For the busy administrator, Windows Remote Desktop is the best thing since sliced bread. Remote Desktop lets you connect to and manage remote systems from a Windows XP client. To access the Remote Desktop Connection dialog box, click Start and select All Programs, Accessories, Communications, Remote Desktop Connection. Then, put it to use. Here are 10 tips to get you started.

10. Enable a Remote Desktop connection—Before using Remote Desktop, you must enable incoming Remote Desktop connections on the local system. Open the Control Panel System applet, click the Remote tab, and select Allow users to connect remotely to this computer. As a quick check for an enabled desktop connection, you can run Netstat and look for a TCP connection in a listening state on port 3389.

9. Set personal firewall exceptions—If the computer is running a personal firewall, you need to configure an exception in the firewall to permit RDP traffic. To do so on XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), open the Control Panel Security Center applet and click Windows Firewall. Make sure the Don't allow exceptions check box on the General tab is cleared and the Remote Desktop check box on the Exceptions tab is selected.

8. Create shortcuts for frequently accessed systems—Save time by creating shortcuts or desktop icons and setting the display and connection settings for remote systems that you access frequently. To save the settings of the current RDP connection, open the Remote Desktop Connection dialog box, click Options, then click Save As to save the settings to an RDP file.

7. Redirect sounds—Did you know you can redirect to your local system sounds that the remote system makes? Click Options on the Remote Desktop Connection dialog box and click the Local Resources tab. From the Remote computer sound drop-down list, select Bring to this computer. Remote sound support works fine for typical desktop beeps and audio feedback.

6. Connect local devices—You can also configure a Remote Desktop connection to automatically connect to local disk drives, printers, and other resources. Click Options on the Remote Desktop Connection dialog box, then select the desired resources in the Local devices section of the Local Resources tab.

5. Optimize the screen size—You can customize the size of the Remote Desktop connection screen display to any size your networked workstation supports. To change the screen size, click Options on the Remote Desktop Connection dialog box, then click the Display tab and adjust the Remote desktop size slider.

4. Tune WAN performance—You can optimize WAN performance by controlling the number and types of display settings transferred from the host to the remote desktop. Open the Remote Desktop Connection dialog box and click the Experience tab. For connections over the Internet, select the Broadband option from the drop-down list and clear the Desktop background, Show contents of window while dragging, Menu and window animation, and Themes check boxes.

3. Optimize LAN performance—To optimize LAN connections, choose the LAN option from the Experience tab's drop-down list and select the Desktop background, Show contents of window while dragging, Menu and window animation, Themes, and Bitmap caching check boxes.

2. Expedite logon—To expedite logging on to the remote system, save authentication information for systems you connect to frequently. Open the Remote Desktop Connection dialog box, click the General tab, and select Save my password.

1. Use keyboard shortcuts—Keyboard shortcuts can make your Remote Desktop session more efficient. For starters, use the Ctrl-X, Ctrl-C, and Ctrl-V shortcuts to cut, copy, and paste information between your desktop and the Remote Desktop session, and use Alt-Ctrl-Break to toggle the full window view on and off.