Using Remote Desktop with Windows XP Professional

Users today commonly complete work on both a home and office PC, shuttling files back and forth using email, disks, and online storage services. Unfortunately, gaining access to your home PC from work (or vice versa) has typically not been an easy proposition. While some users have VPN software set up to simplify connections between a home and office network, most users who’ve forgotten important files take the road more traveled – a trip back to wherever those critical files currently reside. However, if you’re running Windows XP Professional, another potential solution exists in the form of Remote Desktop, a feature that allows you to connect to your desktop remotely as if sitting in front of it. A few simple clicks sure beats turning the car around – read on and learn how to get this useful setup sorted!

Why Remote Desktop?

First and foremost, it’s important to understand what Remote Desktop is all about, since it’s easy to get confused with the various remote access technologies out there today. In simple terms, Remote Desktop does exactly what it’s name suggests, providing access to your XP desktop from another system via a local network or Internet connection. Once you connect to an XP system with Remote Desktop enabled, you can interact with that desktop precisely as if you were sitting in front of it. That means you could open your home email client and send yourself a file at work, run programs on your home PC, and so on. Some people use Remote Desktop as a way to administer or “play around” with their home system from any location, while others keep it running just in case they happen to forget a critical file. Many office environments enable Remote Desktop on all XP Professional systems to allow workers to gain access to their desktops after hours from home in case it’s necessary.

What actually happens over a Remote Desktop connection is that local commands and actions (like typing or mouse clicks) are sent to the remote system as instructions. The remote systems “responds” by sending back images of the remote system’s screen as responses to these instructions. So, clicking on the remote system’s Start menu using your local mouse ends up being interpreted as clicking the Start button from a mouse connected to the remote system. The remote system opens the Start menu, and sends back regularly refreshed images of the remote screen.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.