Preparing for Windows 7: Remote Desktop Connnection

win7For most of the work I do (web site development, mobile phone app development, etc) I have a Intel Quad processor desktop PC system running Windows Vista in my main home office. I also often work from my kitchen table using my Dell D610 laptop (running Windows XP) so I can help watch my 5 year-old son and our recent addition (4-month old micheavious Labrador Puppy). To make thing easier, I’ll use Windows Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) to remotely connect to my Desktop PC (which is in my home office upstairs) from my Dell laptop.

If you’re unfamiliar with Windows RDC, it allows you to remotely make a connection between two different computers. In my case, my desktop PC is the “Server” and my Dell laptop is the “client”. So, from my laptop it is just like I’m sitting in front of my desktop pc.

It actually works pretty well, as Microsoft’s RDC will resize the displayed application windows to fit my laptop screen resolution quite nicely. Also, the speed of RDC is remarkably quick, where I see virtually no lag in user response. Of course, watching videos or doing any other graphics-intensive activity won’t work very well using RDC since a lot of graphic updates are being sent across the network connection.

Now, my version of Windows Vista is Home Premium which does not allow for RDC (you need to get Home Professional or Ultimate). But, fortunately there is a hack on the internet that allows one to modify the Home Premium installation to allow for Windows RDC.

With Windows 7 OS coming out in October 22nd, I contemplated whether I should pre-order the new OS and, which version should I get. As it turns out, Windows 7 Home Premium also does not have RDC capability, so I would need to get Home Professional or Ultimate. Instead of trying to hack a new Win 7 Home Premium installation, I decided to look around for other alternatives to Windows RDC.

First, there is LogMeIn which I’ve used in the past (free version). It is remarkably easy to install and setup, and allows you to access your home desktop PC from any computer using a basic web browser. The only downfall, is that the graphics and responsiveness is very slow compared to Windows RDC. Otherwise, it’s a great alternative solution.

Next, I checked out UltraVNC and RealVNC, which are similar to Windows RDC and LogMeIn. Both Ultra and RealVNC require you to install a small server on your home PC, and you run a “viewer” applcation on the remote computer system to connect to your main PC. UltraVNC is free, and seemed to work ok with my setup, however, I was disappointed by the slowness of the interface. There was a very noticable lag in the mouse cursor update as I moved it around on the screen. I’m surprised at this, since I’m making my connection between the host and server computers using a wireless hi-speed router. The reaction time for UltraVNC is very slow compared to Windows RDC.

RealVNC is a commercial product, but they do have a free version available. I tried using this free version on my desktop PC but couldn’t make a connection from my laptop. After some Googling, I found that the free version of RealVNC doesn’t work with Vista or Windows 7. I would need to buy the professional version to work on those operating systems. Although it’s been reported that RealVNC is faster than UltraVNC, I decided to not pursue the RealVNC option any further since I would have to pay for the commmercial version to really test it out.

As such, it seems that Windows RDC was the fastest and easiest method of making a remote connection to my home desktop PC. So my options for Windows 7 are to either pay more and get the Home Professional version or get the Home premium version and wait for someone to possibly come up with a hack (similar to the the Vista hack) that will enable RDC. I’ll most likely wait until October 22nd and decide then, when I head down to my local Costco store to pickup Windows 7.

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