This video is all about how to allow you to set up your environment so you can use the Remote Desktop Connection software built into Windows to access your work computer from home (and your home computer from work if that’s what you need to do). What follows the video is a post about the topic, what happened that led me to figure out how to create remote desktop connections so I would not have to pay for a service I rarely use, and ultimately led me to create this instructional video.
Remote Desktop Connections
In my last blog post I wrote about how LogMeIn logged me off and killed the free version of their remote desktop connections software giving their users only 7 days to come up with the cash for paid versions or find another vendor. Well, as you might remember, that didn’t sit too well with me and even though I used their software and had several PC’s on my group of machines that had the LogMeIn client installed, I used it very little, certainly not enough to justify another SAAS charge to add to my growing list of monthly paid services. No, I decided to look into how I can do this remote desktop connection stuff for free.
First, I installed Google Chrome Remote Desktop on all of the PC’s that had LogMeIn installed and I uninstalled the LogMeIn clients from every PC. I removed all the PC’s from my LogMeIn account and said “see ya! wouldn’t wanna be ya!” to LogMeIn. That lasted about two days because Google Chrome Remote Desktop is still, shall we say, a not ready for prime-time product.
Sure, it works with multiple monitors but It created a very wide single image of the two monitors on the machine I connected to and put it on a single monitor. In order to see your screens in full screen mode, you had to put the software in full screen mode but then you could only see half of the image. You had to place the mouse cursor near the right edge of the screen in order to force the image to slide to the left to reveal monitor #2. It was slow and kludgey and impractical. LogMeIn didn’t handle multiple monitors very well, but it did have a button that allowed you to toggle back and forth between monitors. So after two days I was ready go back to LogMeIn and eat crow and pay for the service. But not so fast… I knew there had to be a better way.
For the past several weeks I’ve been working on a PowerBuilder 11.5 project for a client (I know I know – but that’s a post for another day). The primary (and only) developer for this internationally well known and well respected software and web site passed away from a battle with cancer and the company needed somebody to take over. I, having never seen PowerBuilder before in my life said, “sure, no problem”. I mean, not knowing how to do something has never stopped me before – in fact it’s really what a good developer and analyst is all about, isn’t it? Don’t we constantly have to deal with doing stuff we’ve never done before? Well, I for one believe it is precisely that skill that garners me the rates that I charge. I can do anything I decide to do and deliver exceptional quality work. So the client brought the entire development machine to me here in my office and I have been working on getting up to speed with PowerBuilder and fixing some bugs in both one of the PowerBuilder applications as well as the web site and MySQL database that the web site runs on. I just sit at my desk and use a remote desktop connection to that machine and I may as well be sitting at that machine.
In any case, I thought about using Citrix, or TeamViewer, or one of several other solutions and spent some time looking into it and reading some blog posts about it and while I was working on the client’s software I suddenly realized that if I could use Remote Desktop to connect to my work computer from home and have true multiple monitor access like what I was enjoying with the client’s machine parked at another desk about 10 feet from me, that would be the ULTIMATE solution. But how can I do this? I’m not a network guy. The extent of my networking knowledge is that I know how to plug in a router and switches, plug in the CAT-5e and CAT-6 cables (and know the difference between them – I think) and configure IP addresses and aliases using the hosts file and such. But I have no idea how to allow a computer from outside my office to connect to a computer inside my office.
So I called my buddy Gino from Fortes Technology and asked him if, and how, this can be done. Gino is a networking guy. A real one. If you are in the Danbury, CT area and you are looking for a top-notch networking and IT consulting company give them a call. Anyway, Gino told me a bunch of ways to do this, including the obvious – which would be to just Pay the stupid $50.00 per year to LogMeIn – and I just got overwhelmed. He was talking about setting up a Windows 2012 Server and a VPN with Routing and Remote Access and Router Ports and all kinds of stuff. I thanked him and we talked about a few other things and the conversation ended with me being even more confused and more determined than ever to find a simple solution for this problem.
So I did a google search:
how to use remote desktop to connect to another computer over the internet
and here’s the actual link to the results page:
and guess what? I found exactly what I was looking for. A simple solution:
- Enable Remote Access on the PC you want to access with Remote Desktop
- Enable Remote Desktop in your firewall
- Set a fixed IP address on the computer you want to connect to
- Configure your router to forward TCP port 3389 to the destination computers IP address (the computer you want to connect to)
- Find your routers public IP address so that Remote Desktop can find it from the Internet
- Open Remote Desktop Connection on the computer OUTSIDE your network where the destination computer is located and use the router’s public IP address and the RDP Port number to connect.
And that’s it. That’s all you have to do to set up remote desktop connection access so you can access your work computer from home, or access your home computer from work.
DISCLAIMER: You probably won’t be able to do this at work if you are an employee of a company with an IT department – they simply won’t let you do it because this type of connection is not an encrypted tunnel. If you own your own office or control your own small business office the way I do, then you can do whatever you want. it’s probably better to set up a hardware VPN between the two locations for security purposes, but that’s your call. I have used obscure port numbers and port forwarding on my router and have long passwords on my user names. Eventually some day I may come across a free software VPN connection client and service like LogMeIn that I can use to get dual monitor support while connecting to my office from home to do work, or to connect from my office to home to support my family members computers.
Oh, and one more thing: you cannot do a desktop takeover this way to walk a user through how to do something on their computer. As soon as you log in to the remote computer with Remote Desktop the physical monitor on that computer will go into the lock screen.
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