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Get Started: Configure Windows Home Server Remote Access

Now you’ve started installing Windows Home Server add-ins your home server should become even more essential in your day to day digital life. But you ain’t seen nothing yet! WGS’ Wiki editor walks through our next Get Started guide which helps you set up remote access to your home server.

One of the main features of Windows Home Server (WHS) is to provide remote access to to your computers, your shared files and personal web sites. This is remote as in over the internet. Thus you can access your WHS from anywhere there is internet access. However, before you can do this there is some configuring and setup to do. We will walk you through the necessary steps.

Step 1: Set Up Your Home Server With a Static IP Address

An IP address is a unique address that is assigned by your router to every computer on your home network. Although it is unique, it may change each time the computer is rebooted. We need to set it up so that the Windows Home Server always has the same IP address. There are two ways to do this. The first, and preferred method, is by setting up a reserved IP address in the DHCP section of your router. This means that your router will always assign the same address to the WHS. How this is done is unique to each make/model of router so we cannot go into detail here. The second way is to to setup the IP address in the WHS itself. Further information on how to do this can be found in this wiki.

Step 2: Configure Remote Access

Open the Windows Home Server console by double clicking on the green WHS icon on your home computer’s task bar. Click on the Settings icon and in the list on the left hand side select Remote Access.

RemoteAccess01[1]

Step 3: Turn On Remote Access

Click on the Turn On button under the remote access section. The home server will then attempt to configure your router by forwarding the proper ports and testing the remote access. If the router is configured correctly you should see that remote access is Available. If your router is not compatible, you may need to configure it manually. How to do this will vary with each make/model of router. However it is accomplished, you must forward ports 80, 443 and 4125 to the your home server’s IP address established in the previous section.

RemoteAccess02[1]

Step 4: Set up Your Domain Name

In order to access your home server remotely you will need to establish a domain name. This is the name which will be used as the internet address, e.g. https://domainname.homeserver.com. However, before you can get the domain name you will need to have a Windows Live ID. If you don’t already have one, you can set one up at Windows Live.

Once you have established your Windows Live ID, click on the Configure button to start the Domain Name Setup Wizard.

RemoteAccess03[1]

Click next to proceed with the wizard. Then enter your Windows Live ID email address and password.

RemoteAccess04[1]

Accept the Windows Home Server Privacy Statement and Windows Live Custom Domains Addendum.

RemoteAccess05[1]

Now comes the fun part where you get to chose your domain name. Enter your proposed domain name in the box and click Confirm. If your selected domain name is not available you will need to select another.

RemoteAccess06[1]

If your domain name is available, click Finish and move on.

RemoteAccess07[1]

If all goes well you will be notified that Remote Access is Successfully Activated.

RemoteAccess08[1]

There are, however a couple more things you need to do after your domain name has been established. At the bottom of the remote access settings page under Web site settings you can set your default web site home page. Usually this will be the Windows Home Server Home Page. You can also set your Web site headline. This is a line of text which will appear at the top of your web site home page. It could be something like Welcome to Mike’s Home Page.

That’s it! Now you should open your browser and type in https://domainname.homeserver.com to test your home server remote access.

Step 5: Ensure Your Home Computers Are Configured For Remote Access

Certain editions of Windows have the ability to host remote desktop sessions (that is, you can control them remotely via Windows Home Server as if you were sitting in front of them). Generally, the more business-oriented editions have this feature enabled:

Windows XP Professional
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition
Windows XP Media Center Edition
Windows Vista Business
Windows Vista Enterprise
Windows Vista Ultimate
Windows 7 Professional
Windows 7 Enterprise
Windows 7 Ultimate

The feature is not available on Home and Home Premium editions of Windows which, quite frankly, sucks. Don’t blame the WHS Team for this as I know they’re frustrated about this too – it’s the core Windows team who have set it up this way.

Before you can use Remote Desktop to connect to a compatible computer via the Windows Home Server web page, it needs to be configured. It’s very easy to do however.

Open the Start Menu, Right Click on Computer and Select Properties

rdc29

The System Control Panel will appear (the above screenshot is taken from Windows 7 as an example).

Click Advanced System Settings

The System Properties dialog will now appear. Click the Remote Tab.

rdc30

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Switch On Remote Desktop

You’ll see that in the “Remote Desktop” area, the “Don’t allow connecttions to this computer” option is checked. Change this to “Allow connections from computers running any version of Remote Desktop”. Then click OK, and you’re all set.

A big thank you to Etoa for writing this section of the Get Started guide. Next time, we’ll take a look at Windows Home Server’s Server Storage tab.

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Terry Walsh is the founder of We Got Served. He started the community in February 2007 with a mission to help families, tech enthusiasts everywhere figure out the technology needed to run the modern home and small business. He's the author of a number of guides to Windows, Windows Server and OS X Server and runs his own successful publishing business. Born and raised in Liverpool, England, Terry has been awarded Microsoft's prestigious Most Valuable Professional Award each year since 2008 for his work on We Got Served.
  • Great information Terry, I had to manually set my older router to allow the ports to forward to the server, but now it is giving me full file access. The one part you left out is you need to enable remote access on the PC you are connecting to as well if you want to take over the desktop.
    Although I am still having problems making it work! Might just need a reboot.
    I've also put together a bunch in information about Windows Home Server on Squidoo that walks through my decision to go with WHS, if you have a minute I would love to have you browse through it, http://www.squidoo.com/windows-home-server-info

    Regards,

    Bill

    • Hi Bill

      Many thanks for your comment – have updated the guide with the final piece of home computer configuration. Love the Squidoo page – great collection of resources!

      Best wishes
      Terry

  • M. Hagen

    One thing I tripped over was needing a non-admin account to log in with.

  • Gerry Jemitus

    Hi, I am trying to figure out if WHS will do the following: Allow my small 3 man office to share database files on the server both at the office and remotely. (there would only ever be 1 remote session at a time). I know I could download the database files to the client, and then reload back to the server, but that's no good for two simultaneous users. The database app is written in Alpha 5 v9 if that's relevant. Many thanks Gerry

  • Evan

    This guide should be updated to tell people that if you can't see the Computers Tab, you need to login using IE. Remote Connection does NOT work with Firefox.

  • Bob

    What good is Windows HOME Server if you can't use it to remote access Windows 7 HOME computers? That non only sucks but its tantamount to false advertising!

    MS could have made $150 from me because I was going to buy their 3-pack Windows 7 product and upgrade 3 home PCs. But not going to do that if none of them will be able to be controlled remotely. How. Dumb.

  • Jesse

    When I set up remote access, I get stuck on the "Sign In To Windows Live" dialog. I have successfully set up remote access and tested it with my IP address, however, I can't set up a domain name because the wizard just freezes on this screen with only the "Cancel" button available.

  • Evan

    Are you using IE? I had to use only IE.

  • joey1211

    Do you need a external static ip from your isp for Remote Access to work or will WHS update the settings on homeserver.com automatically on a dynamic connection?

  • Cliff

    Hi, I can login to my home server from the internet but get IE cannot display the webpage error if try from a networked PC in the house. Any ideas?

  • Amazing Site I like it. It Was Quite Interesting NiceWork. I appreciate the information you provided . Keep it up! Good day!

  • Silvercoupe

    I can connect to my WHS from the Internet, log in, upload/download files and launch the WHS console. However I cannot connect to my W7 Ultimate machine. The "Computers" tab on the web interface of the WHS says "Connection disabled". I know I've enabled RDP for this computer and my account is an Admin on the box.

    Could this be a port forwarding issue? My ISP blocks Port 80 incoming to my router but 443 is OK (I have to use https: and my domain name).

  • David

    I had the same problem. Make sure the workgroup is the same for all your computers. I had chosen a unique name for my workgroup and forgot to change it when I did my fresh install of Windows 7.

  • Joshua

    im having alot of problems with trying to set up my domain name i get up to where i put in my live account details and accept it and everything then it closes and i get a message saying "Windows Home Server could not open the Setup Program for your chosen Domain Name Provider, what does this mean? thanks anyone who can help

    • lotspelle

      Any solution for this?

  • Derrick

    I got it all working , But when I try to remote my home pc though the server it says timed out and remote access the server same thing any suggestions..

  • MR Singh

    what happens if you reboot ur router? and ur ISP assigns you a new IP address?

  • Good write-up, but it wouldn’t really to be compatible with my router ip, any ideas?

  • Frank

    is it possible to use the span switch with WHS remote access

  • BigGuy

    OK so I have a box running WHS in my house. I have several folders accessible to others who live here as well. I share music & movies. I am running WIN7 Home Ultimate as well as 1 of my neighbors.
    Another runs WIN7 Professional. We all see the open shares on the server.. A new person moved in and his laptop runs WIN7 Enterprise. If he opens Windows Explorer the WHS shows up as Media Device and not a computer on the network. How can he see the server as we do?

  • Bruce Russell

    Is this the best you have to offer a scaled down version of small business server bundled with some guy's software working out of his basement in Denmark (I'm referring to My Movies of course) which is a mickey mouse piece of software riddled with bugs and little documentation. You should be ashamed to even post a reference to such companies. But I guess you have to go with the best hand you have. You can do much better than this.

  • Mike

    When I access the Home Server WEB ACCESS page in the upper right hand corner it allows a password change. I do not want this option to appear on the WEB ACCESS page. Is there a way to turn this option off?

  • I’ve had no end of issues with WHS 2011 Remote Desktop.

    I log in to the remote web interface from another system on the LAN, via the homeserver URL, then attempt to connect to the remote desktop on my Windows 7 Ultimate computer. Yet it fails with a “To use this program or computer first log on to the following website: https//xxxx.homeserver.com/remote/”.

    The strange things is, I used that same web url to log in to the remote web access in the first place. This also happens when I try the WHS connection too.

    Now here’s the kicker, if I use the same remote web access url, but this time using my Windows 7 Ultimate computer I tried to connect to earlier, and then click on connect on either of the 2 RD connections, it will work fine. But ONLY from that same Windows 7 Ultimate machine.

    I’ve forwarded all the ports needed manually in the router (80, 443, 4125), yet it still doesn’t work. Help anyone!

  • Guest

    typo at the end 
    “Don’t allow connecttions to this computer” 

  • Steve

    Actually you can use Ammyy Admin for easy connection over Internet.

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