When you need to work from home, connecting to your (Windows) work computer has several benefits over working directly from a laptop or personal desktop:
- All of your files and shortcuts are already set up on your work computer;
- All of your network shares and printers are already available;
- All of your programs are already available - even licensed software which must have access to the U of A network; and
- There is no risk of accidentally leaving sensitive data on a personal computer.
If you have a Linux workstation at work, some of your desktop environment is unavailable through a remote connection, but you can forward X11 display output to give you access to your software programs and files from home. More information about how to do that is here: How do I tunnel X11 windows using SSH?
If you have a Windows PC at work, then connecting through remote desktop makes your complete desktop environment available from home, using a fast and secure channel. So let's get started!
Oh, a couple of prerequisites:
- As of April 2015, anyone wishing to access the UA VPN must also be enrolled in NetID+, which can be done here: Enroll or Manage Your NetID+ Account
- You'll need to know the name of your work computer. Here's how you can find that out: How can I find the name of my computer?
- Also, your work computer will need to be part of the CatNet domain. If you're not already part of CatNet, it's very easy to join. Contact the ENGR-IT support team for help with this process by creating a support ticket here: https://support.engr.arizona.edu
Connecting to a remote desktop
To start the connection, you'll first need to connect to the U of A Virtual Private Network (VPN) using the 'Engineering' profile. This is a secure connection to the U of A network that basically tunnels your internet connection so your computer appears to be directly attached to the Engineering portion of the U of A network. If you've never used the VPN before, the University provides detailed instructions on how to install and use the U of A VPN client here: http://uits.arizona.edu/services/vpn
If you have used the VPN before, it's important to note that you'll need to connect to the Engineering VPN profile and not the standard 'UA SSL' profile. This can be selected on the second window that pops up when connecting, as shown below. The Second Password field is where you enter your preferred NetID+ Method. If you receive an error that you have been denied access to the VPN, please contact ENGR-IT support at https://support.engr.arizona.edu to request authorization.
Once you're connected to the VPN, open the Remote Desktop client on your computer. The easiest way to do this on Windows 7, 8, and 10 is to open the start menu, type 'remote' to start a search, and then select the 'Remote Desktop Connection' link.
The Remote Desktop Connection dialog should pop up, and this is where you'll enter your computer name. You'll need to add '.catnet.arizona.edu' after the computer name; so if your computer name is 'ENGR-STUDMUFFIN', then you would enter 'engr-studmuffin.catnet.arizona.edu' in this first popup (capitalization doesn't matter).
Click 'Connect'. The next popup you should see will prompt you for your username and password. If this is your first time connecting from this computer, these will be completely blank; fill them in with your NetID and password like this, with 'CATNET\' before your NetID:
It's important to put 'CATNET\' (backslash) in front of your NetID, to specify the domain to which you're trying to connect.
If you have connected before, then your username will already be filled in, and you just need to enter your NetID password. Ensure that 'CATNET' is in front of your username, though! If, for instance, you've recently migrated from another domain, you may have a different prefix, or none at all. If 'CATNET' is not included in your username, select the 'Connect as a different user' button to change your username to 'CATNET\<netid>'.
We do not recommend selecting 'Remember my credentials'. Click 'OK'.
At this point, your desktop should begin loading. Once it's loaded, your screen should appear as it normally would when logging in at work. One side note regarding multiple screens:
- If you have multiple monitors at work, your remote desktop connection can (usually) only use one of them. So all of your windows and desktop icons will get moved to your 'primary' monitor, and that screen will be sent to your home computer. When you return to work, some of your windows or icons may still be on that one screen - but they can easily be moved back however you like.
- However, if you have multiple monitors set up at home, and would like to see if you can use more than one when you connect to your work computer, try this: back where you enter your computer name, you can click Show Options, go to the Display tab, and check the box for 'Use all my monitors for the remote session.' Then click Connect, and continue logging in with your credentials, as described above.
Disconnecting from a remote desktop session
When you're ready to quit your remote desktop session, we should point out that there is a big difference between 'Logging out' and 'Disconnecting' from a remote desktop session. Between your local (work) computer and your remote (home) computer, your login session is shared. This means that you can only have one of the two open at the time, and any program you open on one also opens on the other - they're the same session. When you 'log out' remotely, you're also logging out at work. So if you don't intend to close all of your programs and you want to simply resume your session at work, then don't log out - just close the remote desktop connection by clicking the 'x' at the top of the screen:
(This is just like locking your computer at work- and that's exactly what happens.)
That's it! When you're finished with your remote desktop session, don't forget to Disconnect/Exit the VPN!