Microsoft remote desktop is essentially a tool that is used to access a desktop from a remote location. The application is produced by Microsoft and the client comes pre-installed with most recent versions of windows.

The Microsoft remote desktop host protocol comes with most professional and server based operating systems.

uses of Microsoft remote desktop

The term Microsoft remote desktop is a literal description of the tool. The common use of Microsoft remote desktop is to control computers that are in a remote location. This could include:

  1. Logging in to your home PC, from your workplace
  2. Controlling a workplace server from your home
  3. Controlling a server that is hosted in a data center
  4. Controlling a dedicated CCTV or similar functional PC system that does not have a physical screen attached to it

The typical setup of a remote desktop scenario would be remote desktop protocol enabled on a host computer. The Microsoft remote desktop client would then be used on the client computer to gain access to the remote computer via the RDP Protocol.

Remote Desktop Protocol

The remote desktop protocol is the actual method of controlling a PC remotely. The protocol outlines the way in which the video image is sent via TCP/IP to the client and how the keystrokes and mouse gestures are sent back to the host.

The Microsoft remote desktop protocol operates over port 3389. There are various versions of the remote desktop protocol. Which version you use will depend on the client and the host operating system. They will both agree on the best protocol that they can both use.

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Keep in mind that newer operating systems (especially server based) will only accept connections from clients that are on a new remote desktop protocol. This can be changed by editing settings on the host. That is beyond the scope of this article.

How to configure remote desktop on the host

Windows XP, Windows 7 and server operating systems from server 2003 onwards all have very similar configuration procedures for enabling Microsoft remote desktop.

Enable Microsoft remote desktop

Enabling Microsoft remote desktop is just the first step. Microsoft remote desktop can be enabled from Control Panel, System, remote settings.


enabling Microsoft remote desktop

How to enable Microsoft remote desktop


As well as enabling Microsoft remote desktop, you will also have the option of allowing older versions of teh RDP protocol to connect to this host. Lastly, you will be able to select users that have access via remote desktop. Note that the user you are currently logged in as will have access by default.

Password requirements for Microsoft remote desktop

It is important to note that in order to make a computer accessible via Microsoft remote desktop, it has to have a password set.

The second step in enabling Microsoft remote desktop on the host is adding a firewall exception locally.

This can be done via Control Panel, Windows Firewall. Here you will be able to allow Remote desktop connections through the local windows firewall.

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The last step in most cases will be to add a rule to your hardware firewall. Whilst you may not think you ahve a hardware firewall, you probably will. Most home routers serve as hardware firewalls.

For Microsoft remote desktop to get past your firewall/router you will need to open TCP port 3389 and direct it to the local IP of the host computer.

You can find the IP address of your computer AND your firewall by opeing a command prompt in windows and typing the following:

ipconfig /all

This will report back the IP address (thats your PC IP address) and the Default Gateway, which is your routers IP address.

Take a note of the PC IP address, then browse to the default gateway address via your Internet browser. You will then be prompted to log in to your router after which you can find the port forwarding or firewall section and allow the port to your local IP address.

Its worth noting that you should probably assign your PC with a static IP address via the router, so that it doesn’t change.

There is a great website that goes into much more detail about port forwarding here.

At this stage, Microsoft remote desktop should work. However, going forward you will either need a static public IP address, or a dynamic DNS service such as no-ip so that you can always contact your host computer remotely.

How to access the host via remote desktop client

Once everything is set up on the host comptuer, you are ready to access the device form a remote client. On the remote client it should be as simple as locating Microsoft remote desktop. Normally Microsoft remote desktop is located in Start Menu, All Programs, Accessories, Remote Desktop.

If you have an operating system of Windows Vista or newer, you can simply search for “Remote Desktop”.

You will tehn be prompted to enter the computer/Host. This is simply the public IP address of the network where your host computer resides, or the DNS name if you are using a dynamic DNS service.


Microsoft Remote Desktop

Microsoft Remote Desktop


Click connect and you will be asked for the credentials to connect to your remote computer.

Microsoft remote desktop for other devices

The fun doesn’t stop there. There are also lots of third party remote desktop apps available as well as some written by Microsoft and available on other platforms.

A great example of this is the Microsoft Remote Desktop App for IOS. This app is written by Microsoft, for Apple devices. It enables you to connect to your Microsoft remote desktop host computer from your iPhone and iPad!