Using Windows Remote Desktop Over the Internet
Remote Desktop connection allows you to access and control your computer from another device in a different location. Also you can temporarily share your desktop with somebody which is ideal for tech support. Using Remote Desktop enables you to use a computer as if you were sitting in front of it. Basically, it will send a video of its desktop to the device you’re connecting with, of course with a bit of delay. When you’re accessing a computer by Remote Desktop over the Internet or even on the local network, your actions on your computer’s desktop won’t register immediately.
Overall for accessing desktop applications and files as well as using them, Remote Desktop works perfect. Remote Desktop software can be used on a Mac, Chromebook, iPad, or Android tablet, in order to access a Windows desktop from a non-Windows device. Remote Desktop can be enabled and used easily within the network of your computer. However, for using Windows Remote Desktop over the internet, there are a few extra steps to take.
Before You Begin
While we're going to focus on how you can make your Remote Desktop accessible over the internet, it's worth mentioning that there are specific softwares and services that make this process easier. We'll get to that later. But assuming that you want to set up your own Remote Desktop server using Windows built-in feature, you're going to need to set up dynamic DNS too, so you can always access your computer using a single domain address. Moreover, setting up Port Forwarding will be the essential part of the process for connecting to your computer from the Internet which we will address too.
Don't forget that your computer needs to be on so that you can access it. Although this may not be a problem for many Remote Desktop users who have somebody attending the other computer at the time; nevertheless, it can be a problem if for example you’re travelling far away. You’ll need to set up Wake-on-LAN to solve this, unless you want to leave your computer running the whole time.
Keep in mind that security is also a concern here. Simply exposing a Remote Desktop server to the Internet can put your computer at serious risk, especially if you have a weak password or insecure, outdated server software. The combination of, firstly more sophisticated process, and secondly the security concerns, both have made most experts advise normal users to use third-party applications for accessing their Windows desktop over the internet unless they know exactly what they are doing.
How to use Windows Remote Desktop
By default, Windows Remote Desktop works only on your local network. In order to use Windows Remote Desktop over the Internet, you’ll need to use a VPN and forward ports on your router.
We'll cover several solutions for accessing your computer remotely over the Internet. If you’re using Windows Remote Desktop, getting it set up for using over the internet isn’t too difficult. First of all, enable Remote Desktop on the PC you want to access and make sure you can reach it from other computers on your local network.
Set up a VPN
Since opening your Remote Desktop port to the internet is not very much advised because it has security risks, by creating a virtual private network (VPN), you won’t need to take that risk and expose the Remote Desktop server directly to the Internet. However, let's say you're traveling and you want to access your desktop computer at home remotely. Now you can connect to the VPN, and your computer will act as if you're part of the same local network as your PC at home, running the Remote Desktop server. This will allow you to access Windows Remote Desktop and other services that are normally exposed only on your local network, just the way you would use them on your network.
Setting up a VPN is definitely a more secure option when it comes to the issue of using Windows Remote Desktop over the internet, and with the right tools, it’s pretty simple to achieve.
Of course the alternative is to skip the VPN and expose the Remote Desktop server directly to the Internet by setting your router to forward Remote Desktop traffic to the second device using the internet. Obviously, doing this opens up the possibility of potential attacks. Malwares and automated hacking apps are always out there all over the internet, pretty much constantly probing your router for some weakness like open TCP ports, especially commonly used and default ports like the one Remote Desktop uses. You should at least make sure that you have set up strong passwords on your PC, but even then you’re still vulnerable to exploits.
Set Up a PC for Remote Access
The process is pretty straightforward if you just have one PC which you want to make accessible by using Windows Remote Desktop over the internet. Make sure you have enabled the Remote Desktop on your PC so that it is already listening for traffic using the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Next you’ll need to login to your router and have it forward all the traffic using TCP port 3389 (default port of Remote Desktop Connection), to the IP address of the PC running Remote Desktop. Since different routers have different interfaces, it’s impossible to give a specific instruction for that matter. But here, we’re just going to assume that you would search and find the section related to Port Forwarding in your router's configuration which is not very complicated using a basic router. Remember that you’ll need these four in order to do the port forwarding process: PC internal IP address, your public IP which is the router’s IP, mapping the port number, and admin access to your router.
First, you’ll need to know the IP address of the PC that you want to connect to (host PC). The easiest way to do this is to open the Command Prompt and use the 'ipconfig' command. In the results, through the section detailing the network adapter connecting you to the Internet, look for the IPv4 address.
Next, you’ll need to log in to your router and locate the Port Forwarding section. As mentioned earlier, its exact location will depend on what router you’re using. Now you will have to forward TCP port 3389 to the IPv4 address that you located previously.
Now you should be able to login to Windows Remote Desktop over the internet by connecting to the public IP address that your router exposes for your local network.
DDNS and Static IP
Since it can be tough to remember that IP address, especially if it changes (which it does from time to time by your ISP); so you may also want to set up a Dynamic DNS service so that you can always connect to your PC using a domain name which is easier to remember. Also it would be a good idea to having set up a static IP address on the computer running the Remote Desktop server; that is if you're planning to do this regularly. This way you will ensure that the computer’s internal IP address won’t change. If it does change, you’ll have to renew your port forwarding configuration.
Remote Desktop Access Using Applications
As we said before, a simple yet safe option for using Remote Desktop over the internet is through applications that make it both easy and relatively secure. Two of the best examples in that regard would be TeamViewer and Chrome Remote Desktop.
After installing TeamViewer and launching it, you’ll be able to immediately allow access to your PC by giving someone the ID and password that appear under Allow Remote Control in TeamViewer. By using Chrome Remote Desktop, just click on Share and provide the other person with the code that appears on the screen so that they can connect to your PC.
Also if you want to be able to access your PC remotely, without having somebody to give you the necessary codes, you’ll need to set up your Remote Desktop software in a way that it acts like a persistent server running in the background and waiting for you to connect. For doing that in TeamViewer, you need to select Setup Unattended Access in the Connection menu, and complete the wizard. On Chrome Remote Desktop however, click on Enable Remote Connections and choose a PIN. Then you’ll just need to log in with your Google account and provide the PIN to access the computer’s desktop remotely.