With the post-2020 shift from onsite workspaces to remote work environments, many individuals and enterprises alike are researching how to remote desktop from Mac to Windows and vice versa.
When it comes to selecting a remote desktop connection from Mac to Windows, Microsoft Remote Desktop is an exceptional option. Follow the complete guide provided in this article to start with this app with no hassle.
How to Use Microsoft Remote Desktop on Mac
This Microsoft remote desktop application for Mac is free on the Apple App Store. Install the app, but don’t open it yet. The initial configuration of the computer being accessed must be taken care of first.
Configure a Windows computer you want to remotely access
Note: This guides assumes that the reader is running a Windows 10 Pro operating system.
Step 1: Click the Start button.
Step 2: Select Settings.
Step 3: Select System from the Windows Settings screen.
Step 4: Scroll down the left-side menu until you locate Remote Desktop, then click it.
Step 5: Toggle the Enable Remote Desktop setting from off to on (shown above).
Step 6: Beneath “How to connect to this PC”, you’ll find the name needed when utilizing the Microsoft Remote Desktop app.
Note: In the above image, the name is displayed as “<name>” is a placeholder. Your machine will show the actual name of your computer.
Step 7: Default settings mean that computer administrators can automatically access the computer remotely (double-check at the bottom of the User accounts section to ensure you’re listed as an admin).
Note: To enable non-administrative users to gail remote access capabilities, manually add them via the “Select users that can remotely access this PC” link.
Now the Windows computer should be ready for a remote desktop connection from Mac to PC.
Users will only need to perform the above steps once on the remotely accessed machine, and all subsequent remote sessions can automatically connect without additional configuration.
How to add a PC to Microsoft Remote Desktop on your Mac
Step 1: After installing Microsoft Remote Desktop on the Mac computer, run the application.Note: The initial startup of Microsoft Remote Desktop will display a large “Add PC” button in the center of the window.
Once the first computer is added (find instructions here) users can freely add additional computers using the “+” found in the top menu ribbon (refer to the red arrow in the screenshot below).
Step 2: Once the Add PC window opens, type the computer’s name (the computer you want to connect with remotely).Note: A User account line will display (set to “Ask when required” by default — a mode that prompts the user to enter login information each time they try to connect).
Setting advanced options
Be sure to familiarize yourself with these options, as they impact your overall remote desktop connection from Mac to Windows experience.
• Friendly names
Users can save their login credentials by selecting Add User Account (located in the User drop-down menu.)
Users are then prompted to enter their username and password, and also have the option of setting a “friendly name” for the account being created.
Friendly names are useful when a computer has a cryptic name. When PCs are purchased, the default name could be a hard-to-remember codename similar to “WINRPXM477B” (that’s just an example, but you understand the point.)
Most private users don’t actually know they can rename a computer or keep its default name.
As shown in the example above, a “friendly name” could be anything from “He who must be obeyed’s computer”, or “The best computer ever”—regardless of the name chosen, it will be easily identifiable.
The friendly name concept is equally beneficial in professional work environments where using naming conventions like “HR-PC-001” and “HR-PC-002” are implemented. Instead of numbers and letters that can confuse users, creating recognizable names like:
“The cool lady who bakes cookies’ computer”
Not only will friendly names make it easier to keep track of users, they add some fun personalization that everyone can appreciate.
• Login credentials
One welcomed convenience of Microsoft Remote Desktop is how the app saves login credentials. That means when a user adds multiple computers that utilize the same logins, they can choose the machine from the User account drop-down without having to manually enter the credentials each time.
After a user account is added (or left at its default setting of asking for credentials during each login), there are some Remote Desktop options to consider.
The Gateway option is most frequently implemented in corporate environments with Remote Desktop Gateway servers. Since this guide focuses on home users, the Gateway option won’t impact your needs.
For more corporate-level scenarios, speak with a system administrator to learn if your network needs a gateway (and what to enter in the prompt if you do require a gateway.)
The rest of the options are quite simple, so we’ll begin by opening the Display tab.
Connecting Mac with a remote PC
Step 1: Connect by double-clicking on the block showing the computer’s name.
Notice the two icons (a pencil and a trash can) displayed in the upper right of the box. The pencil icon allows you to edit the settings described earlier, while the trashcan allows you to delete the computer from the Remote Desktop app.
Step 2: Double-clicking on the computer box may trigger a message reading:
“You are connecting to the RDP host <name>. The certificate couldn’t be verified back to a root certificate. Your connection may not be secure. Do you want to continue?“
Step 3: When connecting to a trusted computer (such as one on your home network), click Continue.
After a successful connection is established, users will see a full-screen display of the remote computer (unless the property was changed in the Display options tab.)
How to exit a Remote Desktop session
- • Option 1: Use CTRL+ left arrow keys to return to the macOS computer desktop. Hitting CTRL+ right arrow keys will return the user to the current remote desktop session.
For users working with the virtual desktops macOS feature, they can hit CTRL + the left or right arrow keys to navigate beyond the remote desktop session to another macOS virtual desktop — and back to the remote desktop again.
- • Option 2: Drag the cursor to the very top of the screen and leave it there for several seconds. The Apple menu bar will appear, allowing users to click Close from the Windows menu.
- • Option 3: Hit the red “X” button in the Remote Desktop window.
Note: It’s possible to connect to multiple computers simultaneously using the CTRL+ right/left arrow keys to navigate between them — or by using the Windows menu to select a different desktop to connect with.
What is Microsoft Remote Desktop for Mac?
Even though Microsoft Remote Desktop was developed to function between two Windows OS computers, it supports most desktops/laptops compatible with RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol). This includes a variety of Linux distros.
Users should note that Microsoft Remote Desktop won’t allow users to connect to another macOS or iOS device computer because macOS does not support RDP.
Microsoft Remote Desktop connection for Mac to PC is possible, or from Mac to Linux, but remote desktop connection Mac to Mac connectivity isn’t possible.
While Microsoft Remote Desktop connection Mac capabilities are a bit limited, this software offers a plethora of benefits that administrators from all ilk should consider.
Understanding network connectivity
Both the Mac and the remotely accessed computer must share the same network. Most commonly, this is the user’s personal or work network.
By default, Remote Desktop can’t establish a remote connection if the Mac is away from the shared network. Maybe the user is working from a cafe (for example) while the Windows PC remains on the personal/home network. However, users can circumvent this limitation with a VPN that connects back to the user’s specified network.
Another common IP issue may have to do with the device swapping WiFi networks, meaning that the computer is no longer sharing the same network as the device being remotely accessed. Open the Settings app on your machine to check the WiFi settings.
- Step 1: Check the “Redirect folders” option
- Step 2: Click the “+” button in the bottom-left corner
- Step 3: When the dialog opens, choose a folder on your Mac.