How to set up Remote Desktop on Windows XP

If you’ve never used Remote Desktop, it’s a really great way to remotely connect to another PC (office, home, etc.) unless you are at the machine. I usually use remote desktop to connect to the server at our office, connect to the user’s computer to provide technical support, and connect to my personal computer at home to access files.

To use Remote Desktop, there are a few things you need to understand. First of all, remote desktop only works with Windows XP and Windows 2003. I mean you can only connect INTO to Window XP or 2003 machine. You can use Windows 98, ME or 2000 to connect to Windows XP or 2003 machine, but you cannot connect to a remote 98, ME, or 2000 machine. If you want to be able to connect to a machine running Windows 2000 or earlier, you will have to purchase commercial software.

Since this post is over 7 years old, the above statement is outdated. You can also connect to a machine running Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8. Additionally, since Microsoft recently ended support for Windows XP, this guide will become less and less useful as time goes on. If interested, check out my post on configure remote desktop for Windows 8.

Second, you need to make sure that you are logged in as the computer administrator on the machine to set up remote access. If you bring your computer from the store or get it directly from the manufacturer, the first username you create is always the Administrator account.

An easy way to check if you are an Administrator is to go to Start, Control Panel and then click on User Accounts. You will see your username and it should have “Administrators” or “Computer administrator“Written next to it.

xp . user account

Third, the administrator account on your machine must have a password. If you don’t have to enter a password to access Windows when you start your computer, you haven’t set a password and Remote Desktop won’t work. Remote Desktop does not allow you to connect to a computer that has a user account that does not have a password.

When you go to User Accounts and click on the Administrator account, you will see the option to create a password for the account. Go ahead and do that before moving on.

create user password

Next, if the computer you are connecting to is running Windows XP SP3, then you need to open the firewall to allow remote desktop connections. To do this, visit Begin, Dashboard, Windows Firewall and click Exception navigation.

firewall exception

Make sure that Remote computer checkbox is selected. The last thing to do for Remote Desktop to work properly is to let Windows know that we want to allow users to connect remotely. So far we have only completed the requirements, but now we have to actually allow the remote desktop connection to this computer.

Go Begin, Dashboardand click System. Click on the Remote Control tab and make sure that “Allow users to connect remotely to this computer” box is selected. Don’t worry about clicking Select remote user because Administrator has access by default. If you want to give the non-admin account remote desktop access, click that button and add the user.

allow xp . remote connection

And that’s it! Your computer is now set up for remote desktop! First, try connecting to the XP machine from another computer on your home network. To connect, go to another computer and click Start, All Programs, Accessories, Media and Remote desktop connection. If you want to connect to an XP machine from Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8, just click Start and do a remote desktop connection search. On Windows 8, go to the Start Screen and start typing to perform a search.

connect remote desktop

In the dialog box, you can enter the computer’s IP address or name. The best way to connect is to enter your computer’s IP address. To get the IP address of the computer you want to connect to, go to the computer and click Begin, Run and type in CMD.

run cmd

In the black command window, enter the word “ipconfig“Without the quotes as shown below and press Enter.

ipconfig address

You’ll see your IP address listed along with some other information, but you don’t need to worry about that. Make a note of that IP address (192.xxx or something similar) and type exactly that in the remote desktop text box on the other computer (the one you’re connecting to).

remote desktop win7

Click Link and you will get a login screen pop up which means you have successfully connected to another computer. You can now enter the Computer Administrator username and password.

If you get an error saying that the computer cannot accept new connections etc, that means something is not configured correctly. Remember that you need to provide the password for the admin account, open the port in the firewall and check the box to allow remote connections in System characteristic. All three of these items need to be done on the computer that you want to connect TO.

After you are able to connect from within the same network, you can now try to connect from outside. So if you want to connect to your home computer from the office, you can do that, but you’ll have to do some extra work.

First you have to get your Public IP Address (not 192.168.xx) and you can do this by going to the computer you want to connect to and navigating to the website http://www.whatismyip.com/ and this will give you your public IP address. This is an address that can be used from anywhere in the world to connect to your specific location and is unique. Unfortunately, on most home connections, this public IP address changes frequently and without warning. Basically to get around that you have to use dynamic DNS. I won’t go into much detail in this post, but read my other articles on configuring it:

Configure the router for dynamic DNS

What is Dynamic DNS and how to set it up

The second thing you have to do is open the port in your router (unless you’re connecting the cable modem directly to the computer) and forward that port to the computer you want to connect to. Here’s how you do this on a Netgear router (as I have), and the process is pretty much the same as other routers, except that it might be called something else. Most manufacturers’ websites have articles on how to configure their particular router to forward ports because it’s very common.

You’ll need to log into your router by typing its IP address into your browser’s address bar. You can find out your router’s IP address by going to any computer on your network (that you want to connect to) and opening a command prompt like we did above and re-entering ipconfig. In addition to the IP Address field, you will also see Default Gateway, this is your router. From the above screenshot you can see mine is 192.168.244.2.

Type that address in your browser’s address bar as follows and press Enter:

IP address

You will most likely be prompted for a username and password. Usually you can find this in the documentation or underneath the router itself. For my Netgear router, the username is “admin” (lowercase) and the password is “password”.

Once you’re in there, you’ll see an option called “Port Forwarding / Port Enabled” or a similar option. I know Netopia calls this Needle hole and on Linksys it might be called Service or Applications.

port forwarding

When you are on the Port Forwarding page, you can see different layouts/options. The basic parts would be naming the forwarding part like “Remote Desktop”, choosing the external and internal ports, the protocol, and choosing the IP address for the device to which the data is supposed to be forwarded.

new port forwarding

For remote desktops, you will always want to choose TCP for Protocol. By default, the remote desktop uses port 3389, so enter that in both the internal port box and the output port box. Finally, the internal IP address should be the IP address of the XP machine. On some setups, you will be asked to enter a start port, an end port, and an activation port. Just put 3389 for any port box.

port activation

Click Apply and you’re done! You can now use your public IP address (enter this in Computer in the Remote Desktop Connection dialog) to connect via router to your computer!

If you have any problems connecting remotely to your Windows XP machine, feel free to post a comment here and I’ll try to help. Interesting!

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