How to Fix: OpenVPN Remote Desktop Not Working (Suddenly)

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Paul P. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I've been using OpenVPN, coupled with Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to connect my laptop to my home PC when I'm on the road. It's worked great for a while now, however, suddenly remote desktop has stopped working and I can't connect to my PC anymore. The strange thing is that OpenVPN seems to complete the connection, so I am not sure why my RDP won't work any more. Can you help? "

My response:

I asked Paul if he would like me to connect to his laptop using my remote desktop service in order to investigate the problem further, and he agreed.

How to Fix: OpenVPN Remote Desktop Not Working (Suddenly)

I use OpenVPN extensively in order to connect to my remote web server in Buffalo, so I have lots of experience when it comes to troubleshooting OpenVPN issues. Below I'll list three very common methods used to resolve a "it-was-working-before-but-now-it's-not" scenario when it comes to troubleshooting OpenVPN connections and services.

Method #1: Test the Connection with Ping

Whenever something goes wrong with an OpenVPN connection, the first thing I do is ping the remote machine to make sure that the connection is in fact working. For example, my remote server VPN address is 10.10.0.1, so to ping it I would do the following:

a) Click Start, then type in "cmd" (no quotes); wait for "CMD.EXE" or "Command Prompt" to appear in the list, then right click an select "Run as Administrator."

b) Next, try and ping the remote machine. In my case the server is 10.10.0.1, so I would enter in the following on the command line, then press Enter to execute it:

ping 10.10.0.1

If the connection is working, you should see something like this:

Pinging 10.10.0.1 with 32 bytes of data:
Reply from 10.10.0.1: bytes=32 time=60ms TTL=128
Reply from 10.10.0.1: bytes=32 time=30ms TTL=128
Reply from 10.10.0.1: bytes=32 time=30ms TTL=128
Reply from 10.10.0.1: bytes=32 time=30ms TTL=128

Ping statistics for 10.10.0.1:
    Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
    Minimum = 30ms, Maximum = 60ms, Average = 37ms

Important: If the connection is not working - or if the remote machine is NOT configured to provide a ping response (this often has to do with a firewall setting), you will get "request timed out" response and 100% packet loss. In that case, proceed to method #2 below.

Method #2: Reset the TAP Adapters Manually

In Paul's case, he did not receive a ping response, even with the firewall disabled on the remote machine. Since Paul has not made any configuration changes to OpenVPN recently and because ping did not provide a response, the next thing to try is to reset the TAP adapters in Windows to "clear" the connection.

TAP adapters are virtual network card adapters and allow the local and remote machine to operate on the virtual network; oftentimes these adapters become "corrupted" and need to be reset. Note that rebooting the machine would not be enough to fix the issue - the adapters need to be reset manually.

To do so:

a) Close down the OpenVPN GUI on the local machine and stop the OpenVPN server service on the remote machine.

b) Click the Start menu, then type in "network and sharing center"; click the "Network and Sharing Center" icon when it appears, then click "Change adapters settings" link near the top right of the proceeding window.

c) The "Network connections" window will appear. For every "TAP adapter" you see, right click it and select "disable".

d) Now, re-enable the TAP adapters. Right click each disabled TAP adapter and select "Enable". Disabling and then re-enabling the adapters will reset the adapters, clearing any "corruption".

e) Re-launch OpenVPN server on the remote machine and OpenVPN GUI on the local machine; attempt to connect.

f) Once the connection is made try launching Remote Desktop (RDP) to open a remote desktop connection on the remote machine.

In Paul's case, this solved the problem - but it isn't always as simple as that. In that case, read on.

Method #3: Ensure RDP Services are Enabled and Running

If Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is still not working at this point, you will want to make sure that RDP is in fact enabled on the remote machine and the service is running.

To do so:

a) Go to the remote machine, then click Start and type in "This PC"; wait for "This PC" to appear in the list, then right click it and select "Properties".

b) The "System" window will appear; click the "Advanced System Settings" link near the top left, then click the "Remote" tab near the top right. Look under the heading "Remote Desktop" and ensure that "Allow remote connections to this computer" option is enabled. Click "Apply" and "OK" to finalize any adjustments (if necessary).

c) Next, you will want to ensure that the Remote Desktop Service is running. Click Start, then type in "services.msc" (no quote); wait for "Services" to appear in the list, then click it. Scroll down to "Remote Desktop Services", then double click it. The "Startup type" should be set for manual. The heading "Service status:" should say that it is running. If it is not running, click "Start" to start the service, then try connecting again. It should work. If it is not working, you are welcome to contact me for additional support, described next.

Additional 1-on-1 Support: From Dennis

If this is over your head, or if you need further assistance in troubleshooting your OpenVPN connection, I can help using my remote desktop support service. Simply contact me, briefly describing the issue and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question -- or even a computer problem that needs fixing -- please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of Infopackets.com. With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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