reappears, and the host interface becomes an icon at the bottom of your screen), and paste the files to your client drives. On the downside, when you are running the host PC remotely, no one can access that PC. This is true even if someone is using a different user profile.