Windows Remote Desktop (RDP) Tips and Tricks

remote desktop protocolRemote Desktop is a great convenience for employees on the go.

While you can use 3rd party tools to accomplish this, Windows RDP requires no installation and is common practice in most workplaces. Being able to connect to your desktop or server from any location is essential for the modern IT professional. I have learned a few things over the years, and wanted to share my favorite RDP tips.

Faster RDP Connection Tips:

If you need to access the same server(s) all the time, you can speed up this process in a few ways:

  1. If it is a publicly accessible machine, connect with the FQDN that DNS points to.
  2. If it is not publicly accessible, edit your host file to include a name. (Windows Only)
    • Hit WinKey+R to launch ‘Run’
    • Type ‘Drivers’ to load the System32 Folder
    • Open the ‘Etc’ folder
    • Open the HOSTS file using Notepad
    • Find the next available empty line, and enter the IP. Press Tab and type the name you would like to connect using, close and save changes. I:E: 8.8.8.8     GoogDNSMapping of IP addresses to host names
  3. Save your Username and Password
    • Click ‘Show Options’ and Under the ‘General’ Tab, check ‘Allow me to Save Credentials’
    • The next time you connect, select ‘Remember my Credentials’ and you won’t need to enter them again unless they refuse to authenticate.
  4. Save Connection Details as an RDP file
    • Click ‘Show Options’
    • Under the ‘General’ Tab, select ‘Save As’ and choose a name and location that is convenient for you.Remote Desktop Connection

If you have more than a handful of servers to support, you can also download a free Microsoft tool, Remote Desktop Connection ManagerThis tool also allows saved credentials, but its main appeal is the Explorer interface for RDP sessions.

For a full walk-through of this tool and its capabilities, read this Microsoft TechNet article.

Having Trouble Connecting with RDP?

If you are attempting to RDP but you are receiving a message that you can’t connect, there are a few easy troubleshooting steps:RDP can't connect

  1. Make sure Telnet Client is installed and open Command Prompt. Type ‘Telnet ComputerNameHere 3389’. You may also use the IP as well in place of a computer name. Since 3389 is the well-known port for Remote Desktop, this will tell us if something is listening on 3389. A successful connection will be a black screen due to no response being provided by the RDP protocol. If it fails to connect, then move to the next step.
  2. Ping the Computer Name or IP. If it resolves but drops every packet sent, then the Computer is likely turned off or you have network connection issues. This may be local, or on the remote PC.
  3. Again, Ping is our friend here. If you know the computer name, Ping will resolve this to the correct IP. If the machine is not available on the network, it will respond ‘Ping request could not find host. Please check the name and try again’. You can go a step further and attempt to resolve the IP to the hostname. Type ‘Ping –a IPaddressHere’. If it finds the machine on the network or the internet via DNS, it will return the hostname or A record for it.

RDP Display Settings

Again, we will delve into the Additional Options and head to the ‘Display’ Tab this time. If you are like me, you are not a fan of windowed Virtual Machines or Remote Desktops – it’s cumbersome. Here is how to adjust this:

  1. Move the Slider under display configuration all the way to the right so it says ‘Full Screen’.
  2. Make sure the checkbox, ‘Display the Connection Bar’, is checked so you can return to your Local Machine desktop easily. RDP Display Settings
  3. If you have multiple monitors and you check the ‘Use all my monitors for the remote session’ box, it will span the session across all available monitors on your local machine. Handy or when you are working from home.

If you have an RDP Session open and the Connection Bar is missing or you are frozen and can’t minimize the Session, type CTRL+ALT+BREAK to switch between Full Screen and Windowed Mode.

Change Remote VM Display Resolution

RDP does not receive its resolution from the VM, but instead it is set through the RDP client. If you are using Windows Built-in RDP, you would open the Additional Options – Choose the Display Tab and select your resolution from the slider. If it is not allowing you to use the maximum available settings that the remote machine and your PC, try this:

  1. While connected to your remote machine, open computer management
  2. Expand device manager
  3. Expand Display adapters (Take note of the current installed Graphics Adapter)
  4. Right click the current display adapter and select update driver
  5. Click no this time to access the internet, and click Next
  6. Choose the radio button for Install from a list or specific location and click Next
  7. Choose the radio button for Don’t search, I will choose the driver to install and Click Next
  8. Locate and Select your Graphics Adapter (If you can’t locate it, uncheck the Show compatible hardware checkbox)
  9. Click Yes in the update driver warning popup box if applicable
  10. Click Finish and Reboot
  11. After the server reboots log back in and open Display Properties
  12. Set the screen resolution and Color quality is set to your preferred settings and click OK

Summary

As is often the case, we have a Joe Knows Support video that can explain in simple terms how to remotely access your server. Hopefully, this can help you as well!

While there are many more RDP tips and tricks, these are my most commonly used. If you have a favorite tip or trick, please share it in the comments!

2014-01-24T08:30:25+00:00 January 24th, 2014|

9 Comments

  1. John Thaden September 26, 2014 at 6:20 am - Reply

    Uses jargon. What does VM mean, for instance? Why RDP instead of RDC? Acronyms should be defined once, that is pretty standard, unless you want to limit your readership to the cognoscenti. All I want to know how to do is to change my mouse pointer size and sometimes to make other things larger. When I try to use the usual settings on the remote machine, there is a banner across the top saying these cannot be changed during a remote session. Well that is pretty dumb, since it is often exactly then that easier accessibility is needed.

    • Peter Cartier September 29, 2014 at 9:05 am - Reply

      Hi John, sorry for the confusion. VM means Virtual Machine. Please pardon our cognoscenti pandering.

  2. Steve Lattina September 29, 2014 at 10:36 am - Reply

    @John Thaden Hi John. I have never had the need to change the cursor inside of a Remote Desktop Session, but I do see what you mean about the inability to change it. Quick research online shows that this is controlled by the registry and some API calls are needed to make any changes become effective. A Blog by Farhan Ahmad shows how to resolve this via the use of AutoHotKey. Check the links below for more info;
    AutoHotKey
    Programmatically Changing Windows Mouse Cursors

  3. Bob Girard February 20, 2015 at 5:36 am - Reply

    Is there a way if I email out the rdp to someone to stop them from right clicking and using edit?

  4. Dhruvh C April 1, 2015 at 4:03 am - Reply

    Hi,
    Is there any way to restrict remote users from certain resources? I want to disable the taskbar

  5. adventurous November 17, 2015 at 8:46 am - Reply

    I downloaded an application but when i tried launching it, it popped up this error message “The system is barred from running on Virtual Machine. how do i bypass this? please help.

  6. Swapnil November 19, 2015 at 2:46 am - Reply

    Why reboot is required after made changes in network settings to get RDP connections?

  7. Rehan Celliers January 27, 2016 at 5:06 am - Reply

    Is it possible to email from my server via my local machine while in a RDP session? I do not wish to load i.e. Outlook on my server.

  8. Prasanta Shee November 2, 2016 at 5:25 am - Reply

    Windows RDP is good. Alternatively, you may try tools like logmein, R-HUB remote support servers, TeamViewer etc. for remotely accessing computers from anywhere anytime.

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