Read All About It...

HowTo: Travel Without a Laptop (with a Virtual Desktop)

April 18, 2017, Written by

Introduction

This HowTo covers setting up a Windows “Remote Desktop”, a virtual computer in-the-cloud that you can use as your own private computer while traveling. Other benefits include the ability for multiple users (f.ex. your assistant or bookkeeper) to access the same Windows installation including any installed software (f.ex. QuickBooks or PCLaw).

You and your team can access your virtual remote desktop from any computer or mobile device (with the Remote Desktop App), as well as share files and print documents directly to local printers. What’s more is that your virtual computer is highly secure and automatically backed up every day. Never worry about losing valuable data again.

Step 1: Procure VPS

The first step is to sign-up for a Windows VPS (Virtual Private Server) plan. This HowTo is based upon LFC Hosting’s Self-Managed Windows VPS with Microsoft Windows Server 2012. We recommend ordering at least 2GB of RAM for this application.

Step 2: Change Your Password and Enable Remote Desktop

Within a short time of ordering your VPS, you should receive an email with the log-in details. Note the IP address, hostname and temporary administrator password for your Windows VPS.

For security reasons, Remote Desktop is disabled until you change your administrator password. To change your password and enable Remote Desktop, navigate to the newly ordered service in your LFC Client Area and scroll down to ‘Details’. Here you can see the status of your VPS and reboot it.

Click the ‘noVNC Console’ button. In the window that appears, click the ‘Send CtrlAltDel’ button in the upper-right corner, then type in your temporary administrator password to login.

Once logged in, go to the Control Panel (in the Start menu) and navigate to User Accounts > Manage Accounts > Administrator, and click ‘Change the password’.

Complete the fields to change your administrator password. The new password should have at least one uppercase character.

Next, from the Server Manager, click ‘Local Server’ in the left pane.

In the right pane, ensure that Remote Desktop is set to ‘Enabled’. Then click ‘Public: On’ to configure Windows Firewall. Click ‘Allow an app or feature through Windows Firewall’ and ensure that Remote Desktop is enabled for both Private and Public networks.

Step 3: Login with Remote Desktop

To start, the easiest way to access your VPS is by its IP address. Accessing it by host name (domain name) depends on registering or transferring your domain name, and can involve caching delays.

Launch ‘Remote Desktop Connection’ from any Windows PC (within Accessories) or the Remote Desktop App from your mobile device. Enter the IP address of your Windows VPS and click ‘Connect’. To start with, login with the username ‘Administrator’ and your VPS password.

You should now be logged in over Remote Desktop!

Step 4: Add Users

Navigate back to User Accounts in the Control Panel. Go ahead and setup a regular user for yourself, along with anyone else that needs to access the remote Windows VPS. For security reasons, you should typically connect as your regular user rather than as Administrator.

You also need to give the new users access to Remote Desktop. From Server Manager > Local Server, click ‘Enabled’ next to ‘Remote Desktop’. Then click ‘Select Users…’ followed by ‘Add…’ to give the new users access to Remote Desktop.

Step 5: Install Software

Almost any Windows business software can be installed on your virtual Windows 2012 Server. Note, however, that, due to the nature of remote desktop streaming, graphically-intensive software (like Photoshop) won’t work well.

Step 6: Share Files

To share files with your local (client) computer, click ‘Options’ in the Remote Desktop connection dialog.

On the ‘Local Resources’ tab, ensure ‘Printers’ is checked (required for the next step), then click ‘More…’.

Here, you can share local drives so that they are accessible in Windows Explorer on the remote VPS.

Step 7: Print To Local Printers

This final step involves a bit of magic. The SAME printer driver software must be installed on BOTH your local client (the local Windows computer you are using to access your VPS that is physically connected to a local printer) and the remote Windows installation. Then, the locally-connected printer will appear in ‘Control Panel > Hardware > Devices and Printers’ on the remote VPS and can be printed to by any software running on it. The local printer should appear on the remote computer with the tag ‘(redirected)’.

Robert Sauchyn