Some teams work remotely and access a central office using Remote Desktop. The remote computers can be fairly simple and inexpensive because the office computers are more powerful and handle the intensive tasks. This page describes what is involved in making all the pieces work to have a remote work team at minimal expense.
This page has three main sections — Hardware, Setup, and Use.
Centralized Office Computers
Office computers should have sufficient computing power and storage for the tasks being performed. Here are some considerations and benefits:
- DATA — The data remains at the central office and is more protected from the risk of having a hard drive misplaced or laptop stolen with data on it.
- ENVIRONMENT — The more expensive and powerful office computers can be in an ideal environment to avoid overheating, dust, water damage, or power outages.
- REPLACEMENT — If the remote computers are broken, no data is lost and replacement cost is minimal.
- SOFTWARE — The office computers can be maintained with the software and updates they need. The remote workers will require minimal support.
- SUPPORT — Support to the centralized office computers can be provided remotely without disrupting the remote workers.
Each remote worker will need to have a dedicated office computer to login on remotely.
Existing Laptop Computers
Remote workers planning to use their own laptops would need to have Google Chrome for Remote Desktop access. For more information, read “Google Chrome Remote Desktop — Use and Setup.”
If you need to purchase dedicated laptop computers for remote workers, the instructions on this page will help with purchase and setup.
Purchase Inexpensive Laptop Computers
There are a variety of brand-name laptop computers available in the $100 to $200 price range. These are probably underpowered and inadequate for responsive efficient work. The laptop computers in the $200 to $300 price range are inexpensive and moderately powered. They are useful for remote work. They typically have limited storage, limited memory, and slow processors, but for the single task of connecting to a remote computer, they work well.
Here are some examples of computers that would serve for remote access with sale prices indicated for context. It’s helpful to purchase these on sale to get the best value.
- Lenovo – Ideapad 1 15.6″ HD Laptop, Athlon Silver 3050U – 4GB Memory – 128GB eMMC storage, $330 or $200 on sale [View]
- HP – 14″ Laptop – Intel Celeron – 4GB Memory – 64GB eMMC storage, $200 [View]
Of the two examples above, the Lenovo on sale for $200 would be a better choice with a faster processor and more storage.
Having workers on dedicated work computers helps keep personal tasks separate from a home computer that may be less secure — more apt to have other users accessing it and more likely to get viruses and malware.
Create Dedicated Microsoft Account
Most Windows computers during setup will ask you to login with an existing Microsoft account or create one. It’s easiest to create a Microsoft account ahead of setting up each computer. Follow these steps.
- Go to the Outlook.com website.
- Choose to create a new account.
- Have a naming series in mind for your remote laptops such as AcmePC1@outlook.com and AcmePC2@outlook.com and continue. Each new laptop can have its own free dedicated Microsoft account. This is used for setup and synchronization with Microsoft.
- The resulting free Outlook account for each computer can be used for setup and basic synchronization with Microsoft.
Disable Windows S Mode
Inexpensive computers typically come with Windows S Mode enabled. This is a locked down streamlined version of Windows suited for slower processors and limited memory.
Note: Disabling S Mode will allow for expanded operation, but may also slow down the computer and some computers may not work properly without S Mode enabled. It tends to work okay 9 out of 10 times depending on the computer brand, model, and capabilities.
To disable S Mode and set Windows to operate normally, follow these steps. open Settings > System > Activation and choose the link for the Microsoft Store. Select Get when in the store on the “Switch out of S mode” page. Once complete, you’ll be running a normal Windows 11 operating system. [Learn More]
New computers are initially setup by the manufacturer with the basic software, but in anticipation that the latest software will be installed at the time of purchase — perhaps months after the original assembly of the computer.
One of the first tasks you’ll want to perform is installing of Windows updates which will likely include many software updates for the hardware and devices inside the computer. If there are many of these, and they are large updates, the process could take a while. Here are some considerations.
- Because the updates may include video drivers, the screen may go black momentarily while the updates are installed.
- Avoid using the computer during the update process.
- You’ll be prompted to restart, but you should make sure all the necessary updates have completely downloaded, and completely installed.
- Some updates may seem to be stuck at a certain percentage of progress. Be patient and let them complete.
Additional Windows Setup
For additional Windows setup instructions, read “Windows Computer Setup Checklist.” [Read]
Remote Tech Support
Sometimes it’s helpful to have the option for remote IT support. The software of choice can be installed. Examples would be GoToMyPC, Splashtop, and TeamViewer.
Use of Remote Access
Remote Worker Computer
A new remote worker computer would need to be setup with Google Chrome, and would use Chrome Remote Desktop to access the main office computer.
Office Computer to be Remotely Used
An office computer intended to be used by someone remotely would need Google Chrome installed.
A dedicated Google Account with a new Gmail account should be configured.
The setup process for Chrome Remote Desktop is explained in the document, “Google Chrome Remote Desktop — Use and Setup.”
Overview of Remote Access
The remote worker would use their dedicated remote access computer. They would login to Chrome using the same Google user account as the office computer. The office computer would be left turned on with Chrome Desktop installed.
The operation would be the same as someone remotely accessing their own office computer from home or while traveling.
This document was originally created on 1 May 2023. It was revised on 22 Sep 2023 to include the last three sections describing the remote worker computer, the office computer, and the general overview of remote access.