If Windows Home Server’s Remote Access feature works for you the first time, you live a charmed life. I’ve set up Remote Access on many networks, and it seems that no two work the same way.

If it takes you a bit of wrangling (either with your router or with your Internet service provider), to get Remote Access working, take solace in the fact that, it’s well worth the hassle. Hang in there. You can do it.

With Remote Access enabled and all the pieces put together properly, you can hop onto a computer anywhere in the world, fire up a Web browser, and…

Upload and download files between your server’s shared folders and the computer you’re using.

Run the Windows Home Server console, if you know the server’s password.

Remotely connect to some of the PCs on your home or office network and take control of the PC as if you were sitting in front of it — plus or minus a (substantial) time lag, anyway.

Any way you slice it, Remote Access rates as one of the best Windows Home Server features.

An Overview of Remote Access Setup

Still with me? Good. Remote Access is worth the sweat. No pain no, uh, pain. Something like that.

At the very highest level, and in the best of all possible worlds, here’s how you get Remote Access working:

1. Fire up the Windows Home Server Console and tell WHS that you want it to start responding to inquiries from the great, cold outside world.

That part’s easy.

2. Enable Remote Access for one or more user names (er, logon IDs).

These user names have to have “strong” passwords, and they’re the only ones allowed to log on to the server remotely.

3. Poke a hole through your router.

Aye, there’s the rub. Er, hub. You have to set things up so somebody trying to get to your Windows Home Server from out on the Internet can get past the router far enough to get into the server. Some routers get poked automatically by the Remote Access setup routines. Some routers allow you to poke through manually with relative ease. Many don’t.

4. Get a permanent address for your server.

You need a domain name for your server (for example, mine is so folks on the Internet — including you — can find your server. And therein lies a tale: see the sidebar on Dynamic DNS.

In some cases, using a domain name for your server isn’t an absolute requirement. If you know positively, for sure, that your Internet Service Provider will never change the IP address of your server, you can just type the four-number IP address into your Web browser. But having a name that always points to your server makes life much simpler.

The company that sold you your Windows Home Server may offer a free “Dynamic DNS”. HP, for example, offers the first year free — you can use Microsoft’s Homeserver program, or you can sign up with any of dozens of competitors.

5. If you want to connect directly to one of the computers on your network, you have to tell the computer that it should accept Remote Desktop connections.

Windows Home Server uses Remote Desktop to establish connections to computers in your home or office network. Unless you specifically set up a computer to accept Remote Desktop, it won’t respond, won’t behave like a puppet.

6. Test everything.

This step is the proverbial proof of the pudding.

7. If you make a major change to your home network, you may have to repeat Step 3.

They don’t warn you about this in Remote Access school, but if the internal address of your WHS server changes (it’s an IP address that probably looks like or some such), you have to go back and poke another hole through your router. If you do so, remember to close up the old holes!

And finally, I have just one thing to say, “If you can get connected at one go, you may probably become the best to pass one of the toughest courses in the WHS School of Hard Knocks.” Congratulations!

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