The Windows Remote Desktop Connection tool gives users the ability to connect to a remote Windows PC or server over the internet or on a local network, giving them full access to the tools and software installed on it. This is made possible by Microsoft’s own Remote Desktop Protocol (or RDP for short).
All Windows PCs and servers can use RDP to connect to another Windows device, but only certain versions of Windows allow RDP connections. This proprietary protocol rivals the open-source Virtual Network Computing (VNC) protocol commonly used on Linux and other platforms.
What is RDP?
The Remote Desktop Protocol allows remote users to see and use Windows on a device in another location. Key peripherals like your keyboard and mouse are shared with the remote machine, allowing you to use and control it as if you were sat right in front of it.
For RDP connections to work, you need two components—an RDP server and an RDP client. A typical RDP server is the Windows PC or server you’re connecting to and will control. The client is a PC or mobile device with an RDP client app installed, from which you control the server. Microsoft offers its own client for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, with various third-party options available for Linux and other platforms.
RDP is a Windows-only protocol, and you can only establish remote connections using RDP with Windows PCs and Windows Server installations that support it. Not all versions of Windows do—Windows 10 Home, for instance, can only be used as a client to connect to other Windows Remote Desktops, not the other way around.
You can only establish a single connection to Windows PCs that have remote desktop enabled. To connect multiple users at once, you’ll need a Windows server with the Remote Desktop Services (RDS) component installed and enabled.
If you want to establish RDP connections to a secure enterprise network from a remote location, you’ll also need the Remote Desktop Gateway service installed and configured on a suitable Windows Server installation. This also offers increased security, replacing the need for an internal virtual private network (VPN).