Enable Remote Desktop in Windows 10

The Windows 10 Remote Connection window. Header image.

You can enable Remote Desktop in Windows 10 by simply searching the Start Menu for “Remote Desktop Settings” and toggling “Enable Remote Desktop” to “On”.

Remote Desktop is disabled by default in Windows, but it’s easy enough to enable if you want your PC to be remotely managed by the network. Today we will discuss how to enable it from Windows 10 and earlier versions.

Remote Desktop allows you to remotely take control of another PC on the network. It consists of a Remote Desktop server service that enables connections to the PC from the network and a Remote Desktop client that establishes that connection to a remote PC. The client is included in all editions of Windows: Home, Professional, Enterprise, and so on. The server part is only available on the Professional and Enterprise versions. This means that you can establish a Remote Desktop connection from almost any PC running Windows, but you can only connect to Pro or Enterprise edition PCs.

Of course, if you’re running a Home edition of Windows on a PC you want to connect to, you can always use a third-party service like TeamViewer or even Chrome.

We cover Windows 10 and earlier versions in this article, but you can also easily enable Remote Desktop connections on Windows 11.

RELATED: Enable and use Remote Desktop on Windows 11

Enable remote desktop connections with Windows 10 settings

To enable Remote Desktop connections, open the Start menu and search for “remote desktop settings” to access the Remote Desktop panel directly from the PC Settings app. You can also open Settings and search from there, but it’s easier to do it this way.

Start Menu Search for Remote Desktop

Once you’re in Remote Desktop’s settings panel, you can simply toggle the “Enable Remote Desktop” switch from Off to On, which will allow inbound connections from a Remote Desktop client. When you flip the switch, you’ll be prompted to verify that’s what you really intended, and you can easily confirm that you do.

Remote desktop settings

Once Remote Desktop connections are enabled, you’ll be presented with multiple options to keep your PC awake or discoverable, but you’ll need to click through the Show settings for each to get to the details for them.

Remote desktop settings enabled

If you select the Advanced Settings link, you can do other things like change the RDP port on Windows 10 or Windows 11, or change whether you use Network Level Authentication, but those are generally things only advanced users should be doing, so you might want to leave them alone.

If you scroll further down in Remote Desktop’s settings panel, you can click the “Select users who can remotely access this PC” option to choose whether you want specific users to be able to access the PC, but it’s worth noting dat accounts with administrator privileges automatically have access to the PC and you are almost certainly using an administrator account if this is your personal PC.

Remote Desktop Users

You will also notice that you can find your PC’s name on this screen, which is useful if you are connecting from another computer.

Enable remote desktop connections using the control panel

The old-fashioned Control Panel still exists in Windows 10 and you can use it to enable Remote Desktop connections. For many of us, this is the easiest way to do things.

To enable Remote Desktop Connections using the old Control Panel, use the keyboard shortcut WIN + R to open the Run dialog box, then type sysdm.cpl and press the Enter key.

Run Box Sysdm.cpl

You’ll be presented with the System Properties panel, where you’ll want to switch to the Remote tab on the right. Once you’re there, you can simply select “Allow remote connections to this computer” in the Remote Desktop section, hit the Apply button, and you’re good to go.

Remote Desktop Control Panel

You can use the “Select Users” button to configure exactly which users have access to connect to this PC, but it’s worth noting that users with administrative access are already enabled by default, so you probably don’t need to bother with this.

In Windows 8 and 10, the option to only allow connections from PCs running Remote Desktop with network-level authentication is also enabled by default. Modern versions of Windows all support this level of authentication, so it’s best to leave it enabled. If you need to allow connections from PCs running Windows XP or earlier, you must uncheck this option.

Enable Remote Desktop connections to Windows 7

If you are using Windows 7 or Vista, you will want to use the WIN + R hotkey combination to open the Run dialog box, type sysdm.cpl and press Enter. From there, select the External tab.

Things work the same here as they do in Windows 10, but presented in a slightly different way. Note that you have three different options in Windows 7: don’t allow remote access, allow connections from any version of Remote Desktop, and only allow connections that are done with network-level authentication.

In any version of Windows, you can also click the “Select Users” button to set specific users who are allowed to make remote connections. When you are done setting up, click the “OK” button to let your PC listen for remote connections.

If you plan on connecting from other PCs on the same local network, that should be all you need to do. Windows automatically creates exceptions in the Windows Firewall to allow external connection traffic to pass.

Connect to another PC using Remote Desktop

You can establish a remote connection from those computers by clicking Start, typing “remote”, and then choosing the “Remote Desktop Connection” result. Simply type in the name or IP address for the PC to establish the connection.

If you plan to connect to the remote PC over the Internet, you’ll need to do a little extra setup, which involves passing remote desktop traffic through your router and forwarding those kinds of packets to the appropriate PC. Check out our guide to accessing Remote Desktop over the Internet for more information on that.

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