How do I use remote desktop over the Internet?

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QUESTION :

My dad uses a computer with Windows XP professional installed on it. He would most likely be taking my Acer laptop with Win7 Home Premium installed on it.

I do not want him to install his software on my computer. Usually in his office (he has two computers in two different locations), he just does remote desktop over LAN and it’s fine and not to mention lag free.

So pretty much, I would like a solution where he could use my laptop to initiate a remote desktop session on his computer over the internet and have it pretty much lag free.

What are my options?

ANSWER :

I’m assuming your dad remotes into his other computer at work, and you’d like him to be able to remote into that machine via the Internet. I’m also assuming your dad’s second computer is in that same office and he’s not using the Internet to access it, just the LAN.

Simplest thing to do is open up port 3389 on your dad’s firewall at work, and forward incoming TCP traffic on that port to the internal IP address of your dad’s other computer. However, this is bad for security (anyone can try to remote in and try to guess passwords, etc.) It’s possible to set up the office router to allow this and do a bunch of other things, but I’m assuming your dad is sharing the office with others and won’t have the authority to change network or firewall configuration at will without going through someone else.

Probably the easiest and best thing to do, unless your dad wants to deal with the office’s IT department, is to sign up for something that uses an intermediary system. I believe either LogMeIn or PCAnywhere is going to do what you need.

Since your dad’s second computer at the office likely can’t accept arbitrary incoming connections from the Internet, what needs to happen is that your dad’s second computer connects to an intermediary service. This works behind NAT and firewalls because that computer is initiating the connection, which is allowed. Then, when your dad wants to connect to that computer, he logs into the intermediary service, which then uses the existing connection your dad’s computer started to actually initiate and setup the session.

First, in order not to have to look up the target PC’s IP every time, get a static name which is dynamically updated everytime your IP changes, DynDNS offers such services.

What incoming port you have to redirect on the remote computer side (probably some router) depends on what ports you want to use during an RDP call. Default port is 3389/TCP.

If your router does not support port forwarding via hostname, then you need to assign a static IP to the remote computer in the home network.

username.dyndns.info[:portnumber] is then your typical URI for a remote desktop request.

The remote desktop protocol is surprisingly efficient even on low bandwidth, so I think your experience will be good.

I would say the easiest option is LogMeIn. Just using Remote Desktop you’d have to worry about encryption etc. Using LogMeIn means you won’t as it does all that for you. It’s free. Only issue is whether he’s the boss or not? Because he or you will need to sign up to LogMeIn. Then on the machine at the office login to logmein and add his PC to your account. It will then download the client to that machine.

Once installed, setup the security part of it like giving it an extra password and whatever you see fit. Then on your laptop, login again to logmein and you should see his machine and be able to connect to it.

If he’s not the boss, he’ll need permissions to do this and install it on the machine. Which I’m sure you’re aware of already.

Possibly the simpler option is to create a VM on your laptop that dad can boot up (or into!) And install whatever he likes on it, without cluttering up your windows installation.

There are a few benefits.
* you’re not likely to see responsiveness over the Internet that rivals LAN performance. Maybe, but unlikely.
* zero technical hurdles, once this is set up. No 3rd party app/service. No firewalls, routers, or ports.
* no hassles with IT – are they even ok with putting a home laptop on their LAN? Might not happen, depending on what regulations they’re adhering to (the law office detail may be relevant after all)

I’d be sure the remote scenario is ok before potentially wasting the time.

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