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Review of Remote Desktop Connection - Remote Desktop Control Software

Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) is a technology from Microsoft which allows someone to remotely log in to a pc that is running Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000 server or Windows 2003 server. It is very popular with hosting sites that provide windows servers, because it is a built in feature of Windows server and provides a convenient means of allowing someone to remotely administer a server.

Remote Desktop Connection is commonly abbreviated to simply RDC, and this abbreviation will be commonly used in this review.

Jump to how this review has been carried out

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How this review has been carried out

RDC has been reviewed under a number of number of common criteria. Each of these criteria are also applied to the other remote control solutions that have been reviewed. The criteria are:

Operating Systems Supported

Remote Desktop Connection is supported by Windows Vista, Windows XP Professional, Windows 2000 server and Windows 2003 server. It can be used to connect to a pc running any of those Windows operating systems. It is not supported on Windows XP Home or any earlier version of Windows - although the client software can be used on those.

Ease of Installation

If you are running Windows Vista, XP Pro, Windows 2000 server or Windows 2003 server then the software is already installed as part of the operating system. However, it does need to be enabled.

If you are running Windows Vista or Windows XP Professional, then you will need to enable the remote desktop. This is done by going to system properties, and on the remote tab checking "Allow users to connect remotely to this computer". At this same point it is also possible to configure which users are able to connect to the computer.

Client Software Required

To use remote desktop connection the client PC (i.e. the pc from which you wish to connect to the remote desktop) needs to run the Remote Desktop Client. This is pre-installed with Windows XP, or can be downloaded from Microsoft for earlier versions of Windows, see www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/tools/rdclientdl.mspx for details.

It is important to note that the client software will only run on Windows.


What capabilities does Remote Desktop Connection allow?

Maximum Connections

Maximum number of connections:    1, 2 or more.

Windows XP Professional allows only a single remote desktop connection. If you try to log in when someone has connected using RDC then you will be warned that continuing will disconnect them. Similarly logging in via RDC you risk logging out the person connected at the console.

Windows 2000 and 2003 servers support two connections (in addition to the console). Additional connections are available by purchasing Terminal Services licenses.


Does RDC allow you to control the console:   Yes (but not by default)

The default is not to connect to the console. This means that the session you have is independent of anything that someone logged in at the console might be doing. Windows XP only supports a single session and connecting to the PC using RDC will log out the person currently logged in at the console.

To force RDC to connect to the console start it via the command line (start > run):

mstsc /console

then select the computer to connect to as normal. Connecting to the console session on XP will take over the session from whoever is currently logged in.

View/Update Options

RDC allows the pc to be logged into and controlled. It does not provide a view-only mode.

File Transfer

Does RDC allow you to transfer files between the local and remote pcs?    Yes

RDC allows local drives to appear on the remote host. These can then be used to transfer files between the local and remote pc via normal copy and paste operations. This setting is not enabled by default. To enable this open up the "Options" before making a connection, and on the "Local Resources" tab, under "Local devices" tick "Disk drives".

Security Considerations

Security should be a prime consideration when using any remote control software, especially when using over the internet or from a remote pc other than your own.

Firewall Considerations

A firewall will block RDC and prevent it from working, unless the necessary port is opened. The default configuration of RDC uses tcp port 3389, and this will need to be opened at the firewall protecting the remote PC and forwarded to the PC.

It is possible to change the port that RDC uses. Some have recommended this as an extra security measure. Microsoft Knowledge Base article 306759 details with how to do this.

The following article (which is not in any way associated with this site) gives a number of common sense means to make a RDC connection more secure: www.mobydisk.com/techres/securing_remote_desktop.html.

Security: Encryption of Traffic

The session (between the local PC and the PC being controlled) is encrypted, using 128 bit encryption.

Single/Multiple Passwords/Accounts

RDC uses Windows accounts. For someone to use RDC their account must be granted the right to use RDC (see next paragraphs). Then it is simply a case of specifying the machine to use (by IP address or DNS-name) and then entering the normal Windows username and password.

For Windows XP those accounts which can connect are configured on the "Remote" tab of "System Properties". Administrators can always connect via RDC, other uses need to be added to the list explicitly.

For Windows 2000/2003 server, access to RDC is granted on a per-user basis. This is configured using "Active Directory Users and Computers", and is set on the "Remote Control" tab of the user properties.

Where to get it

RDC is built into Windows XP Pro, Windows 2000 server and Windows 2003 server. The client part (which allows you to connect from any PC running Windows) can be downloaded from www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/tools/rdclientdl.mspx.


Remote Desktop Connection is ideal if:

Remote Desktop Connection is not suitable if:

The information on this page, and the hosting review pages, is believed to be correct. If you find any errors or omissions please report these via e-mail to: feedback@cryer.co.uk.