A private residence partially hanging off a cliff with the Remote Desktop Client app icon floating in the sky beside it.

How to enable Remote Desktop (RDP) in Windows 10 Home

If you look closely at Windows 10 Home, you’ll find most of the components required to run the Microsoft RDP Server already installed as part of the operating system. Enabling the remote desktop server normally requires a PC running either the Windows 10 Professional or Enterprise editions. Here’s how you can also enable the RDP server in the Windows 10 Home edition.

Before you set up an RDP server, you should be aware that exposing an RDP server to the internet is incredibly risky. RDP is a common vector for compromising Windows systems. There have been multiple security issues with Windows RDP servers in recent years.

Only install an RDP server if you absolutely need one. Configure a restrictive firewall to keep from being accessible from the internet. Only connect to your RDP server through an encrypted network bridge, e.g. a local VPN.

Windows 10 editions that officially support the RDP Server feature can turn it on from the user interface in the Windows Settings app or the Windows System dialog: Properties: Remote. However, you won’t find these settings in Windows 10 Home or S editions. Instead, you’ll find an error message saying “Your Home edition of Windows 10 doesn’t support Remote Desktop.”

The RDP Wrapper Library (rdpwrap) project hot-wires Windows’ built-in RDP server (the Terminal Service) so you can start it even on Windows 10 Home. It also adds the required rules to the Windows Firewall to allow remote RDP connections to your PC. Make sure all accounts on your PC have strong passwords to protect it against unauthorized remote logins!

RDP Wrapper doesn’t unlock Windows’ user interface for managing the RDP server. Instead, you can use the bundled RDPConf program which comes bundled with RDP Wrapper to manage these settings.

It’s very easy to get set up with RDP Wrapper: just download the latest MSI installer, and run it. It’ll unlock the RDP server, and provide you with a new app to configure it.

Alternative approaches to enable RDP in the Home edition of Windows often make alterations to Windows components that are difficult to revert and may cause problems later when the system updates through Windows Update. RDP Wrapper instead makes some minor adjustments to Windows configuration and uses existing Windows components and services to enable remote RDP access.

You can use the Remote Desktop Connect client to remotely access the desktop of a Windows PC running an RDP server. The Remote Desktop Connection client program is available in all editions of Windows including Windows 10 Home and Mobile. It’s even available on MacOS, iOS, and Android through their respective app stores.

There aren’t any alternative third-party RDP server implementations available on Windows, so you must either use the implementation built-in to Windows or not at all. RDP is a proprietary protocol by Microsoft after all, so this may not be all that strange.

The Windows 10 Professional upgrade cost for a Home edition user is quite expensive, and it may be worth investigating alternatives like VNC. VNC is an open-source alternative remote desktop protocol. You’ll find plenty of free servers and clients available for all operating systems including Windows. VNC suffers from having many almost-but-not-quite compatible implementations, resulting in an ecosystem where not all clients work well or at all with all servers. I’ll not cover VNC any further in this article.

You may be wondering whether the Windows license allows for something like RDP Wrapper to lift limitation in the Home edition? Let’s take a quick look at the relevant parts of the Windows Operating System license:

Section 2.c: “[…] this license doesn’t give you any right to, and you may not:” and Section 2.c(ⅳ): “work around any technical restrictions or limitations in the software;

Section 2.d(ⅴ): “Remote access. No more than once every 90 days, you may designate a single user who physically uses the licensed device as the licensed user. The licensed user may access the licensed device from another device using remote access technologies.

You may argue that RDP Wrapper just enables you to take advantage of the functionality that you’re licensed to utilize by section 2.d(ⅴ), but section 2.c+2.c(ⅳ) contradicts 2.d(ⅴ) with no clear reading as to which one takes precedence. Section 2.d(ⅴ) doesn’t expressly grant an exception from 2.c+2.c(ⅳ), but 2.d(ⅴ) is more specific to the situation at hand.

I’d like to pause here to say the current Windows license text makes it clear that you’re not allowed to work around any problems and limitations imposed by Windows. Which means that you’re more than likely already violating the Windows license simply by installing any number of utility programs that extend or tweaks Windows functionality.

I.e., using the file search utility FileLocator to work around the restrictions Windows puts in place to limit your ability to find files on the system is strictly speaking a violation of the Windows license as written. Most of the third-party and even other Microsoft software you install will put you in violation of the Windows license.

The use of RDP Wrapper may be interpreted as an application of a method for circumventing digital rights management system and thus illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the USA, and who-really-knows-what-is-illegal-in-different-member-states under the Copyright Directive (2001/29/EC) in the EU. This part of the license is, however, open to interpretation and I’d say Microsoft would be hard-pressed to apply it to any situation beyond attempts at circumventing their copy-protection and validation systems.

Not being able nor permitted to work around bugs and problems in Windows is one of the top reasons why I choose Linux over Windows. I just find it so damned frustrating. On the other hand, I understand that Microsoft wants to prevent Home customers from “needlessly” exposing their devices to external threats.

If you want to stay in compliance with the Windows license, you can either choose to use a free VNC alternative or upgrade your Windows 10 Home license to a Pro edition license by purchasing a digital upgrade code from Amazon.