How to use Remote Desktop Connection in Windows 10

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Access a PC from another in a different location

With the built-in tools in Windows, you can access files and control another computer remotely. We explain what you need to know about Remote Desktop Connection in Windows 10

Sometimes you might find yourself sitting at one computer, but needing the data or facilities on another. Well, with Remote Desktop Connection in Windows 10 you can access another PC in another room, or even on a Wi-Fi-enabled cafe’. We’ll show you how to set up this useful feature so you can control one PC using another.

Before you begin:

Remote Desktop Connection isn’t exactly easy to set up when compared to services such as VNC, Team Viewer, or logmein.com, which also offer remote access to PCs. If all you want is to view files on your hard drive, or help out friends and relatives with remote support, then we’d definitely recommend these solutions as friendlier alternatives. And with cloud storage being so affordable these days, not to mention cross platform, we’d also suggest that keeping your files on one of these services is an easier and more convenient way to embrace the online world in which we live. Remote Desktop Connection has some strong features, but in many cases we would be surprised if those mentioned above wouldn’t do the job and save you a few grey hairs in the process.

Which versions of Windows can use Remote Desktop Connection?

While all version of Windows 10 can connect to another Windows 10 PC remotely, only Windows 10 Pro users can allow access to their computer. So if you have Windows 10 Home edition, then you won’t find any settings to enable Remote Desktop Connection on your PC, but you will still be able to connect to another PC running Windows 10 Pro.

  1. Allow access to the PC:

    In order to be able to use Remote Desktop Connection you’ll first have to allow remote access to your target PC. To do this Open File Explorer, find This PC and right-click to bring up the contextual menu. Now select Properties > Remote Settings and in the Remote Desktop section make sure that the Allow remote connections to this computer option is selected and untick the Allow connections only from computers running Remote Desktop with Network Level Authentication, as it can complicate the setup process. You can of course always return to it later to increase the security of your PC. Now click Apply and OK

  2. Find the IP address:

    Before you can connect to your target PC you’ll need to know its IP address so that it can be found on the network. To do this hold down the Windows key and press R. In the box that appears type cmd and press enter. In the terminal windows that appears type ipconfig and press enter. You’ll see a range of information appear, but the one you want is IPv4 Address. Note this down (it’s a few numbers and full stops similar to 192.168.0.1) and also write down the Default Gateway IP address. The IPv4 address will allow you to access the PC on a local network, but if you want to access it from a WAN (ie if you’re at home and want to dial into work) then open up a browser and in the address bar type in whatismyipaddress.com then make a note of the address.

  3. Connect to a PC on the local network:

    Once you’ve set up the target PC to allow access and have the IP address all you need to do to connect is open the Windows Start Menu, search for Remote Desktop, select Remote Desktop Connection, then in the box that appear type the IP address and click Connect. You should be prompted for your username and password, then the PC should be available to you as if you were sitting in front of it. As a shortcut alternative you can type MSTSC into Cortana.

  4. Connect to a PC over the internet:

    Things are a little more complicated if you want to access your PC when you’re not on a local network. First, you’ll need to make sure the Windows firewall isn’t blocking Remote Desktop. You can check this by opening up the Windows Firewall section of the Control Panel and selecting Allow apps to communicate through Windows Firewall.

  5. Configuring your Router or VPN:
    1. Router: Next you’ll need to configure your router so that it knows the correct addresses for your computers (do this using the Default Gateway and WAN settings you wrote down previously), and enable the Port Forward setting so that it points at Port 3389 (NOTE: Port 3389 is the default known port and as such you may wish to change it for security purposes). As router settings are different on every router, you should read our guide on How to forward ports on your router to make sense of it all.
    2. VPN: Please refer to our knowledge base article on How to setup VPN in Windows 10
Additional points:

It’s worth bearing in mind that if you intend to use the internet to connect to your PC on a regular basis, the external (WAN) IP address is subject to change. To avoid having to rediscover the address every time this happens, for a small fee your ISP can allocate you a static external IP address, alternatively subscribe to a dynamic DNS service such as dyn.com, as this gives you a memorable domain name to which you can connect, and will keep track of any changes to your external IP address. Many routers have built-in support for dynamic DNS, so have a look in your manual and select one of the services supported by your router. With all of this completed you should now be able to open the Windows Start Menu, search for Remote Desktop, select Remote Desktop Connection, then in the box that appear type the IP address and click Connect. Enter your username and password, then you should have full access to the target PC.

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