Arcane Combinations: Virtual PC and Remote Desktop

Sometimes a useful tool becomes even more useful when combined with another. I call these “Arcane Combinations”. The first combo I’ll talk about is Virtual PC and Remote Desktop.

If you are not familiar with these, you should read my previous posts. Virtual PC can be found here and here: Remote Desktop can be found here:

So how does this work? Well, to the network a virtual PC appears as a real computer. It has it’s own IP address, which is the key. Launch your virtual computer, and determine it’s IP address. This is pretty simple, but if you don’t know how just open a command window (Start, All Programs, Accessories, Command Prompt). Then type in IPCONFIG and press enter. You’ll see something like:

Ethernet adapter Wireless Network Connection:
Connection-specific DNS Suffix . :
IP Address. . . . . . . . . . . . :
Subnet Mask . . . . . . . . . . . :
Default Gateway . . . . . . . . . :

Note if you have multiple network cards installed you’ll see multiple IP addresses, pick the one for the adapter you want to use.

Now on a remote computer, launch Remote Desktop, and key in the IP address given by your virtual PC. And boom, you will be remote controlling the virtual computer.

Now that you know how, I’m guessing you want to know why? Why remote the virtual computer instead of the real one?

Performance to begin with. In my testing I’ve found slightly better performance by controlling the virtual machine as opposed to controlling the host machine then trying to use the virtual computer in it. This is especially true in times where I was stuck using a dial up connection to VPN to work, and needed to remote control my computer at the office. Performance was much better by remoting directly to the virtual computer.

Next, it would allow multiple users to share the same computer. Launch two different Virtual PC sessions and allow each user to remote to it. At my company we have a standard XP build with some company components preloaded on it. We had two vendors come in for a week to do a little work, and they brought their nonstandard laptops with them. We only had one spare development PC, so we set it up with two virtual sessions and let each vendor remote to the virtual computers from their laptops so they could do their testing in our customized environment.

Some last words of wisdom, you will want your host computer (the one running Virtual PC) to be a hefty box, and good band width is helpful, although I have gotten it to work over a dial up connection.

Give it a try, and leave a comment if you find other scenarios where this arcane combination would be useful.


5 thoughts on “Arcane Combinations: Virtual PC and Remote Desktop

  1. You should note that this CANNOT be done if your Virtual PC Network Adapter is running as “Shared Networking (NAT)”. The help from Microsoft stipulates the following:
    A virtual machine configured to use Shared Networking acts like a computer behind a Network Address Translation (NAT) router. Shared networking does not support inbound port mapping. External computers are unable to access a server running in the virtual machine or any ports on the virtual machine. Shared networking also does not support networking between virtual machines or from the host operating system to the virtual machine.

    Selecting the Physical network adapter allows this to work as described HOWEVER many managed networks (such as office environments) will restrict the devices they will allow to connect by Computer name and or MAC address, so you may have to overcome these obsticles.

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