Enable Remote Desktop in Windows 7 for Remote Administration

Overview of Remote Desktop

Remote Desktop was first introduced with the release of Microsoft Windows 2000 and has been carried forward to all the latest operating systems till date. With help of Remote Desktop administrators can manage remote computers from a central location without physically going to the computer that might be located either in different campus of the same premises or at completely distant geographical location. Remote Desktop connection uses RDP protocol that works on port TCP 3389.

When administrators initiate Remote Desktop connection to a remote computer, the entire console of that computer is displayed on the screen of the computer, from where the remote desktop connection is initiated. This allows administrators to manage remote computer exactly the way they would have managed it if they were physically present in front of the remote computer.

Remote Desktop connections can only be initiated and used by the administrators of the remote computers. This means that if administrators initiate remote desktop connections to remote computers, they must have administrative privileges for the remote computers. To override this limitation, standard user accounts can be added to Remote Desktop Users group of remote computers in order to allow non-administrative user accounts to initiate and use Remote Desktop connection. However this configuration is not at all recommended.

In any client operating system such as Microsoft Windows XP and above, when administrators initiate Remote Desktop connections, locally logged-on user accounts on the remote computers automatically get locked. On the other hand in network operating systems such as Windows Server 2003 or Windows Server 2008, maximum two concurrent remote desktop sessions can be initiated by the administrators without locking locally logged-on user accounts.

Administrators must enable Remote Desktop feature on the remote computers before they can establish Remote Desktop connections to them. Since this is an administrative task, elevated privileges are required to do so.

Enabling Remote Desktop

Administrators must follow the steps below in order to enable Remote Desktop feature on a Windows 7 computer:

  1. Log on to Windows 7 computer with administrator account.
  2. Click Start, and from the menu right click Computer.
  3. From the context menu, click Properties and on the opened window, from the left bar, click Remote settings option.
  4. On System Properties box, make sure that Remote tab is selected, and under Remote Desktop section, click to select Allow connections from computers running any version of Remote Desktop (less secure) radio button in order to accept remote desktop connections from both Microsoft Windows XP or lower and Microsoft Windows Vista or above operating systems. Microsoft strongly recommends that Allow connections only from computers running Remote Desktop with Network Level Authentication (more secure) radio button must be selected if the network setup has only Microsoft Windows Vista or later versions of operating systems.

    Enable Remote Desktop

  5. Once done, click OK button to close System Properties box.

Note: Since legacy versions of Windows operating systems used older versions of Remote Desktop clients, which used to ask users for their credentials after Remote Desktop sessions were established, it made the operating systems vulnerable to risks. To eliminate this problem Windows 7 offers a new option named Allow connections only from computers running Remote Desktop with Network Level Authentication (more secure) that requires credentials from users before it establishes Remote Desktop Session.

Author: Vivek Nayyar

Works as Systems Admin in Siskin Technologies, India. Corporate trainer on Microsoft and Cisco platform. Specialized in Virtualization Technology. LAN Consultant for some local organizations.