How To Connect Remotely To A Windows PC From Windows 7 & Windows 8.1

Remote DesktopIf you are running a Windows-based computer, you can connect to another computer using the Remote Desktop Connection utility. In this tutorial we will show you how to connect from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 to another Windows-based computer or device that has Remote Desktop Connection enabled.

NOTE: Before actually applying this tutorial, make sure you have enabled the Remote Desktop Connecton on the Windows computer to which you will be connecting. To learn how to do this, check this guide: How to Enable Remote Desktop Connections in Windows 7 & Windows 8. Also, because the steps described in this tutorial are similar for both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, most of the screenshots we'll use are taken in Windows 8.1.

How To Start Remote Desktop Connection

If you're using Windows 7, you can launch the Remote Desktop Connection client from the Start Menu. Navigate to the Accessories group and click the Remote Desktop Connection shortcut.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

If you're using Windows 8.1, you can launch the Remote Desktop Connection from the Start screen. First, open the Apps view. Then, move the mouse cursor to the bottom left corner of the screen and click the arrow pointing downwards. In case you're using a touch screen, flick upwards from the bottom of the screen.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

Look for the Remote Desktop Connection client and click or tap its name to launch it. You'll find it in the Windows Accessories section.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

A slightly faster way of starting the Remote Desktop Connection client is to use the search. To do that, switch to the Start screen and write the word "remote". Then, click or tap the Remote Desktop Connection search result.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

No matter which way you choose to open it, once the Remote Desktop Connection client is launched, you'll be able to type the computer name of the host and connect right away. However, you might want to adjust some settings first. Read the next section to find out how to configure the Remote Desktop Connection.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

How To Configure Remote Desktop Connection

In order to set the Remote Desktop Connection to work just as you like it to, expand its preferences by clicking or tapping on Show Options.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

The General tab allows you to enter the computer name and the user name. The computer name is how the host computer identifies itself on the network. If you're not sure what the computer name is, you can see it in System Properties on the remote computer. Also, if you have troubles connecting using a computer name, you can also connect using the host's local IP address.

In the User name field, enter the user name of an administrator account from the remote machine, or a standard user account that has been enabled for Remote Desktop connections. In other words, use a user account that you would enter if you were logging in locally to the host machine.

NOTE: In the following screenshot, you'll see the user name formatted as MicrosoftAccount\username or ComputerName\username, depending on the user account type on the remote computer or device. You don't have to type it in like this, but when Remote Desktop Connection saves your connection settings, it will reformat it like that.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

In the Display tab you can tweak some of the video settings. By changing the screen size and color depth, you can improve the performance when connected remotely.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

In the Local Resources tab, you can configure your audio, keyboard and devices settings.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

If you click Settings under Remote Audio, you can choose whether you want to playback audio on the remote machine, on the client machine or neither. You can also enable recording from the client machine.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

In the Keyboard section, you have three options for handling Windows key combinations (such as ALT + TAB and CTRL + ALT + DEL). By default, these key combinations will be registered by the remote computer when you are in full screen, but if you're in window mode, they'll be recognized by your computer (the client). For example, if you are in full screen and you press ALT + TAB, you'll switch between windows on the remote machine. If you're in windowed mode, you'll ALT + TAB between windows on your computer. You can change this so that Windows key combinations are only recognized by the client machine or the host machine.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

Lastly, you can choose the settings for the Local devices and resources. By default, you can share clipboards between machines (i.e. copy from the host and paste to the client) and print a document from the host machine on a printer connected to the client machine.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

You may also want to share other devices and resources, such as hard drives. Click More to see more options. If you check Drives, you'll be able to select which drives and volumes you want to share with the host machine. These show up under tsclient on the host machine, in the Network section of your File Explorer in Windows 8.1 or Windows Explorer in Windows 7.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

The Programs tab allows you to run a specific program when you connect to the remote machine. This allows you to run single programs on the remote computer without having to navigate through Windows Explorer. To enable this feature, check the "Start the following program on connection" box and enter the program path and filename. If you want to set a working folder, type it in in the second box.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

The Experience tab lets you further tweak your settings for better performance. For example, it makes sense to disable the desktop background, menu and window animations since these aren't essential for most tasks you'll be performing remotely. You can also disable font smoothing to make text a little bit more readable, especially when the screen is resized. Also, you can have Remote Desktop Connection choose the best settings for you based on your connection speed from the drop-down menu.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

The Advanced tab gives you additional options. Here, you can change how Server authentication behaves. Normally, Remote Desktop Connection will check to make sure that the server name on the certificate matches the computer name you entered to initiate the connection. If they don't match, you'll be warned before connecting.

If you want to skip this message, you can choose to "Connect and don't warn me". This may be useful if you are using the IP address to connect to the remote machine. If that's the case, the authentication will always fail, since the remote computer won't identify itself on the server.

Or, you can choose "Do not connect" if the server authentication fails, which will cancel the connection without warning you if the server name doesn't match.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

Lastly, you can also set up your Remote Desktop Gateway settings by clicking the Settings button under "Connect from anywhere". Remote Desktop Gateways are used for connecting into corporate networks or Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) from outside those networks. For example, if you were at home and you wanted to connect to your desktop at the office via Remote Desktop Connection, you may need to use a Remote Desktop Gateway. Check with your network administrator to find out how to configure these settings.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

How To Connect To A PC Using Remote Desktop Connection

Once you've chosen all of the settings you want, you can save your settings in the General tab and click Connect.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

When connecting, Remote Desktop Connection will give you a series of warnings. The first one asks you if you trust the computer you're connecting to. Dismiss this message by clicking Connect. If you don't want to be reminded about it each time you connect to this machine, you can also check "Don't ask me again for connections to this computer".

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

Next, you'll be asked to enter your password. Use the same password you would use to log in locally.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

If you used an IP address to connect, you'll see a warning about the server name on the certificate not matching the computer name you entered. This may also happen if you didn't use the exact same capitalization when entering the computer name. As long as the certificate name displayed is something you recognize, it's safe to click Yes and continue.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

After connecting, you'll see the remote machine in a window of its own. To give the remote machine keyboard and mouse focus, click inside the window or make it full screen. To close the connection, simply close the window.

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

The next time you connect, you can save yourself the time of opening Remote Desktop Connection by right-clicking the computer you want to connect to in the Network pane from File/Windows Explorer and choosing "Connect with Remote Desktop Connection".

Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Remote Desktop Connection, remote

Conclusion

By using Remote Desktop Connection, you can access applications and devices on a remote computer by logging in with an administrator or standard user account. This is useful for technical support teams, systems administrators and those who occasionally work remotely and need access to the files and programs on their office computers. If you have any questions regarding this subject, don't hesitate to ask, by using the comments form below.