How to Remotely Access Your Computer

A lot of people have been asking me how to set up remote access lately.  There are two remote access utilities that I recommend: the first is Microsoft Terminal Services, also known as Remote Desktop, which comes bundled with Windows XP.  The second is VNC.

If you do not have Windows XP Professional (Home Edition won't work) on the host PC (the one you want to access), you must use VNC.  Windows XP is the only consumer version of Windows with Remote Desktop hosting support.

Terminal Services is much faster and has more features than VNC does.  Most notably, it supports file transfer and 128-bit SSL encryption.  I recommend using it, if possible.

However, when someone is connected to a host using Remote Desktop, nobody will be able to use the host computer locally.  It is because of some licensing issues Microsoft has, since technically, two people would be using a single copy of Windows if this weren't the case.  VNC does not have this problem.  If you remotely access a computer using VNC, it is just as if you are using it locally.

How to set up Terminal Services on Windows XP Professional

How to Set up a VNC Server

How do I Find My IP Address?

How do I Connect to a Computer Behind a Router or a Firewall?

You must open or forward port 3389 to the computer that is running the Remote Desktop server, or ports 5800 and 5900 to the computer running a VNC server.  This varies widely among routers and firewalls, but you should be able to find it in the instruction manual.

The folks at have created an excellent guide on how to do this, so rather than reinventing the wheel, I'll just refer you to it.

If you'd like more (technical) information about how NAT and port forwarding work, click here.

Confused?  If you live near Orange County, CA, I can provide further assistance.