How-To Geek

How to Connect to Windows Remote Desktop from Your iPhone or iPad

wrd_top

You can’t run Windows apps on your iPad or iPhone, but if you have a Pro or Enterpise edition of Windows, you can remotely access your PC using Windows Remote Desktop. Here’s how to get it set up.

There are a lot of ways to remotely access your computer from iOS, and you can read about all your options here. Remote Desktop, while not as quick to set up as something like TeamViewer, gives a really smooth experience that’s well worth the work if you have a mostly-Windows household. So, we’ll be using the Remote Desktop server built into Windows Pro and Enterprise and the Microsoft Remote Desktop client for iOS 8 or later.

If you can’t use Remote Desktop, though you have other choices. If you’re just helping someone troubleshoot their computer remotely and don’t need continued access–or if they only have a Windows Home edition–you can use Windows 10’s new Quick Assist feature (or the Remote Assistance feature on older Windows versions). Or if you need a more fully-featured remote access program that supports any edition of Windows (and other operating systems), you might take a look at TeamViewer and other remote support tools.

With that in mind, let’s look at setting up Remote Desktop on iOS.

Set Up Your Windows PC for Remote Desktop Connections

If you have decided to use Windows Remote Desktop, the first step is getting it set up on the PC you want to control from remote devices (if you haven’t already). Again, you’ll need to be running a Pro, Business, or Enterprise version of Windows for this to work. Home and other versions can work as a Remote Desktop client for connecting to another machine, but not as a server.

You can read our full guide to turning on Remote Desktop in any version of Windows, but here’s the short version.

First, access the System Properties dialog. How you get there differs a bit in each version of Windows. In Windows 8 or 10, hit Start and search for “Allow remote connections to this computer.” In Windows 7, hit Start, right-click “Computer,” and then choose “Properties.” No matter what version you’re using, though, the System Properties dialog will look the same.

Once there, switch to the “Remote” tab, and then select the “Allow remote connections to this computer” option.

wrd_1

When you’ve got Remote Desktop turned on, you should be able to connect to that computer remotely from any device connected to your local network using the instructions in the next section.

If you want to allow remote connections to the PC over the Internet, though, things are a bit more complicated. You can use a secure method, like setting up a VPN, or a straightforward way, like configuring your router to forward Remote Desktop requests to that PC. What you choose is up to you, but we’ve got a full guide to walk you through it. Once you’ve set that up, you can move on to the next section.

Install and Set Up Microsoft Remote Desktop on Your iOS Device

Now that you have Remote Desktop configured on the PC to which you want to connect, it’s time to turn your attention to the iOS device from which you want to connect. You’ll first need to download and install Microsoft Remote Desktop. When that’s gone, go ahead and fire it up.

The first thing you’ll see is a lonely little screen waiting for a new connection to be added. Do that by tapping the “Add” button at the top right.

wrd_2

We’re going to be adding a connection to a PC, so tap the “Desktop” option. If you’re working with a company that provides remote access to your work PC, they may have you use the “Remote Resources” or “Azure RemoteApp” options instead, depending on how they have things set up.

wrd_3

When you add a new desktop PC, you can type the PC’s full name or use the IP address. If you’re connecting over a local network, you can use either the name or the IP address. If you’re connecting over the Internet, you’ll need to use whatever public IP address is exposed to the Internet for your local network. Type the name or IP address and then tap “Done.”

wrd_4

If you want, you can tap “User Account” and add your Windows user name and password so that you don’t have to enter it each time you connect to the PC. If you’d prefer the security of having to enter your credentials each time, just leave that option alone. Tap “Additional Options” to do a little further configuration.

wrd_5

The “Additional Options” page lets you control a few things:

  • Type a friendly name if you used an IP address or your PC has a name that’s not easily identifiable. This friendly name is used only in the Remote Desktop app.
  • If you have a more sophisticated local network with multiple subnets, you can configure a gateway device to which all Remote Desktop requests are sent. You’ll need to know the IP address of that gateway.
  • You can configure sounds made by the PC to play on your iOS device, the PC itself, or to make no sound at all while you’re connecting remotely.
  • If you’re a left-handed user and the PC to which you’re connecting has the mouse buttons swapped, the “Swap Mouse Buttons” switch forces Remote Desktop to respect that.
  • The “Admin Mode” option applies only to administrators logging into a Windows server that also functions as a terminal server. If that doesn’t apply to you, just leave it turned off.

When you’re done configuring options, tap “Desktop” and then tap “Save” to save your new connection.

wrd_6

After you create a connection, it will appear in the main “Remote Desktop” window. Right after you’ve created it, the connection will look blank. After you’ve used it, the connection will contain a thumbnail image captured the last time you connected. Just tap the connection to start it up.

wrd_7

Assuming you’ve got Remote Desktop configured properly on your PC, you should connect right away. If you see a screen telling you that the PC is not verified, it’s nothing to worry about. Your desktop PC likely isn’t set up to supply proper authentication credentials. As long as you know you’re connecting to your PC, you’re good to go. Tap “Accept” to continue with the connection. Optionally, you can also turn on the “Don’t as me again for connection to this computer” option if you’d rather not see the message again.

wrd_8

When you’ve connected to your PC, you should be in pretty familiar territory. You can interact with your PC pretty much the same way as if you were using it directly. You will notice a few options on a menu at the top of the screen. The “Zoom” button on the left just lets you get a closer look at what you’re doing.

The “Keyboard” button on the right opens an on-screen keyboard. While in Remote Desktop, you can’t use the regular iOS or third-party keyboards. Instead, you’ll use a keyboard provided by Remote Desktop. The one little change you’ll need to get used to is that the keyboard doesn’t pop up automatically the way it does in iOS. You’ll need to tap the button to show the keyboard and tap it again when you’re done using it and want to see the rest of the screen.

wrd_9

Tap the middle button on that menu to open a few Remote Desktop options. On the left, you can switch between connections if you have multiple connections set up or even add a new connection on the fly. On the right, the “Home” button takes you back to the Remote Desktop app home screen without closing the remote connection. The “End Session” button closes the remote connection. And the “Mouse Pointer” button toggles between letting you interact with the remote PC by touch (the default) or an actual mouse pointer you move around on the screen.

wrd_10

That’s pretty much all there is to using a Remote Desktop connection from your iOS device. Getting Remote Desktop set up in the first place is the trickier part, especially if you need to connect over the Internet. Once that’s done, using the Remote Desktop app in iOS to connect to and control your PC is pretty straightforward.

Walter Glenn is a long time computer geek and tech writer. Though he's mostly a Windows and gadget guy, he has a fondness for anything tech. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Published 08/26/10

Comments (23)

  1. SkrabakL

    what about mac ? is there any tut for this ?

  2. TLV

    Ahem….the secret sauce is in the step “..Now enter in the IP address of the machine you want to connect to.” What am I missing? I am traveling around town with my Ipad, and I forgot to send an email that was sitting in Outlook on my work computer. So I will use this to “remote access” to get in and send it.

    When I get to this step….how do I know the IP address of the work computer????

  3. Loser

    This is magnificent!
    But a don’t have a iphone..

  4. Fabrice Meuwissen

    I prefer Teamviewer, because it is much easier to setup the server part, no need to change the routeur settings, no need to know the IP when you move your computer
    but I think Teamviewer is a little bit slower than a Terminal Server solution.

  5. Radical Edward

    teamviewer all the way.

  6. J

    I like Jaadu RDP, but I haven’t tried RDP light so I can’t say which one is better.
    I don’t use it often though, the screen is too small. Perhaps on an ipad it would be legendary?
    I use it for emergencies, like if I need a document that’s on my computer but not in my dropbox. Sometimes just to keep me awake during a boring lecture, making sure all the torrents are seeding, cleaning the desktop, starting a virus scan, etc.

    “During the remote session, the machine you’re logged into will show the login screen.”
    Not necessarily. That only happens if you log in to the same user, thereby stealing the session. You could log on to another user account, or even run multiple instances of the same account simultaneously with some tweaking. Google “windows 7 concurrent sessions” if you’d like to know how to enable it.

  7. sercasti

    logmein rulz

  8. SLLFFC

    Everything seems fine except one point; My System Properties box does not contain an option for remote desktop. Mine is an administrator account, being the only account on my laptop. My Help menu has plenty of information on how to remotely access /other/ computers, but nothing that can tell me why it is not showing up the Remote Desktop dialogue, or if I’m just plain not allowed for some odd reason.

    I’m running Vista basic, with Symantec for my protection.

  9. Salim

    SLLFFC: Vista Basic and Windows 7 Home Basic are missing these features.

  10. Guru

    I have this on my Nokia 5800 ‘the iphone killer…!!’ ;)

  11. HijoProdigo

    LogMeIn is good, but premium users only. I like Teamviewer. Might be slow, but easy to set up and free. Also saves partners (computers you connect to), so easy to remember.

  12. Brandon

    I am currently running Win7. and have an iphone4.
    I downloaded RealVNC for my desktop, and Mocha VNC Lite for my iphone.
    Before I leave for work in the morning, I email myself a Remote Assistance Invite. When I get to work, I open the email on my work computer, accept the invite, then use my iphone to accept the incoming connection and the “Request Control”. So instead of working on my home desktop through my iphone all day, I can use my work computer.

  13. Ryan

    I cannot get multiple monitors to work on my win 7 with jaadu rdp and iphone 4. It’s lame it’s grayed out to where I can’t click on it. I don’t know if I need to tweak some settings or what. Please feel free to enlighten me J.

  14. Geekrawker

    This is/was a great app. I was able to use it combined with hssvss to monitor my security web cams but after the last update, the rdp lite no longer plays video. So when tempting in and clicking on my hssvss I just get a black screen. Has anyone else tried a similar setup and discovered the app no longer supports a video stream? I suppose it was a fluke that I was able to see my cam before the update. Any suggestion?

  15. Geekrawker

    Skrabakl

    Mac uses a program called screen share. Very easy to setup, just search screen share in google. It’s a bit more advanced than remote desktop and has some nice features. I recentally discovered I could edit video remotely because screen share does a great job adjusting quality depending on your connection speed and uses all your onboard hardware before dumping the stream to your remote device. This is different than remote desktop as rdc won’t mount several pci hardware devices when your remoting. Also, to remote into your pc from a Mac, u just need the free remote desktop connect (rdc) from Microsoft. It also works great, but no remote video if your hoping to do video work remotely.

  16. managah

    Mine still won’t connect after allowing any device to connect in the remote tab need more assitance

  17. Xana452

    Oh this accursed Windows 7 Home Premium! I cant do this, and it would be very useful!

  18. boy_kulot

    i already configure all the settings using wi-fi, it works perfect. bat can you give me a configure using edge.

  19. dalzmc

    I have Windows XP professional, and this app is awesome! Only it doesn’t work! I get that Error message shown even when I have set it up perfectly…. help?

  20. Peter

    Seems simple and effective but has never worked for me on ipod touch nor ipad, nor android. On my version of Vista there is simply no Remote Desktop option, only the upper panel ‘remote assistance’.

  21. suga37

    Hi I just install this on my iPad 2 it works great. I only have a issue why can’t I use it remote from 2 different networks. I would like to log in to my iPad from home to my work laptop but they are on different network.

  22. mike

    LogMeIn is much better. It works on all of the computers.

  23. pierz

    I’m a web developer/admin and use RDP lite on my my iPhone. Yeah, it’s awkward getting about on that little screen, and to be honest it’s not something I use every day or anything, but it is invaluable when I’m out and about and there’s some problem with our web server needs fixing. And it works a treat on 3G too.

More Articles You Might Like

Enter Your Email Here to Get Access for Free:

Go check your email!