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How to remotely access your home PC from Windows Phone 8.1

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May 28, 2014

Here's how to connect to a remote computer on Windows Phone 8.1

Here's how to connect to a remote computer on Windows Phone 8.1

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Microsoft recently launched the Remote Desktop app for Windows Phone 8.1. It's free and allows you to connect your phone to a remote PC over a local network or from the internet. Although it's a pre-release version and doesn't include certain functionality that you would expect from a remote desktop app from your computer, it's still handy for a lot of situations. Here's a look at how to set up your computer to receive remote connections, and how to use your phone for remote desktop.

For this article I tested the app over my local network and connected to one of my servers and a couple of Windows 7 and 8.1 computers. For connecting to computers at your workplace, you'll have a problem getting past the gateway as the app doesn't currently support connecting through Remote Desktop Gateway or Remote Desktop Connection Broker. However, according to Microsoft execs: "Enterprise-focused enhancements such as the Remote Desktop Gateway and RD Connection Broker, VPN support, and Remote Resources," are planned for later this year. These are important features to be added since Android and iOS already support them.

Set computer to accept remote connections

By default, Windows computers have the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) disabled. You'll need to enable it on the computer(s) you want to connect to. It's a simple process. Right-click Computer or This PC (as it's called in Windows 8.1) and select Properties. At the top left of the resulting screen click Remote settings from the list. This will open System Properties to the Remote tab. Under Remote Desktop, check Allow remote connections to this computer. On Windows 8.1 it's also recommended to click the box to allow connection from computers with Network Level Authentication for an additional level of security.

Set your computer to accept remote desktop connections

Note that accepting remote desktop connections isn't a feature included with Home versions of Windows 7, Vista or Windows 8. The computer you're connecting to will need to be running a Professional version or higher – Windows 7 Ultimate, for example.

Connect from Windows Phone 8.1

Now on your phone download the Remote Desktop app to your Windows Phone. Then, to connect to a computer tap the plus icon at the bottom of the screen. Then you'll need to enter in the host name or IP address of the computer you want to connect to. Here you can also select whether you want to enter in your login credentials each time, or you can to save your username and password for different computers, which makes connecting to them again in the future much easier.

Adding a computer to connect to

After you have a few computers set up, you just need to tap on the one you need to remote into. The first time you connect to a PC or server, you'll see a message about not being able to verify the remote computer's certificate, as shown in the screenshot below. If you're remotely connecting into a computer from you're phone, I will assume you know you're connecting to the correct one. I recommend checking the option to not show that screen every time.

Select don't ask again for this certificate

After the connection is made your phone's display moves to landscape view and you'll see the desktop of that computer. In the example below I am connected to my Windows Home Server.

Remote Desktop connection established with a home server

In the top toolbar you'll see a magnifier icon, the remote computer's name, and the keyboard icon. Taping the keyboard icon will display the onscreen keyboard. As you can see in the shot below, the keyboard will take up most of the screen real estate. The top row of keys – Windows, ALT, ESC, etc., are "sticky," meaning you'll need to tap it once to turn it on, and again to deactivate it.

Type on the remote computer via the onscreen keyboard

The magnifier button allows you to zoom in on the screen. This is handy when you need to hit small targets like in Outlook or, depending your phone's screen size, being able to read text. You'll also notice a directional button that will appear to let you to drag the screen around in any direction.

Zooming in on the screen allows easier access to small targets

Tap the middle of the top toolbar and a sidebar will pop up where you can enable the mouse pointer.

Tap the top bar in the middle to activate the mouse pointer

When you're ready to disconnect from the remote computer, just hit the physical back button on the phone twice.

Summing up

As I stated at the beginning, the Remote Desktop app for Windows Phone 8.1 is still in development and there are some glaring omissions of important features like Remote Desktop Gateway, RD Connection Broker and pinch and zoom to make navigating the screen easier. After these features are rolled out later this year, the app will be more complete and useful in corporate environments. While not everything is working perfectly yet, I expect continuous development and a better experience as it's updated over time.

You're probably not going to get a lot of productive computing done from your phone's small screen like you would on a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer, but it can get the job done, and works in a pinch when you need to remotely access different computers while on the go.

About the Author
Brian Burgess Brian Burgess resides in Minnesota. A technology enthusiast his entire life, he worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. In addition to contributing to Gizmag, he’s the Editor in Chief at groovyPost.com and has written for other notable tech sites Byte, InformationWeek, and How-To Geek. Away from the keyboard, you're likely to find him listening to heavy metal, playing guitar, or watching Star Trek.   All articles by Brian Burgess
8 Comments

What's the big deal? I'v been able to do this on my Nexus 5 android phone for ages cross platform too. The only thing I can see it's good for really is to check the kids browsing history without having to get my hands on their computer and see if they are doing their homework or to turn their music down if it's too loud. It's possible to use dictation and see the text pop up on the computer screen, interesting when you think I don't have dictation on my mac.

What I can do is record my nexus 5 screen whilst streaming video (like TV) for up-to an hour. I can't do that on my mac, that's impressive. Even ios can't do that on a single cheap device.

Mr Allan
28th May, 2014 @ 03:57 am PDT

If you're a Windows Phone user, and live in the Microsoft ecosystem, this is a big deal as it's a feature that has been sorely missing from the platform.

bburgess
28th May, 2014 @ 04:56 am PDT

Pinch-to-zoom is supported, although its kind of strange. If I try to pinch-zoom in a browser I opened BEFORE remoting in, no multi-touch support. However, if i open a new window (Chrome for instance) I get pinch-zoom, two finger scrolling, etc. So it is supported, just buggy for the time being. As far as other remote apps available on other platforms, this one has a much "cleaner" and simpler feel to it rather that tons of menus and a keyboard with unintuitive features.

greysplash
30th May, 2014 @ 10:02 am PDT

Great article it is very helpful info for me to work via my Lumia 920

BelnisNetwork
3rd June, 2014 @ 01:54 am PDT

Just try software like logmein or Ammyy Admin.

Stefan Skliarov
12th June, 2014 @ 02:32 pm PDT

I'm following all the steps but when I try to initiate remote connections, I get this message:

"Connection error

We couldn't connect to the remove PC. Make sure the PC is turned on and connected to the network, and that remote access is enabled.

Inquiring minds may find this error code helpful: 0x204"

Anyone knows what could be wrong?

Lee Seng Kiat
28th June, 2014 @ 01:04 pm PDT

Hi everybody. I have the same error like Lee Seng Kiat. I use a Lumia 620 with Lumia Cyan. ¿What is the problem with this?

Juan David Flórez Montes
12th August, 2014 @ 10:19 am PDT

Hi to everyone, I want to know whether it is possible to see everything that is going on my pc. My kids use my pc and is it possible to see what they are doing... i mean if they play youtube videos..I'll be able to see it right. One more doubt.. Is it possible to know whether someone(me) is remotely accesing the PC when my kids are using. I dont want my kids to find out. please help me and sorry for my English.. Thank you

vaish92
18th October, 2014 @ 07:05 am PDT
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