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Win XP's Remote Desktop Feature
Windows XP's Remote Desktop Connection feature is especially easy to use. It's fairly easy to set up and use, but there are some things you need to know. Pay attention, this will save you some grief:
1. Both PCs must be running Windows XP Pro. This does not work with the Home Edition.
2. Both PCs must have the same Windows user name. It's okay if they both have multiple users, just so long as one of those names is one they share in common.
3. The host PC, or the one being connected to, must have a password configured for that common user name. You can configure both user names and passwords in the User Accounts applet in Control Panel. (The password does not have to be the same on both PCs.)
4. The host PC must be configured to accept Remote Desktop Connection. To do that, right-click My Computer and choose Properties. Then click the Remote tab. Put a check in the box under the Remote Desktop header. Be sure to check out the "Learn more about Remote Desktop" help files linked from this dialog. Although these files are poorly written, they explain the caveats I mentioned above in more detail.
You'll also find the Select Remote Users button on this dialog, which is anything but intuitive. Microsoft needs to rework this aspect of the functionality. If you address the caveats above, though, you should have smooth sailing. I did.
Once it's configured, you initiate the connection from the remote computer (the one that will be accessing the other computer's desktop). To do that, go to Start Menu  All Programs  Accessories  Communications  Remote Desktop Connection. If you're running firewall protection, you may want to disable it temporarily to get Remote Desktop setup. Another trick is to just type the computer name (not the Windows logon name if they're different) into the Remote Desktop Connection dialog to get it going the first time. When you turn your firewall back on, you may be prompted to permit a Remote Desktop Connection, and to make it work in future, you'll need to say yes.
After any connection works for the first time, subsequent connections provide a more convenient version of the Remote Desktop Connection dialog, which includes the ability to save your password and also save a desktop icon for the connection. There are also custom controls for display, sound, shared devices, programs, and bandwidth. It's this dialog that makes the experience a good one. In fact, once you get it going, Remote Desktop Connection works exceedingly well. It has built-in smarts that help different display resolutions adapt to one another. I use it constantly, and it has greatly improved my ability to access email remotely via my network. You can access anything, though: files, browser, virtually anything on the target computer. Remote Desktop has a lot of uses.
It takes under five seconds to initiate a Remote Desktop Connection (at least, on my 100Mbps LAN). The target computer's desktop opens up as a maximized desktop that overlaps your screen. But you can minimize it if you want to, resize it, drag and drop stuff between desktops or folder windows on the two computers. Remote Desktop is convenient, reliable, and robust.
There are other permutations too. It's possible to set up a remote connection via the Internet or via a Web browser. That's called Remote Desktop Web Connection, and here's some information about it:
• Installing Remote Desktop Web Connection in Windows XP (Q284931)
There's something called Remote Assistance that's essentially a temporary and limited use of Remote Desktop. It works with Win XP Home or Pro, and it allows someone more expert with computers to take control via the Internet of a computer that's having a problem. You know, all those family members who call you or email you with cryptic descriptions of computer problems? If both of you are running Windows XP, it's a fairly easy proposition to set up a Remote Assistance connection that allows you to take control of their PCs for a limited amount of time. (The access is controlled by a time-limited token passed via email.)
• Description of the Remote Assistance Connection Process (Q300692)
Here are some additional Microsoft KnowledgeBase articles that may help you configure Remote Desktop Connection:
• How to Use the Remote Desktop Feature of Windows XP Professional (Q315328)
• How a Remote Desktop Connection Affects Windows XP Professional (Q280828)

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