Windows XP Professional includes Microsoft's remote desktop software, which can be used to access your computer from anywhere you have Internet access. Not only can you access your system, you can actually see and manipulate the desktop environment just as if you were seated in front of the system.

Let's look at how to do this: In order to use Remote Desktop to connect to your home computer remotely, it must first be enabled. Right click on 'my computer' then select the 'remote' tab, and check the box entitled 'allow computers to connect remotely to this computer.'

Note: please ensure that all of your user accounts are using proper passwords before you enable this option, otherwise anyone with internet access and a Windows system can theoretically access and control your computer.

Using the 'select remote users' button, you can select user accounts that have access to the computer remotely. All members of the administrators group (that is, the built in 'administrator' account and any users who were added during the install process) are allowed remote access automatically.

Now you can install Remote Desktop Web Connection if you wish. This allows client computers to access the remote desktop through Internet explorer, eliminating the need to download and install the (freely available from Microsoft) 'Remote desktop client' program.

Insert the Windows XP Professional CD and select 'install additional windows components. Highlight 'internet information services (IIS)' and click 'details.' Highlight 'world wide web services' and click 'details.' Now put a check beside 'Remote desktop web connection,' hit 'ok' twice and then 'next' to install.

Now to connect to the remote desktop from any client computer with Internet Explorer 4 or better installed, simply type 'http://(IP address of your home computer)/tsweb' to bring up the web connect dialog screen.