Setting Up Your Remote Work Environment

Preparation is key to creating a successful remote work environment.

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Your Computer

University-owned laptop

If you have a University-owned laptop, plan to use it as your primary device for telecommuting.

Personal computer

If you plan to use a personal computer, you must take steps to ensure it meets minimum security requirements, including:

  • Scanning for any potential malware using a cybersecurity product like Malwarebytes (free)
  • Using an antivirus/endpoint security software, such as Microsoft Defender for Windows PCs or Sophos or Avast for Mac (free)
  • Ensuring the operating systems and other products (such as your browser, Java, iTunes, and Adobe) software and security updates are applied
  • Activating built-in firewalls, such as macOS X or Windows Defender
  • Implementing a regular backup strategy

Please note: If you do not have a University-owned laptop or personal computer that meets these standards, consult with your supervisor.

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Before You Leave Campus

Back up your documents

Save your files to a cloud-based file sharing solution like Microsoft OneDrive or SharePoint. Using these services, you can always access the latest version of your files no matter where you are, as long as you have an internet connection.

Review your phones registered with Multi-factor Authentication

If you only have your office phone registered, you must set up a backup phone via Online Passport to access several University resources. Consider adding your cellular and/or home phone.

Change your NetID password before it expires

Northwestern uses a password aging system requiring you to change your password every year. If you have started to receive reminder emails, log in to NUValidate to change your password.

Please note: You must be on a wired connection on campus for your password to sync to your device.

Set up and test a remote connection to your office desktop

If you will be using a personal computer at home to access your office desktop, follow these instructions:

  • From a Windows 10 PC
    1. In the search box on the taskbar, type Remote Desktop Connection
    2. Select Remote Desktop Connection from the top results
    3. In the Remote Desktop Connection window, type the IP address of the computer you're connecting to (the office desktop)
      • to find the IP of the computer you are using Google "what is my ip"
    4. Click Show Options, and for the username, type the same credentials you use for the office desktop (usually ADS\NetID)
    5. Select Connect
    6. You will be prompted for the password (the NetID password) 

      You can also save this to the desktop of your personal computer, and just double-click it whenever you want to connect remotely (just remember to connect to VPN first — see information about VPN).
  • From a Mac
    1. Install Microsoft Remote Desktop, available for free in the Mac App Store
    2. Open the app
    3. Add PC: For the PC Name, enter the IP address of the computer you’re connecting to (the office desktop)
    4. Click Add and double-click the new connection.
    5. You should be prompted for the username (usually ADS\NetID) and password (the NetID password)
    6. Click Continue to connect to the remote PC

      You can also save this application to your dock. Thereafter, open the Microsoft Remote Desktop application and double-click the saved connection.

Please note: These instructions assume your office desktop is enabled for remote desktop and were written for the most current versions of Windows 10 and macOS 10.15 (Catalina), so there may be some variation on your personal computer.

Do not power off your office desktop before you leave the office. You will not be able to connect remotely to your office desktop if it is turned off. 

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Once at Home

Test your home workstation setup by doing the following:

Test your Internet speed

Your connection must be stable and fast enough to support your use of Northwestern online resources. Typically, 10-20 Mbps upload and download speeds will support typical work activities, though other devices on your network will impact your speed (such as streaming or online gaming). To test your connection, go to and click GO.

If you require VPN access, set up GlobalProtect VPN

VPN (virtual private network) provides you with secure access to University services and the Internet when you are off-campus.

Learn more about VPN set up

Check your ability to approve a Multi-factor Authentication request

If you only have your office number registered for Duo/Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) and no longer have access to that phone, you will need to contact the Northwestern IT Support Center to verify your identity and review other options.

Make sure you can access University resources

  • Email: Use your desktop application on your computer or access your Outlook email and calendar through your web browser via the Outlook Web App
  • Phone: Set your office phone to ring another number, e.g. a home phone or cell phone, following these instructions
  • Video conferencing: The University offers several video conferencing tools:
    • Zoom — this is the recommended option for our users. 
      Do not attempt to access Zoom from your office computer when using remote desktop. Download/install the Zoom app on your local laptop or computer and join meetings directly from that device. Otherwise, the camera and speakers will not be detected.
    • BlueJeans
    • WebEx
    • Test your microphone and webcam, if necessary
    • You may need to purchase a headset to improve sound quality and minimize background noise

      Access tutorials for Zoom and other video conferencing setup
  • Online chat: Microsoft Teams
  • Voicemail: Find out more through Cisco Unity
  • Shared Drives: if you are using your personal computer, do not use the desktop versions of OneDrive or Outlook or store any data locally on your machine, including emails or files.

A note about printing: While print jobs can be sent from off-campus and personal computers to McCormick printers on campus, they need to be released in person at a printer.

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While working remotely, remember: