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A remote desktop is a separate program or feature found on most operating systems that allows a user to access an operating computer system's desktop. The access occurs via the Internet or through another network in another geographical location and allows users to interact with that system as if they were physically at their own computer. USB devices with the ability to recreate a remote user’s desktop are commonly called secure portable offices.
A remote desktop allows users to access a workplace workstation when at home or vice versa, fix a computer problem remotely, perform administrative tasks easily and accomplish demonstrations of a process or software application. Protocols for remote desktop connectivity include Remote Desktop Protocol, virtual network computing, NX technology and independent computing architecture. In addition, headless computers (without monitor, keyboard or mouse) can easily be remotely accessed by administrators. A remote desktop is used by many computer manufacturers’ tech support personnel to access, diagnose, repair or reconfigure a user’s OS, application or hardware problem.
In a remote desktop setup, the controlling computer receives a copy of the image, updated on a timed interval or when a change is detected by the software, from the controlled computer’s display. The controlling computer’s keyboard and mouse inputs are transferred to the controlled computer, where the remote desktop software implements the instructions. Often, the controlled computer’s keyboard and mouse can be disabled to prevent interference with the remote user’s actions.
With an Internet connection and special USB hardware devices - or with an Internet-connected local area network, a router and support software - a controlling computer user can turn on the controlled computer remotely. This is one capability that is not addressed with remote desktop software.