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Access your Windows home server anywhere safely

Being able to access your Windows home server outside of the network is excellent, as it enables you to be able to run your self-hosted services even when not at home. However, it is dangerous to expose a home server to the internet.

There’s a better way to access your Windows home server outside of the network. To access your Windows home server from anywhere safely (without exposing it to the internet via port forwarding), you will need to install Tailscale. What is Tailscale? It is a secure WireGuard mesh network that users can set up between their devices, so they can be accessed anywhere.

How to install Tailscale on Windows Server

Tailscale is available on a wide variety of operating systems, including mobile. To add your Windows Server to your Tailnet, do the following. First, download the “Tailscale for Windows” installer.

After downloading it to your Windows Server, open up the Windows Explorer app, and launch the installer. Install it to Windows Server. When it is installed, Tailscale will create a running service, and open itself.

Look in the Windows Server system tray for the Tailscale icon, and click on it with the mouse. Once you’ve located the Tailscale icon, right-click on it and select the “Log in” button.

Upon logging into Tailscale, it will connect your Windows Server to your Tailscale mesh network (Tailnet). All other connected Tailscale-connected devices can now communicate with it, even if they aren’t on the same network.

How to install Tailscale on other devices

If you want to be able to access your Windows home server from anywhere, you’ll have to install Tailscale on it and log in. Thankfully, Tailscale supports Linux, Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS.

Linux installation instructions

Installing Tailscale on Linux is easy to do, as it takes only a single command to set it up. Best of all, the “single command” installation method is distribution agnostic. So, no matter what Linux OS you use, you can get it working.

To install Tailscale on Linux, launch a terminal window and execute the following command in a terminal window.

curl -fsSL https://tailscale.com/install.sh | sh

After running the command, Tailscale will be installed on your system. You must now use the following command to log in.

sudo tailscale up

Upon entering the command above, the terminal will generate a link. Open the link in your browser to log your device into your Tailnet.

Windows installation instructions

If you have a Windows PC, follow the Windows server installation instructions above. The Windows release of Tailscale works the same whether it is on a Windows server or a Windows PC.

Mac OS installation instructions

If you use a Mac, you can get Tailscale working easily by following the official MacOS installation instructions on the site.

Android installation instructions

If you have an Android device, scan the QR code on the Android section of the Tailscale page. Then, log into your Tailnet via the app.

iOS installation instructions

If you have an iPhone and want to log into your Tailnet, scan the QR code on the iOS Tailscale page to download the app. Once you have the app installed, log into your Tailnet.

How to access your Windows Home server anywhere safely with Tailscale

To access your Windows home server anywhere safely with Tailscale, do the following. First, open up the Tailscale app on the remote device you wish to access your server. You can also open up the Tailscale dashboard on the website.

After loading up the app (or the dashboard on the Tailscale website), you’ll see all the devices on your Tailnet. Locate your Windows server device and select the IP address. Selecting this will give you the IP address for the Windows server on the Tailnet.

Once you have your Windows server’s Tailnet ip address, you can connect to any services it’s hosted. For example, on a Windows laptop, you can open up Windows Explorer, and connect to a file share with the following address.

\\Windows-Server-Tailscale-IP\Share

If you have a web server hosted on your lan, it is accessible in any browser (so long as the device is connected to Tailscale). Open up a browser and enter the following address.

http://windows-server-tailscale-ip

Or, for HTTPS.

https://windows-server-tailscale-ip

For example, if you need to connect to the server via RDP, you can enter the RDP address into your RDP client with the Tailscale Windows server IP. The possibilities are endless. There are many services that you can now access remotely as if you were on the same physical local network as the Windows server. Enjoy!

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