While managing this number of computers is a daunting task, which some IT professionals call a "full-time" job, it can be made dramatically easier by employing some tricks of the trade. As I mentioned before, you will most likely have a favorite PC, maybe it's your most powerful PC, or simply a PC that has always been good to you. Regardless, you have one. Wouldn't it be nice to control your other PCs from your favorite PC? Or better yet, control your favorite PC from your other PCs.
Enter Remote Desktop...
Available on all current Windows OSes, Remote Desktop is a protocol that allows the users to login to other PCs on the network and remotely control them. Keep in mind that this tool is not included in any "home" versions of Windows, so you'll need at least "professional" for this to apply.
As you can imagine this functionality is going to make your life a lot easier. Lets review a few common scenarios where Remote Desktop is the cat's pajamas.
Case 1: You need to access your downloader PC - Pretty straightforward case here. Simply login, add a download or move a completed file to your media server. Does this sound like it might come in handy for you?
Case 2: You are installing a massive program or set of programs on your favorite PC - So we've all been here, say for instance after re-platforming your machine, you are faced with the task of installing several drivers and applications. Wouldn't it be nice to sit on your couch whilst managing the entire boring process?
There are really too many scenarios to talk about. Another important thing to mention here, is that the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is so popular, that it is available on every popular smartphone platform. Aka: control any PC in your house from your pocket!
So I've talked in detail about the benefits of Remote Desktop, but how do you set it up?
Step#1: Right click "Computer" from either the start menu, or the desktop. Click "Properties". The system properties window will open, click "Remote settings".
Step#2: Within the "Remote settings" page simply select the "Allow connections" radio button. There are two options here, for ease of use on your home network, choose the first (less secure option). It is key to note that this process must be repeated for each computer you wish to control on you network.
Step#3: Now it's time to try it out. Grab your netbook and navigate to "Accessories" from the Windows start menu. Choose "Remote Desktop Connection". You should add a shortcut to the desktop at this point, you will be using RDP a lot!
Step#4: Simply enter the IP address (preceeded by "\\") of the computer you wish to connect to. If you don't know how to find the IP of your destination PC, simply open command prompt (on the destination PC) and type the command "ipconfig", your IP address will be listed. See figure below.
In my next article I will be explaining another useful technique for managing your collection of PCs: Mapping network Drives.