How to Set Up and Use Windows Remote Desktop Connection
Author: Mike Khorev
Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection over Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) would allow you to securely access a remote device (i.e., another computer) from your computer or even mobile device.
In this article, we will discuss all you need to know about how to set up and use Windows Remote Desktop Connection, as well as some important use cases you should know.
What Does Remote Desktop Connection Mean?
The term “remote desktop” by itself refers to the ability of a computer to remotely connect, access, and use another device (i.e., another computer) that is geographically separated.
When remote desktop access has been established, the user engaging the remote connection can access the remote device’s operating System (OS), open applications, and edit files, as if they were physically using the device.
In today’s post-COVID work environment, where remote workers are becoming increasingly common, employees can use remote desktop software to access their work computers when they are working from home or traveling away from the office.
Remote Desktop Connection, or (RDC), on the other hand, is Microsoft’s native remote desktop software, available on every Windows computer and server.
If you happen to be on a Windows 10 or 11 device at the moment, simply go to the Windows’s search function, and search for “Remote Desktop Connection,” and you should see the built-in app as the search result.
Alternatively, Microsoft also released a Universal app called “Windows Remote Desktop,” which is available in the Microsoft Store. Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection app is also available for macOS, iOS, iPadOS, and Android if you want to remotely access a windows computer from a non-Windows device.
Remote Desktop vs. Cloud Computing vs. Virtual Desktop
Although remote desktop, cloud computing, and virtual desktop are closely related to each other, and all three facilitate users to remotely access a computer and operating system, they aren’t exactly the same:
- In remote desktop access, a device is remotely accessing another physical device or computer over the internet
- In cloud computing, users access applications and files that are stored in a cloud server
- In a virtual desktop environment, or to be more exact, virtualization, a single physical device or computer is divided into multiple virtual resources and virtual environments that can be accessed by multiple users separately
While cloud computing and desktop virtualization are more versatile and scalable and are now more preferred by organizations in facilitating remote workforces, many still prefer remote desktop connection for regulatory and security factors, among other reasons.
The Remote Desktop Protocol
The Remote Desktop Protocol, or RDP, is Microsoft’s proprietary protocol that enables Remote Desktop Connection. RDP, being a Microsoft protocol, was initially designed for Windows OS and Windows devices, but nowadays, it can be used with Macs.
RDP provides the users with a graphical interface to remotely connect to another Windows device over a network connection.
Besides RDP, there are other protocols that can facilitate remote desktop access, including VNC (Virtual Network Computing) and ICA (Independent Computing Architecture), but RDP is the most popular and the most common protocol, especially for remotely accessing Windows computers.
How RDP Works
When a user accesses another computer remotely with RDP, the remote desktop is displayed on the computer/device the user is connecting from, while at the same time, the user’s keyboard strokes, mouse movements, and other input data are transmitted to the connected remote device over the internet.
In practice, the RDP protocol opens the network port 3389 as a dedicated network channel for sending and receiving data between the two computers (the computer physically in use and the remote desktop.)
On the other hand, necessary data (mouse movements, keystrokes, storage resources, display data, etc.) are sent via TCP/IP transport protocol over this channel.
During the remote desktop access, RDP also encrypts all data, ensuring the security and integrity of data being transmitted and received over the duration of the session.
However, since mouse activity, keystrokes, and other input data have to be encrypted and decrypted, slight delays can occur, depending on the user’s internet bandwidth and other factors.
Setting Up Remote Desktop Connection to Remotely Access Windows Devices
To enable Remote Desktop Connection, you must first sign into the computer you want to access remotely. This is relatively simple to do, but you (or someone else you know) will need to be able to access this device physically.
If the device is with Windows 10:
- Start > Settings > System > Remote Desktop, and turn on Enable Remote Desktop.
- Make a note of the name of this PC under How to connect to this PC. You will need this information for later.
If you use Windows 11:
- Select Start, and open Settings. Then, under System, select Remote Desktop, set Remote Desktop to On, and then select Confirm.
- Make a note of the name of this PC under PC name. You’ll need this information for later.
Besides this, still in the Remote Desktop section of your Settings, make sure to enable the options to make the PC discoverable on private networks and to keep the PC awake for connections when plugged in.
Once you’ve configured all of these, you can start performing remote desktop access to the remote PC, as long as you have the admin account credentials of the remote PC. Unless it’s set up otherwise, you can use the remote PC’s Microsoft Account to sign up, or use a user account for your company with administrative rights to sign in to Windows.
Note: it’s possible to grant remote access to a different account without administrative rights. On Windows 10, simply choose Select users that can remotely access this PC on the User Accounts section of the Remote Desktop setting, click Add, then enter the username for this desired account.
On Windows 11, you can achieve the same thing by clicking the setting for Select who can remotely access this PC and then add the desired accounts.
Setting Up the Local PC/Device
Once you’ve finished setting up the remote computer, the next step is to set up the local PC you’d like to access the remote PC from:
If it’s a Windows PC, type Remote Desktop Connection in the Windows search app (or the search box on the taskbar.) Click and open the Remote Desktop Connection app, then within the app, type the name of the PC you have noted in the previous step. Click Connect.
If it’s a non-Windows PC, open the Remote Desktop app (available on Microsoft Store, Google Play, and the Mac App Store for free.), and add the name of the PC that you want to connect to. Select this remote PC, and then wait for the connection to be established.
Establishing Remote Desktop Gateway
In V2 Cloud, Remote Desktop Gateway (or RD Gateway) is a role service that facilitates authorized users to connect to other computers or resources in an internal/private network from any computer or device that can run the Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) client.
The remote resource or computer can be configured as RDSH (Remote Desktop Session Host) servers, running RemoteApp programs. However, any computer with Remote Desktop enabled (as we’ve discussed above) can also act as a remote resource.
Why Remote Desktop Gateway?
As also discussed above, using Remote Desktop Gateway in V2 Cloud allows users to use RDP over HTTPS, ensuring a secure connection with end-to-end encryption between remote users, internal network resources, and applications.
A typical use case of RD Gateway is to allow external stakeholders (i.e., clients) to access the gateway server simply by giving them the DNS name or address of the gateway server.
In this case, you don’t have to worry if the IP address of the Remote Desktop gateway server is private or if the name of the server is not resolvable. As long as the RD gateway has been set up properly and the user has been given adequate rights, they can connect to the Remote Desktop server with ease.
As you can see, with RD Gateway, you allow users an easy and versatile way to remotely connect to your resources while maintaining security and data integrity.
Keep in mind, however, that in order to ensure data security, you will need to install a valid SSL certificate before you can use an RD Gateway.
Setting up Remote Desktop Gateway
Step 1: Enable Remote Desktop Role
- You (or someone else you know) must have physical access to the target device to remotely connect to, and then sign in to Remote Desktop Connection on this device with an administrator account.
- Start Server Manager on Remote Desktop Connection, and then select Add Roles and Features. This will open a new window.
- Click Next, and then select Role-based or feature-based installation, and click Next again.
- In the Select destination server window, select the name of your local computer from the Server Pool, then click Next.
- Select Server Roles, then Roles, then Remote Desktop Services, then click Next.
- In the Select role services window, check Remote Desktop Gateway, and uncheck the others.
- Select Add Features when it asks you to add required features.
- In the Network Policy and Access Services window, select Next.
- In the Web Server Role (IIS) window, select Next.
- In the Select role services window, select Next.
- Select Install in the Confirm installation selections. Wait for the installation to complete, and don’t close the installer.
Step 2: Establish Connection Authorization Policy
What is Connection Authorization Policy?
Connection Authorization Policy is established to make sure only selected users are allowed to use the Remote Desktop Gateway to access resources.
You can create groups based on active directory users or groups based on the active directory objects to include in the Connection Authorization Policy.
- From Server Manager, go to Tools, then open the Remote Desktop Gateway Manager.
- Go to Servers, right-click the name of your server, then select RD Gateway Manager.
- In the left pane of the RD Gateway Manager window, navigate to Policies
- Select Connection Authorization Policies, then right-click on Create New Policy on the right pane and click on Wizard
- Click on Create a RD CAP and a RD RAP (recommended), click Next
- Give the policy a name. We’d recommend naming the policy with intuitive names so you can easily remember who’s allowed/prohibited by this specific policy.
- Accept the default setting in the Enable or Disable Device Redirection window, then click Next.
- Set timeout values as needed, and then click Next
- In the RD CAP Settings Summary window, click Next
Step 3: Establish Resource Authorization Policy
What is the Resource Authorization Policy?
The Resource Authorization Policy is used to restrict access to remote servers via group memberships.
- Create active directory groups and then add servers as members of these directory groups.
- Select user groups that will be allowed access to the remote resources, then click Next.
- Select a group that contains the remote servers that you’d like to be accessed by the selected user groups above, and then click Browse. Choose and assign groups and set up preferences if you’d like them only to access specific remote servers.
- Click Check Name to make sure the group is found, click OK, then click Next.
- Select Allow connections only to port 3389. Alternatively, you can specify the remote desktop port if it’s changed from the default (3389) on this screen. Select Next, then click Finish.
- In the Confirm Creation of Authorization Policies window, click Close.
Step 4: Setting Up SSL Certificate
As discussed above, you’ll need to install an SSL certificate before you can use Remote Desktop Gateway. You’ll need to purchase an SSL certificate from a credible vendor and then follow these steps to install the SSL certificate on the RD Gateway:
- In the Remote Desktop Gateway management console, right-click on the remote desktop server name of your choice, then select Properties.
- Open the SSL Certificate tab. Select the Import a certificate into the RD Gateway bubble, select Browse, and then select Import Certificate.
- Select your PFX file, and click Open.
- Enter the password for the PFX file (provided by the SSL certificate vendor), and the importing process should be successful.
Step 5: Test RD Gateway Connection
You’ve finished setting up RD Gateway for the network resources you’d like to remotely connect to.
Next, you can use the Remote Desktop Connection client to test the RDP traffic connection. Simply input the Remote desktop server’s name or private IP address, and test whether the connection is stable.
If there are any issues, troubleshoot the problem by re-checking the previous steps.
Using Remote Desktop Connection in the V2 Cloud App
If you are using the V2 Cloud cloud PC service but want to use Remote Desktop Connection over the app, you can simply toggle the “Use RDP” button on the top of the V2 Cloud desktop app’s window.
Using Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) over HTTPS can improve your connection’s security by ensuring end-to-end encryption between remote users and the internal network resources used by the virtual applications.
If you want to set the V2 Cloud app to always use Remote Desktop Connection by default, simply go to Settings, and then check “Always use RDP.”
Better Remote Desktop Connection Alternative: V2 Cloud
V2 Cloud is a virtual desktop solution that offers fully-integrated security, including the ability to use secure Remote Desktop Connection without the complexity common in cloud computing services.
With V2 Cloud, you’ll have an easier way to enable secure remote access to your users and employees without sacrificing performance, user experience, and data integrity.
V2 Cloud offers no contract policy with a flat-rate pricing model and no hidden fees. With these benefits, at the moment, V2 Cloud is the number one virtualization solution for small businesses. Create virtualized desktops, servers, and virtualize applications to improve productivity and significantly reduce your IT costs.