Get Your Host Computer Ready
The Remote Desktop feature is only available in Windows XP Professional. It's not included with Windows XP Home Edition. For more information about how Remote Desktop Web Connection works, see About Remote Desktop Web Connection.
The first step in enabling Remote Desktop Web Connection is to install the necessary software on the host computer. Remote Desktop Web Connection is an optional World Wide Web Service component of Internet Information Services (IIS), which is included by default in Windows XP Professional. IIS responds to requests from a Web browser. Have your Windows XP Professional CD handy, and follow these steps:
Open Control Panel click Add or Remove Programs, and then click Add/Remove Windows Components.
Click Internet Information Services, and then click Details.
In the Subcomponents of Internet Information Services list, click World Wide Web Service, and then click Details.
In the Subcomponents of World Wide Web Service list, select the Remote Desktop Web Connection check box, and then click OK.
In the Windows Components Wizard, click Next. Click Finish when the wizard has completed.
Click the Start button and click Run. Type Net Stop w3svc, and click OK. This temporarily stops the World Wide Web service to keep your system safe while you update it with security patches.
Enabling IIS without installing the appropriate security patches can make your system vulnerable to intruders. For more information, read Microsoft Security Bulletin MS01-018 and Security and Privacy for Home Users.
To check for updates:
Click Start, point to All Programs, click Microsoft Update, and then click Scan for updates. Follow the prompts to install all critical updates. If prompted, restart your computer.
Click Start, and then click Run. Type Net Start w3svc, and click OK. This starts the World Wide Web service.
I highly recommend using Automatic Updates, especially after installing Internet Information Services.
Configure Internet Information Services
By default, IIS is identified on your computer by the TCP port number 80. The steps in this section change the TCP port number and make it much more difficult for a potential attacker to communicate with your computer. The steps in this section are optional, but if you do follow them, you'll dramatically improve the security of your system. If you are already using your computer as a Web server, you should leave the TCP port number at the default setting of 80.
Open Control Panel, click Performance and Maintenance, and then click Administrative Tools. Double-click Internet Information Services.
In the ISS snap-in, expand your computer name, expand Web Sites, right-click Default Web Site, and then click Properties.
On the Web Site tab, change the value for TCP Port. Enter a number between 1000 and 65535 that you can remember easily, such as the month and day of a birthday or anniversary. You'll need to know the TCP Port when you connect to the computer in the future.
Click OK, and close the Internet Information Services snap-in.
Configure Remote Desktop
To connect using Remote Desktop, you must have a user account with a password. If you don't yet have a password on your account, create a password by opening Control Panel, and clicking User Accounts. Click your account, click Create a password, and follow the prompts. After you have a password, follow these steps to enable Remote Desktop:
Right-click My Computer, and click Properties.
On the Remote tab, click the Allow users to connect remotely to this computer check box, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Enabling remote desktop
Click Select Remote Users, and then click Add.
In the Select Users dialog box, type the name of the user and then click OK. Click OK again to return to the System Properties dialog box, and then click OK to close it.
Configure Your Router
If you use a router to connect to the Internet, you probably need to configure it to allow the Remote Desktop connection to your computer. For more information on routers and firewalls, see my Internet Firewalls column. You need to forward two ports to your Windows XP Professional-based computer: TCP port 3389, which Remote Desktop requires, and the port you specified in the TCP Port field in Internet Information Services (or TCP port 80 if you did not change the default). If you use Internet Connection Firewall (and you should!), see How to Manually Open Ports in Internet Connection Firewall in Windows XP for instructions on allowing traffic by TCP port.
Connect to Your Desktop
Computers are identified on the Internet using a unique IP address. To connect to your home computer from the Internet, you'll need to know your home IP address. Visit one of these sites from your home computer to learn your IP address: What Is My IP, What Is My IP.com, or Atlantic PC Solutions. Your IP address may change occasionally, so always check your IP address before you plan to connect. When you're ready to connect to your host computer, follow these steps:
Open Internet Explorer, and enter the URL http://ipaddress:port/tsweb/. For example, if your IP address is 192.168.1.120, and you chose the TCP Port 1374, you would enter the URL http://192.168.1.120:1374/tsweb/.
If you're prompted to install the Remote Desktop ActiveX control, click Yes.
On the Remote Desktop Web Connection page, shown in Figure 2, click Connect. You don't need to fill in the Server field. If you leave the Size field set to Full-screen, the remote desktop will take over your local desktop.
Figure 2: Remote Desktop Web Connection page
Enter your user name and password at the Windows logon prompt, as shown in Figure 3, and then click OK. You'll see your desktop, complete with any windows that were left open the last time you used the computer.
Figure 3: The Remote Desktop Web Connection logon screen
When you're done, disconnect by closing the browser, or clicking the X at the top of the screen in full-screen mode. Be sure to close all browser windows. Your user name and password aren't stored, so you don't have to worry about someone else accessing your system.
If you're Internet-savvy and plan to connect to your home computer regularly, you can get a domain name to save yourself the trouble of writing down your IP address every time you plan to connect to your computer. You're already familiar with domain names; they're the ".com" names Web sites use to identify themselves. For example, the domain name for this Web site is Microsoft.com. If you have your own domain name, you can enter that into a browser to connect to your home computer, instead of the unfriendly IP address. For information on getting your own domain name and associating it with your home computer, visit the Dynamic DNS Providers List.
If you have Windows XP Professional and an always-on Internet connection, you can securely access your applications and data from work, an Internet café, or any place that has a compatible Web browser. Getting Remote Desktop Web Connection set up takes more than one click, but it's definitely easier than lugging your computer everywhere.