Remote desktop into work laptop

As a software consultant, it's common for me to have to juggle computers when I'm working at home. Right now, I have:

  • My primary desktop with three nice monitors connected to it. 
  • A personal laptop I use when I'm away from the office. 
  • A laptop owned by my employer that has no software on it and I rarely use, other than to do software updates. 
  • A laptop owned by the client where I'm contracting, which I use every day to do their work. 

I had to set up a separate keyboard and mouse for my client laptop and then constantly switch my monitor's input back and forth. Because the client laptop isn't sitting in a convenient place to use the camera, I use my primary desktop with a high quality Logitech camera on it for Zoom/Teams meetings. I'd much rather use my primary desktop for work, but for security reasons, that's not allowed. 

Until recently, the client laptop used a Cisco VPN to connect to company resources. When the computer was not on the VPN, it was visible to my primary desktop. However, once it was connected to the VPN, it was inaccessible. The client has changed to use Zscaler instead and Zscaler does not change the local computer's IP address. I decided to try connecting via remote desktop to the laptop so that instead of having two keyboards/two mice to switch back and forth, I could just have a window on the screen to move between monitors as I need to. 

The initial attempt was to connect to the machine via IP address, putting in my client network credentials, and it immediately blocked my attempt. I tried a few variations of my credentials to no avail. 

After that, I started looking at the remote desktop client settings and happened on the setting shown here on the Advanced tab:

The Advanced tab has the option to specify that the account is a remote account and not a local computer account.

On a whim, I checked this box and then went back to the General tab. I had the computer's IP address (it's an internal address, so showing it is not a security issue) but now I'm seeing the error message shown here:

When using web-based authentication, you have to use the machine name and not the IP address or you see the error shown here.

I put in the remote computer's name instead of the network address, put in my Azure Active Directory user name, and hit Connect. I was quickly prompted with a web browser login and authentication, just as if I was hitting any other AD-controlled resource. After I entered that, did my two-factor authentication, I was connected into the laptop. 

I'm sure there will be times where I need to get on the machine, but my monitors have multiple inputs so doing a quick switch is easy. The RDP connection is so fast that it's like working on my local machine, even for Visual Studio. In previous versions of Remote Desktop, the connection wasn't nearly fast enough and there would be visible lags on the screen. I'm looking forward to a simpler setup when I'm working at home now that I've conquered Remote Desktop. One down side is that if the computer locks from the idle timer, the remote desktop connection disconnects. 


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