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Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is a multi-channel protocol that allows a user to connect to a computer running Microsoft Terminal Services. Clients exist for most versions of Windows (including handheld versions), and other operating systems such as Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris Operating System and Mac OS X. The server listens by default on TCP port 3389. Microsoft refers to the official RDP client software as either Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) or Terminal Services Client (TSC).
Based on the ITU T.share protocol (also known as T.128), the first version of RDP (called version 4.0) was introduced with Terminal Services in Windows NT 4.0 Server, Terminal Server Edition. Version 5.0, introduced with Windows 2000 Server, added support for a number of features, including printing to local printers, and aimed to improve network bandwidth usage. Version 5.1, introduced with Windows XP Professional, included support for 24-bit color and sound. Version 5.2, introduced with Windows Server 2003, included support for console mode connections, a session directory, and local resource mapping. The most current version, 6.0, introduced with Windows Vista and Windows Server "Longhorn" includes a significant number of new features, most notably being able to remotely access a single application instead of the entire desktop, and support for 32 bit color.
Clients compatible with the Remote Desktop Protocol run on a number of different operating systems, and it is even a core feature of some Linux distributions. Users do not, however, need a broadband connection to access their desktops, as even a 56K modem provides enough speed to provide 5-6 screen refreshes per second.
The RDP service is supported as an official feature on Windows Server 2003, Windows XP Professional, Media Center, and Tablet PC 2005 Editions, and in Windows Vista Ultimate, Enterprise and Business editions. While the software exists on other editions of Windows, including Windows XP Home Edition and Windows Vista Home Basic and Home Premium editions, as of March 2007, Microsoft hasn't announced any plans to sanction owners of those editions to enable Remote Desktop server capabilities on those versions. By default, all Windows XP and Vista editions include the Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) client application pre-installed, with RDC client version determined by the version of Windows release. It is available for free download for Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows 9x, Windows NT 4.0, Mac OS X, and most Linux distributions.
In early November 2006, Remote Desktop Connection 6.0 was released as a download exclusively for users of Windows XP Service Pack 2 or Windows Vista featuring the new Windows Vista visual theme and a number of other changes as listed below. The RDC 6.0 download requires Microsoft Windows Genuine Advantage validation. Microsoft hasn't made any announcements confirming an update of RDC for other platforms, including the client for Mac OS X from its current version, 1.0.3, that would bring client-end features up to par with improvements of RDC 6.0.
Work has started on an open source implementation of the RDP server available for Unix-like operating systems . There are other products which provide RDP server functionality for LINUX using non RDP protocols such as VNC, NX and X Window System. These are however not compatible with the Windows RDP client.