Remote desktop technology makes it possible to view another computer's desktop on your computer. This means you can open folders, move files, and even run programs on the remote computer, right from your own desktop. Both Windows and Macintosh computer support remote desktop connections, though they use different implementations.
Windows XP and Vista both include Remote Desktop as part of the operating system. The Remote Desktop program uses Microsoft Terminal Services and the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to connect to a remote machine. Remote connections can be opened using Windows' Remote Desktop Connection (RDC), which is also referred to as Terminal Services Client (TSC). This program allows users to configure and manage remote connections to other computers. Of course, to connect to another machine, the remote system must be configured to accept incoming RDC connections.
A Windows computer can be configured to accept incoming remote desktop connections by opening the Control Panel and selecting "Performance and Maintenance." Then click the "System" icon and select the "Remote" tab in the System Properties window. Next, check the box that says, "Allow users to connect remotely to this computer." Then click OK. This should enable remote desktop connections to your machine. You can then click "Select Remote Users..." to only provide access to specific users. Of course, if you don't want your computer to be accessed by anyone, leave the "Allow users to connect..." box unchecked.
Mac OS X 10.5 and later includes a feature called Screen Sharing that allows other users to remotely access the computer's desktop. To turn on Screen Sharing, open System Preferences and select the Sharing option. Next, check the "Screen Sharing" check box. You can then add access for specific users in the "Allow access for:" section of the window. If the Mac OS X Screen Sharing option feels a bit limited, you may want to try a program called "Apple Remote Desktop." This program, which is developed by Apple, provides more advanced remote access features and is often used for managing several computers on a network.
Updated: September 18, 2008