What’s Remote Desktop in Windows XP/2003?

Posted on January 8, 2009 by Daniel Petri in Networking with 0 Comments

With Remote Desktop on Windows XP Professional or Windows Server 2003, you can have access to a Windows session that is running on your computer when you are at another computer. This means, for example, that you can connect to your work computer from home and have access to all of your applications, files, and network resources as though you were in front of your computer at work. You can leave programs running at work and when you get home, you can see your desktop at work displayed on your home computer, with the same programs running.

On Windows Server 2003 you can also connect to 2 new sessions, not just to the “console” session, thus enabling you to have multiple sessions open to the server.

See the Enable Remote Desktop on Windows Server 2003 page for more info.

On Windows XP and on the “Console” session in Windows Server 2003, when you connect to your computer at work, Remote Desktop automatically locks that computer so no one else can access your applications and files while you are gone. When you come back to your computer at work, you can unlock it by typing CTRL+ALT+DEL.

Remote Desktop also allows more than one user to have active sessions on a single computer. This means that multiple users can leave their applications running and preserve the state of their Windows session even while others are logged on.

In Windows XP, with Fast User Switching, you can easily switch from one user to another on the same computer. For example, suppose you are working at home and have logged on to the computer at your office to update an expense report. While you are working, a family member needs to use your home computer to check for an important e-mail message. You can disconnect Remote Desktop, allow the other user to log on and check mail, and then reconnect to the computer at your office, where you see the expense report exactly as you left it. Fast User Switching works on standalone computers and computers that are members of workgroups, but not on XP Pro computers that are a part of a Domain.

Remote Desktop enables a variety of scenarios, including:

  • Working at home – Access work in progress on your office computer from home, including full access to all local and remote devices.
  • Collaborating – Bring your desktop to a colleague’s office to debug some code, update a Microsoft PowerPoint slide presentation, or proofread a document.
  • Sharing a console – Allow multiple users to maintain separate program and configuration sessions on a single computer, such as at a teller station or a sales desk.

To use Remote Desktop, you need the following:

  • A computer running Windows XP Professional or Windows Server 2003 (“remote” computer) with a connection to a Local Area Network or the Internet.
  • A second computer (“home” computer) with access to the Local Area Network via network connection, modem, or Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection. This computer must have Remote Desktop Connection, formerly called the Terminal Services client, installed.
  • Appropriate user accounts and permissions.


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