Microsoft Remote Desktop Definitive How-to Guide

How To Use Microsoft Remote Desktop: Windows 10 & 11 Definitive Guide

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*We updated this article to include the tutorial for Windows 11.

Microsoft Remote Desktop provides an easy-to-use option to connect to a remote computer. As long as the remote computer is turned on and remote desktop connections are allowed, you can enjoy full remote access to run programs, access files, and all peripheral devices.

Read on for an in-depth guide on how to create a remote desktop connection using a classic Remote Desktop Connection or a modern Remote Desktop app for Windows 10 and 11.

Note: Remote Desktop enables remote device access only on Windows Pro and Business. Hence, you will not be able to gain remote access to a computer running Windows 10 and 11 Home editions. To find out your Windows version, check your computer’s System properties.

To connect to a remote PC, you should allow the Remote Desktop in Windows 10 or Windows 11 settings or via the Control Panel first as it is disabled by default.

Enable Remote Desktop Access In Windows 10 Settings

The steps to permit Remote Desktop on the Windows 10 machine via the Settings app:
  1. Go to Start → Settings → System → Remote Desktop.
  2. Change the position of the “Enable Remote Desktop” slider to On.
  3. Click the “Confirm” button in the invoked Remote Desktop Settings window.

    enable remote desktop in windows 10 settings

After that, every user in your local network having administrator permissions will be able to connect to this Windows 10 computer remotely.

Enable Remote Desktop In The Windows 11 Settings

If your machine runs the latest OS, then you should not experience any issues with enabling Remote Desktop in the Windows 11 setting as the steps are pretty much similar.
  1. Open Start → Settings → System → Remote Desktop.

    remote desktop settings windows 11
  2. Change the slider position from “Off” to “On”, and click “Confirm” in the “Remote Desktop Settings” window.

    enable remote desktop confirmation windows 11

That’s all you need to do to successfully enable Remote Desktop on your Windows 11 PC via the Settings app.

Allow Remote Access To Your Computer Via The Control Panel

For old-time Windows users, Control Panel is a more universal method allowing Remote Desktop access on their computers.
  1. Launch the Control Panel from the Start menu or the search box.
  2. Click the “System and Security” option.

    control panel system and security
  3. Select the “Allow remote access” option under the “System” category.

    control panel allow remote access
  4. Click the “Allow remote connections to this computer” radio button in the Remote Desktop section.

    allow remote connections to this computer
  5. Ensure that the “Allow connections only from a computer running Remote Desktop with Network Level Authentication (recommended)” checkbox is in position.
  6. Click “Apply” and “OK” to save changes.

Now that you made your computer accessible via the Remote Desktop Protocol, you can proceed and connect to it remotely.

If your computer is behind a firewall, you should configure it accordingly to enable remote connections. The only exception to this is if you are using Microsoft Defender. Windows will then add the required rules to allow remote connections through your firewall.

To find out how to disable remote access to your computer, you should read our guide for Windows 10 and 11.

How To Use The Remote Desktop App For Windows 10 & 11

The new Microsoft Remote Desktop app for Windows 10 and 11 gradually replaces the traditional Remote Desktop Connection application. Redesigned with the user experience in mind, the app is easy to use and provides all the necessary features and settings for accessing remote computers.

Steps to install the Remote Desktop app

Firstly, you should install the Microsoft Remote Desktop app which can be downloaded right from the branded store.
  1. Open the Microsoft Store app.
  2. Search for the “Microsoft Remote Desktop” app.
  3. Download and install the app onto your machine by clicking the “Install” button.

    install remote desktop microsoft store

When the installation is complete, you will see the application on your Start Menu, or you can run the application directly from within the Microsoft Store.

Connecting to a remote computer with the Microsoft Remote Desktop app

Once you are all set, you are ready to make a remote connection. Follow these steps:
  1. Launch the Remote Desktop app.
  2. Select the “➕ Add” option from the top menu options. Choose “PCs” from the available options.

    connect to pcs remote desktop
  3. Enter the required details in the text fields. In the “PC Name” field, use the computer’s TCP/IP address to connect to a remote desktop:

        ◦ Use the local IP address for remote computers that are within a private network.
        ◦ For devices on a public network or if you’re connecting via the internet, use the computer’s public IP.

    add a pc remote desktop
  4. Click the ➕ option next to the User account section.
  5. You will need to confirm the account login details to sign in to the remote computer:

        ◦ Use the computer’s Microsoft account login details.
        ◦ If the remote device does not have a Microsoft login account, then simply use the local username and password.

    add an account remote desktop
  6. Additionally, you can specify a nickname for the connection in the optional “Display name” field.
  7. Click the “Show more” arrow.

    add a pc show more options remote desktopThere, you can configure the additional settings parameters if necessary. The parameters include resolution settings of the remote session, the option to connect as an admin, etc. These settings are optional and you can leave them as the default values.
  8. When done click “Save” to confirm your settings.
  9. You’ll notice a “Saved Desktops” section within the app. Click the computer icon to connect to a remote Windows 10 or 11 desktop to start your remote session.

    saved pcs remote desktop
  10. You’ll be prompted about a certificate the first time you connect. You can select the “Don’t ask about this certificate again” option to prevent seeing this each time you connect.
  11. Click “Connect” to start the remote session.

If you’ve successfully followed all the steps and configured your app correctly, you will now be able to access your remote Windows 11(10) device.

To terminate a session, simply close the app, or click the “…” link to access the “Disconnect” option.

Windows Remote Desktop app settings overview

You may find you need to make changes to your setup configuration. Changes to Windows 10 or 11 remote access settings can be done quite easily.

Changing general settings

To make any configuration changes to the app, simply open the settings page:
  1. Open the app.
  2. Select “⚙️Settings”.
  3. Select the user account that you wish to edit.
  4. Click the “Edit” option (🖊️ icon).

    remote desktop app edit settings
  5. When done, simply click “Save”.

    save edited settings remote desktop

If you need to create additional user accounts, you would do this in the settings screen. Simply click the ➕ plus button. You may want to connect to different devices with different user accounts or you may be sharing with other users.

You’ll notice there’s an option to select a Gateway server, although you’ll find that there is rarely any need in using it.

You can also create groups and organize your users into specific groups. This doesn’t change the functionality at all, but simply provides a means to organize your user accounts should you have many different users.

Adjust session settings

The steps to edit your Remote Desktop session settings are as follows:
  1. Launch the Remote Desktop app.
  2. Select the “Settings” option from the top menu bar.
  3. You can toggle whether you want the remote connection to start in full screen or not.
  4. You can opt for new connections to open in a new window or not.

    remote desktop app session settings
  5. You can even determine how the app should handle the remote desktop display when the app is resized. Available options include:

        ◦ Stretch the content, preserving the aspect ratio (recommended).
        ◦ Stretch the content.
        ◦ Show scroll bar.

    resizing the app remote desktop
  6. You can determine whether keyboard shortcuts like Ctrl+C(Copy) work within the remote desktop session. To change the options select the “Use keyboard command with a” dropdown and select from the available options:

        ◦ My local PC only.
        ◦ My remote session when it’s in full screen (recommended).
        ◦ My remote session when it’s in use.
  7. You can also toggle the option to prevent the screen from timing out.

The Remote Desktop app also offers a preview feature that shows a snapshot of the remote machine helping with determining the right connection.

Changing connection settings

Follow the following steps to make connection setting changes:
  1. Open the app.
  2. Select the additional options (“…”) from the saved desktop that you want to edit.

    edit connection settings remote desktop

If you want to delete a connection, simply select “Remove” from the additional options menu (“…”).

When done your changes will be saved automatically and the changes will take effect immediately.

How To Use Classic Windows Remote Desktop Connection App

The classic Remote Desktop Connection application is still very popular among Windows users. Unlike the modern counterpart, this software package comes pre-installed with every Windows version so you don’t have to go to a store to download it and can start using it right away.

How to create a remote desktop connection

Follow these steps to initiate a remote desktop session with a distant PC:
  1. Open Windows search and type “remote desktop connection” to search for the RDC app. Then, click on “Open” to launch the Remote Desktop Connection app.

    open remote desktop connection app
  2. Select the IP address or name of the computer that you want to connect to. Type your username in the User name field. For ease of use for future connections, you can save your credentials by selecting the “Allow me to save credentials” checkbox.
  3. To connect to a remote computer via Remote Desktop Connection, click the “Connect” button.

    connect to a remote computer via remote desktop connection
  4. Enter your account password when prompted to do so. Check the “Remember Me” checkbox to avoid having to enter your credentials each time you connect to a remote desktop.
  5. If you see an alert that the identity of the remote computer can not be verified, you can ignore it, and simply tick the “Don’t ask me again for connections to this computer” to dismiss the message and remember your choice. When done, click “Yes” to save and continue.

    connect to a remote computer despite the certificate errors
  6. The remote computer’s toolbar at the top of the screen will indicate that you have successfully launched a remote desktop session.

    remote desktop connection top toolbar

Closing the remote session window will terminate the remote connection.

The classic Remote Desktop Connection app’s settings

Use the Remote Desktop Connection setup screen to change the remote session’s settings. The following are available options:

  • • General. You can save your connection settings in an RDP file which can be transferred and used between various computers.

    remote desktop connection general settings
  • • Display. Configure your display preferences from screen size, multi-monitor support, and color depths.

    remote desktop connection display settings
  • • Local Resources. Configure local resources that are accessible during the remote desktop session. Choose Windows keystroke combinations for various actions as well as configure your remote audio settings.

    remote desktop connection local resources settings
  • • Experience. Choose the best connection speed for the best performance. This includes options for bitmap caching and enabling the auto-reconnect function.

    remote desktop connection experience settings
  • • Advanced. Configure how the app deals with server authentication failures. You can also configure your gateway settings for remote working.

    remote desktop connection advanced settings

Summing Up

So, now you should be equipped with all the necessary knowledge on using Microsoft Remote Desktop. We have reviewed all the different methods that will help you enable remote access to your computer and then connect to it with the classic Remote Desktop Connection or the modern Remote Desktop app for Windows 10 and 11. Should you need to tweak any remote desktop settings, you can come back to this article at any time to read more detailed info about them.

Frequently Asked Questions