How to Connect to a Work Computer Remotely - And for Free
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One of the most requested items I hear from small business folks is accessing their work computer from a remote location. They don’t want to pay the fees of services like GoToMyPC, Timbuktu, etc. They want a reliable and cost effective method to get to their data remotely. Most people assume that this type of thing is too complicated. I have news for you – you can do this. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and get ready to go remote.
Before we get started, let’s get some things straight. When I speak of a “host” computer, I am talking about the computer that you want to connect to from a remote location. When I speak of a “remote” computer, I am talking about the computer that you are using to connect to the “host.” I am also assuming that:
1.You have high speed internet access
2.Your host computer is running Windows XP Professional
3.You are using a Linksys router, though you can do this on other routers
Most small business setups have a very simple network design. Let me diagram a typical design for you: -->broadband internet line to office -->internet jack in office -->line from wall to dsl or cable modem -->line from modem to router-->lines to computers. The major player in this setup, for our purposes, is the router. The router routes traffic to various locations. We are going to use it to route our remote desktop traffic to our host computer.
Alright, take a deep breath and get ready to learn. The first step is to make sure your host (the office machine you will be connecting to) has a static ip (internet protocol) address. Most folks get really confused when techies like me start talking about ip addresses. Think of an ip address like a mailing address for a home. Each one is unique on a street. Well, each ip address in a given network must be unique or computers get really confused. Usually, a router takes care of assigning an ip address to each computer as it is booted up, or turned on. We need to make sure your ip address is static. What this means is that it will not change. If it did, we wouldn’t be able to find it. It would be like trying to find a house that changes locations. See what I mean? So, let’s find out your ip address. Click on “Start,” go to “Run,” and type “cmd.” Click “ok” and a black box will appear. Type “ipconfig.” Note the ip address listed here. It will most likely be a 192.168.1.x number, where x is a number 2-254.
Now, we want to assign our host computer with a static ip address. Click on “Start” in the lower left hand corner and then click on “Control Panel”. Again, this is on the “host” computer – the one you want to connect to. Now, click on “Network Connections.” You will see a “Local Area Connection.” Right click on this and select “Properties.” This will bring up a box. In this box is a white box that will include “Internet Protocol (TCP/IP).” Click this to highlight and select “Properties.” This is where we will enter in a static ip address – you know, a 192.168.1.x number. Click on “Use the following address” and enter 192.168.1.180 in the ip address area. Now, go down to the gateway. The gateway is simply the router. Enter 192.168.1.1. Note: if your ip address happens to be something different, like 192.168.0.x, then you would enter 192.168.0.180 for your static ip address and 192.168.0.1 for your gateway.
The next step is to make sure our host computer can accept remote connections. Click on “Start,” go to “Control Panel,” and select “System.” You will see a “Remote” tab. Click it. Make sure the box entitled “allow users to connect remotely to this computer” is checked.
Don't give up – you're almost there! Now, we need to set up our router to forward traffic to that static ip address. Open up Internet Explorer or your favorite browser. Type in “192.168.1.1”. This will bring up a login for your router. If it’s a Linksys, it will be a blank user name and “admin” for the password. If you have another router make, just look at the instructions or visit the vendor website for the user name and password. Go to the “Status” tab and note the “Wan” or “internet” ip address. This will not be a 192.168.1.x number. That is the “lan” ip address. Write the “Wan” or “internet” address down. We will use that later.
Now, go to the “forwarding” tab. This is under the “advanced” area on most Linksys routers. Enter in port number “3389” into the port number boxes – start and end. Enter the static ip address we set earlier – 192.168.1.180. Make sure it is enabled and click “Save Settings.”
First, make sure you can connect internally to the host computer. Open up Remote Desktop by clicking on “Start,” “All Programs,” “Accessories,” “Communications,” and “Remote Desktop Connection.” Enter in 192.168.1.180 and click “Connect.” Make sure you can login. If you can’t, you either don’t have the right static ip address for the host, the host is turned off, or Remote Connections aren't enabled. Now, go outside the office and open up Remote Desktop. If you don’t see it there, you will need to download the Remote Desktop Client from Microsoft. Once that is open, enter the ip address we got from our router – the Wan or internet ip address. This is not the 192.168.1.x number. You should be greeted with a login for your remote host computer. Congratulations, you just set up a free, remote connection to your computer!
PS – make really sure that your password on the host machine is a “strong” password. Meaning, please don’t make it “123.” Make it something like “B1zN1z!” Notice the numbers and special character “!”.
About the Author
Copyright 2006 Jack Knows, Inc.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2006-08-21 19:44:35 in Computer Articles