How to enable Remote Desktop Connections in all versions of Windows

Windows Remote Desktop Connections allows you to connect to a Windows-based PC via the internet or a network. When you are connected using a Remote Desktop Connection, you can see the host computer's desktop and access its files and folders as if you were sitting in front of its screen. This is useful for both systems administrators and technical support teams as well as end users, who may want to access their work computers from home or vice-versa. But, before you can connect, you must enable Remote Desktop Connections. Here is how it is done in Windows 10, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1:

Limitations regarding Remote Desktop connections in Windows

If you run Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise, Windows 8.1 Pro or Enterprise, Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate or Windows 7 Enterprise, you can accept Remote Desktop Connections. If you run any other edition of Windows, like Windows 10 Home, Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 Home, you cannot accept Remote Desktop Connections.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to enable Remote Desktop Connections on your Windows-based computer so that it can be controlled remotely. For simplicity, we will use screenshots taken mostly in Windows 10 Pro, but we will also include screenshots from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 when they are needed.

How to find and enable Remote Desktop Connections in Windows 10, using the Settings app

IMPORTANT: This method works only if you have Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, available for free, to all Windows 10 users, starting October 17th, 2017. If you have an older version of Windows 10, skip to the next section of this tutorial.

If you are using Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, using the Settings app is the easiest way to get to the Remote Desktop Connection settings. Launch the Settings app - a quick way to do it is to click or tap on the cogwheel button from the Start Menu or, if you prefer using your keyboard, simultaneously press the Windows + I keys.

Inside Settings, open the System category.

On the left side of the System category, select Remote Desktop. Then, on the right side of the window, a page with the same name - Remote Desktop - is loaded.

Here, Windows 10 explains what Remote Desktop is all about: “[it] lets you connect to and control this PC from a remote device by using a Remote Desktop client app (available for iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows). You’ll be able to work from another device as if you were working directly on this PC.”

To allow remote desktop connections to your Windows 10 PC, you must turn on the “Enable Remote Desktop” switch.

Windows 10 asks you to confirm your choice. Click or tap the Confirm button.

Then, the “Enable Remote Desktop” switch is On, and new settings become available below it.

By default, Windows 10 allows connections only from computers running Remote Desktop with Network Level Authentication. This means that your PC restricts remote desktop connections to those running versions of Remote Desktop that have Network Level Authentication. Network Level Authentication was introduced in Remote Desktop Client 6.0. If the client computer is running Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7, or they have recently downloaded the Remote Desktop Connection client, you should have no issues in connecting to your PC, using the login credentials of an administrator user.

However, it is probable that you do not want to give out your administrator credentials to others, just like that. To avoid such a situation, you should configure the users that are allowed to initiate remote desktop connections to your Windows 10 PC. To do that, scroll the Remote Desktop page from the Settings app and click or tap on the link that says “Select users that can remotely access this PC.”

This action opens a small window called “Remote Desktop Users” which lets you select which users are allowed to initiate remote connections to your Windows 10 PC. The steps are the same for all modern Windows versions, including Windows 10, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. To see which they are, read the last section of this guide: “How to select the users that are allowed to connect remotely to your PC, in Windows.”

How to find and enable Remote Desktop Connections using the Control Panel (Windows 10, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1)

One method to get access to the “Remote Desktop Connections” settings that works the same in all three Windows operating systems is to open the Control Panel and go to “System and Security -> System.”

On the left side of the System window, click or tap the link called “Remote settings.”

Regardless of the operating system that you use, a window called System Properties is now opened. On its Remote tab, you can find two sections: Remote Assistance and Remote Desktop. The settings that interest us for this tutorial are in the latter.

The previous screenshot shows you how the System Properties window looks in Windows 10. The Windows 8.1 version is the same, but in Windows 7 the options are organized and named slightly differently, as you can see in the following image.

In the Remote Desktop area, you have three options to choose and enable:

  • “Don't allow remote connections to this computer” - This option prevents users from connecting to your computer using Remote Desktop Connection.
  • “Allow remote connections to this computer,” in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1, or “Allow connections from computers running any version of Remote Desktop,” in Windows 7 - This allows users running any version of Remote Desktop Connection to connect to your PC. Use this if you are not sure which version of Remote Desktop is used by the client, or if they are using a third-party Remote Desktop Connection application. For example, Linux clients likely require the second option.
  • “Allow connections only from computers running Remote Desktop with Network Level Authentication” - This restricts Remote Desktop Connections to those running versions of Remote Desktop that have Network Level Authentication and it is selected by default. Network Level Authentication was introduced in Remote Desktop Client 6.0. If the client computer is running Windows, or they have recently downloaded the Remote Desktop Connection client, use this option, as it is more secure.

Once you click or tap OK, clients can log in to your computer via Remote Desktop Connection using the login credentials of administrator level users. However, you probably do not want to give your administrator credentials to other people, so before you click or tap on the OK button, you should first click or tap on the “Select Users” button, and make sure that you also perform the steps that we describe in the next section of this tutorial.

How to select the users that are allowed to connect remotely to your PC, in Windows

It is always a good idea to set up a separate standard level user account for Remote Desktop Connections. The “Remote Desktop Users” window is the place from which you can permit other user accounts to connect via Remote Desktop Connections. As it happens, it is also the same with all modern Windows operating systems. Regardless of whether you use Windows 10, Windows 7 or 8.1, and regardless of whether you opened the Remote Desktop Users window from the Settings app or the Control Panel, here is what you have to do next:

To add the users to whom you want to give permissions, in the Remote Desktop Users window, click or tap on Add.

In the Select Users window, type the user account name in the box in the next window and click or tap on Check Names.

Windows check that a user account with that name exists and adds the location in front of it, if you are using a local account, or complete the email address if you are using a Microsoft account. When done, click or tap on OK.

You are back to the Remote Desktop Users window. Here, click or tap on OK once more.

Now, the user you added will be able to connect via Remote Desktop Connection to your computer with his or her login credentials.

Conclusion

After completing the above steps, users can connect remotely to your Windows computer, provided that your computer is powered on and connected to a network. Devices running Linux, Mac OS X or Windows, can also connect using the Remote Desktop protocol. The next step is to read the other tutorials recommended below if you want to learn how to connect to a Windows PC and see what you can do once you are connected to it.