Remote Desktop Can Be Useful, but You Can Easily Disable It

Protect your computer from hackers by turning off Remote Desktop access

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Windows Remote Desktop allows you or others to connect to your computer remotely over a network connection—effectively accessing everything on your computer as if you are directly connected to it.

Remote access is a useful feature when you need to access your computer from another location, such as when you need to connect to your home computer when you are at work. A remote connection is also handy in support situations in which you help others by connecting to their computers or when you need tech help and want to allow support personnel to connect to your computer.

Disable Remote Desktop in Windows 10

When you don't need the Windows Remote Desktop feature, turn it off to protect your computer from hackers. 

  1. Type "remote settings" in the Cortana search box and select Allow remote access to your computer. This action seems counterintuitive, but it opens the Control Panel dialog for Remote System Properties.

    Remote settings search in Cortana, Allow remote access to your computer menu item
  2. Check Don’t Allow Remote Connections to This Computer.

    Unchecked Allow Remote Assistance connections to this computer checkbox in System Properties

Disable Remote Desktop in Windows 8.1 and 8

In Windows 8.1, the Remote Desktop section was eliminated from the Remote tab. To regain this functionality, you download the Remote Desktop app from the Windows Store and install it on your Windows 8.1 computer. After it is installed and set up, to disable it:

  1. Press Windows + X and select System from the list.

  2. Click Advanced System Settings in the left sidebar.

  3. Select the Remote tab and check Don’t Allow Remote Connections to This Computer.

Disable Remote Desktop in Windows 8 and Windows 7

To disable Remote Desktop in Windows 8 and Windows 7:

  1. Click the Start button and then Control Panel.

  2. Open System and Security.

  3. Choose System in the right panel.

  4. Select Remote Settings from the left pane to open the System Properties dialog box for the Remote tab.

  5. Click Don’t Allow Connections to This Computer and then click OK.

The Risks of Running Remote Desktop

Although Windows Remote Desktop is useful, hackers can exploit it to gain control of your system to install malware or steal personal information. It's a good idea to keep the feature turned off unless you need it. You can disable it easily—and you should unless you need the service. In this case, create strong passwords, update the software when possible, limit the users who can log in, and use firewalls.

Another Windows utility, Windows Remote Assistance, works similarly to Remote Desktop, but it is specifically geared toward remote tech support and is configured differently with different requirements. You may want to turn this off as well, using the same System Properties dialog as Remote Desktop.

Alternatives to Windows Remote Desktop

Windows Remote Desktop isn't the only software for remote computer connections. Other remote access options are available. Alternatives for remote desktop connections include the following:

  • LogMeIn gives you remote access to your PC or Mac from a desktop, mobile device, or browser. Its premium features include file sharing, file transfer, and remote printing. LogMeIn requires an account subscription on your computer.
  • TeamViewer controls another PC remotely. Designed for collaboration and information exchange, the free TeamViewer emphasizes private data, conversations, and meetings. 
  • AnyDesk allows you to make a remote desktop connection to access your programs and files from anywhere without having to put them on a cloud service. AnyDesk is free for personal use; business use requires a subscription.
  • Chrome Remote Desktop is cross-platform software for Windows, macOS, and Linux computers that allows users to remotely access another computer through the Chrome browser or most devices including Chromebooks. Chrome Remote Desktop is free.
  • VNC Connect remote access and control software allows you to interact with a desktop or mobile device anywhere on the internet. The two computers don't need to be the same type, so you can use VNC Connect to view a Windows desktop at the office from a Mac or Linux computer. A limited non-commercial version of VNC Connect is free. Professional versions are available for a fee.