Improve Remote Desktop in 4 Easy Steps

Business BibBack in the day, one of the more tantalizing promises of the internet was the ability to shop favorite stores while still wearing jammies. (For those of us living in small college towns, it seems like there’s no shame in wearing jammies anywhere – shopping, school, out to dinner – but I digress). We’re now at the point where the internet wave has also brought the ability for many folks to work a full-time, professional job while still wearing their jammies, via telecommuting.(Seen at right is the Business Bib, a suit-falsie so that jammies-wearing telecommuters can still look professional when in a videoconference.)

Many Windows users are familiar with Remote Desktop, which allows you to access your work computer, say, from your home or elsewhere. Depending on the robustness of your internet connection, however, you may find that Remote Desktop sometimes lags or provides a slow screen refresh, so that moving your mouse results in action on-screen several seconds later.  In this post, I’ll cover how to change a few settings in order to improve the performance of Remote Desktop so that you can be just as efficient in your jammies as you are when actually at school or work.

Four Steps to a Faster Remote Desktop Experience

For the purposes of this discussion, I’ll use the term “parent computer” to refer to the computer that’s initiating the Remote Desktop call into another computer. The computer being remoted into will be referred to as “child computer”.

  • Cut Down On The Multi-Tasking  – Child Computer
    Remember that Remote Desktop has to transmit all the visual data from the child computer back to the parent computer. Anything you can do to reduce movement, scrolling, or needed screen refreshes on the child computer will probably help Remote Desktop’s performance.
  • Change Your Connection Settings – Parent Computer
    You may not have noticed this before, but in the Remote Desktop’s dialog box, there’s a button called Options:
    Remote Desktop Dialog Box
    Let’s see how to change the options in Remote Desktop Connection to provide a better remoting experience.
    1. Click Options >>.
      The Options Dialog box appears with the General tab selected:
      Remote Desktop Dialog Box in General Tab
      We’re going to change settings in other tabs.
    2. Click on the Display tab
      In this tab, we can change the size of the Remote Desktop window and the number of colors the child computer will display. Personally, I prefer to work in as large of a window as possible, so I don’t usually change the Remote Desktop size setting.What I will do, however, is change the colors from Highest Quality (32 bit)  to High Color (15 bit), as seen here:
      Remote Desktop Connection Dialog Box - Display tab
      Choosing 15 bit color will diminish the graphic quality you see on the child computer, but unless you’re using Photoshop or other graphic intensive programs on the child computer, the difference won’t matter. And, the less visual data that has to be streamed back to the parent computer means a snappier remoting experience!
    3. Next, click the Local Resources tab:
      Remote Desktop Connection Dialog Box - Local Resources tab
      Here, in the Remote computer Sound dialog box, select Do not play. This will prevent the child computer from sending back sound to the parent computer. Under Local Devices and resources,  check the Clipboard checkbox.  When remoting into another computer, I don’t want to print or anything else like that. Occassionally, however, I will want to copy/paste from the child computer to the parent computer and vice-versa.
    4. Next, click the Experience tab:
      Remote Desktop Connection Dialog Box - Experience Tab
      My recommendation here is to set the connection drop-down list to Modem (28.8 Kbps). This de-selects the Themes checkbox below the drop-down list. Windows Themes are used to style the buttons, menu bars, taskbar, and other user interface elements on the child computer. By removing Themes from our Remote Desktop connection, the child computer’s interface will look uglier, but we’ll improve performance.

That’s it! From here, click the Connect button and you’re on your way to a smooth Remote Desktop experience.

Here’s what a Remote Desktop connection looks like with the default connection settings:

Remote Desktop - 32-bit color and Theme
Here’s what a Remote Desktop connection looks like with the connection settings as described in this post:
Remote Desktop Connection - 15-bit and No Theme

Not that different, eh? (The most obvious difference is in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen.) But the changed connection settings will provide a smoother, more efficient Remote Desktop experience.


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