How to enable remote RDP access in Windows 10 Home edition

The Remote Desktop Connection client program is available in all editions of Windows including Windows 10 Home and Mobile. The RDP server required to access a Windows PC remotely is however only available on PCs running either Windows 10 Professional or Enterprise editions.

If you look more closely at other Windows editions like Home however, most the components required to run an RDP server are actually there already. Here is how you can enable remote desktop access in Windows Home edition.

The RDP Wrapper Library project provides a quick fix for this by simply hot-wiring the already built-in Terminal Service in Windows and adding rules to the Windows Firewall to allow remote RDP connections. After downloading it and running the install.bat script, your system should be remotely accessible over RDP.

Windows 10 Home edition doesn’t include any user interface in Windows System: Properties: Remote for managing Remote Access, as found in Windows 10 Professional and Enterprise editions. In its stead, you can use the bundled RDPConf program to manage settings.

RDP Wrapper Library describes itself thus:

“RDP Wrapper works as a layer between Service Control Manager and Terminal Services, so the original termsrv.dll file remains untouched. Also this method is very strong against Windows Update.”

Which translates to “we’ve done a neat non-intrusive engineering job that doesn’t make changes to Windows itself”. 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 down the line when the system receives updates through Windows Update. RDP Wrapper on the other hand, just makes some adjustments to Windows configuration and uses existing Windows components and services to enable remote RDP access..

There aren’t really 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 quit expensive, and it may thus be worth investigating alternatives like VNC; with servers and clients available for all operating systems including Windows. VNC suffers from having a lot of 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 wonder whether it is permitted to work-around this limitation in the Home edition of Windows? Let us take a quick look at the relevant bits from the Windows Operating System license:

Section 2.c: “[…] this license does not 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.”

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. This is just my own interpretation and reflections from reading the Windows License.

You may argue that RDPwrap 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 precedent. 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 extends 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, very 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 reasons why I choose Linux over Windows.

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 either Amazon or the Windows Store.