How to use the Microsoft Remote Desktop app to connect to remote PCs

The Microsoft Remote Desktop client is a free Windows 10 app, available through the Microsoft Store, useful when you need remote access to another Windows computer or device. This universal remote desktop client works both with devices available in your network and devices with public IP addresses that are accessible through the internet. For example, you can use it to connect to a Windows computer from work, while you are working from home. Here's how to use the Microsoft Remote Desktop client in Windows 10 to work with remote computers and devices:

How to install the Microsoft Remote Desktop client app

The Microsoft Remote Desktop app is not installed by default in Windows 10, so you need to install it manually. To get it, click or tap on this link or open the Microsoft Store, search for "remote desktop," and click or tap on the Microsoft Remote Desktop app in the list of results.

Searching for the Microsoft Remote Desktop app in Microsoft Store

Click or tap Get or Install and wait for the remote desktop client to install.

Installing the Microsoft Remote Desktop client

How to start the Remote Desktop app in Windows 10

The fastest way to open anything in Windows 10 is to use the search. That goes for the Microsoft Remote Desktop app too: type "remote desktop" in the search field on your taskbar, select the Remote Desktop app and then click or tap on Open.

Finding the Remote Desktop app in Windows 10

Another way is to open the Start Menu, and scroll through the All apps list until you find the Remote Desktop shortcut, and then click or tap on it.

The Remote Desktop shortcut from the Windows 10 Start Menu

When you first launch the app, you can see a screen informing you of what you can do with it.

The Microsoft Remote Desktop window

How to add a remote Windows computer in the Microsoft Remote Desktop client

You can initiate a remote connection from devices running any edition of Windows 10, including Windows 10 Home. However, you can connect remotely only to computers or devices that are running Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise, Windows 8.1 and 8 Enterprise and Pro, Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate, and Windows Server versions newer than Windows Server 2008. You cannot connect to Mac OS X or Linux computers using this app.

To connect to a remote computer using Microsoft Remote Desktop, you first need to set up that computer to allow remote connections. For detailed instructions on how to do this, read: How to enable Remote Desktop in Windows 10 (or Windows 7).

To connect to the remote computer, in the Microsoft Remote Desktop client, click or tap on Add on the top-right corner.

The Add button from the Microsoft Remote Desktop app

When the universal remote desktop client asks you to "Choose what to add," select Desktop.

Choosing to add a remote Desktop computer

Enter the name of the target computer (in my case, Codrut-Laptop) or its IP address into the PC name text field. Note that you can also specify the port to use, like, for example, OfficePC:37770. That's all you need to configure a remote desktop connection to another Windows computer, so you could simply click or tap Save.

If you leave everything else as is, when you initiate the remote desktop connection, you are asked to authenticate with a user account that has remote desktop access. However, there are a few additional configuration options that you might want to adjust first: read the next sections of this guide to find out what they are.

The name of the remote desktop computer

How to configure a remote desktop connection to a Windows computer

To make things easier and configure the remote desktop connection just as you want it, you can also adjust the following settings:

User account: click or tap on the + (plus) sign to the right of the field and enter the name of the user account that you want to use. You can enter the name of the user account in the following formats: username, domain\username, or username@domain.com. If you want the connection to be made even faster, you can also specify the user's password in the Password field. Furthermore, for a friendlier experience, you can also type a nickname for that user account, in the Display name field.

Adding a user account for the remote desktop computer

In the Display name field, enter a friendly name for the Windows computer to which you're going to connect so that you can identify it more easily. If you leave this field empty, the name of that computer is used instead.

Choosing a display name for the remote desktop connection

Click or tap on Show more at the end of the "Add a desktop" pane. Then, you can change the following settings for the remote desktop connection:

  • Group: includes the remote desktop connection in the group of connections you specify. This can be useful if you use many remote Windows computers.
  • Gateway: you need this information if you are going to connect to a Windows computer inside a corporate network, and you can get the gateway details from your network administrator. For home networks, you don't need it.
  • Connect to admin session: check this setting if you want to connect to a console session on a Windows server.
  • Swap mouse buttons: swaps the left and right-click mouse buttons. Enable this option if the remote computer to which you're going to connect is configured for a left-handed user and you want the opposite, or the other way around.
  • Set my remote session resolution to: select the display resolution you want to use for the remote computer. If you leave the default setting, the remote desktop resolution is adjusted to that of your Microsoft Remote Desktop client window.
  • Change the size of the display: If you've selected a high resolution for the remote computer, this setting adjusts the size of the items on the screen.
  • Update the remote session resolution on resize: If enabled, changing the size of the Microsoft Remote Desktop client window automatically changes the resolution of the remote desktop computer.
  • Clipboard: if you enable it, you can copy and paste items between the remote computer and your Windows 10 computer.
  • Audio Playback: lets you choose the audio device used when a remote connection session is on. You can choose to play sounds from the remote computer on your Windows 10 computer, on the remote computer, or on neither of them.
  • Audio Recording: if you activate this setting, you can use the microphone on your Windows 10 computer on the remote computer.
The configuration options available for a remote computer

When you are done setting everything, click or tap on Save. Then, you see your remote computer displayed as an option in the Group you chose. If you didn't specify a Group, the default one is Saved Desktops.

A saved remote desktop computer

How to connect to a remote Windows computer using the Microsoft Remote Desktop client

In Microsoft Remote Desktop's window, click or tap on the remote computer which you want to connect to. Then, the app connects to it and, unless you already configured the user account for it, the app asks you for the credentials. Type the credentials of the device you are connecting to and press Connect.

Connecting to a remote desktop computer

Next, unless your network administrator configured certificates for remote connections, you are informed that the connection is not certified by a trusted authority.

If you don't want to see this warning each time you remote connect, check the option that says "Don't ask about this certificate again." Then, to start the remote connection, click or tap Connect.

Accept certificate and connect

Finally, you connect to the remote Windows computer or device. You can now see its desktop, and you can start working as if you were in front of it.

Established remote desktop connection

How to use the options available in the Remote Desktop app

When you connect to a remote Windows computer or device, at the top of the window, you get two buttons: Zoom and More.

The options available for an active remote desktop connection

Clicking or tapping on Zoom enlarges the remote screen for better readability. Pressing it again restores the display to the full remote desktop view.

Zoom in and out on a remote desktop

The More (...) button shows you two options on the right side of the window: Disconnect, which closes the remote desktop connection, and Full-screen, which switches your Microsoft Remote Desktop client window between full-screen and windowed mode.

Disconnect or switch to full-screen in a remote desktop connection

How to edit a remote desktop connection in the Microsoft Remote Desktop client

If you want to change the settings of a remote desktop connection after you've created it, on the dashboard of the Microsoft Remote Desktop client, click or tap on the three dots button from its bottom-right corner.

The More button of a remote desktop computer

This opens a menu with a few options. The first one is Edit and brings up all the settings of that remote desktop connection, which we explained earlier. You can also Remove the remote computer from your list of remote connections, make the remote connection "Start in this window," or "Pin [it] to Start" so that you can initiate it even faster.

Additional options for a remote desktop connection

How to configure the general settings of the remote desktop connections

The Microsoft Remote Desktop app also includes a few other useful settings that apply to all your remote connections. To access these connection settings, click or tap on the Settings button from the top-right corner of Microsoft Remote Desktop.

The Settings button from the Microsoft Remote Desktop app

In the Settings pane, you can add a User account that's going to be available to choose in all the remote desktop connections you create or have already added, specify a default Gateway and Group, as well as choose whether all your remote connections are initiated in full screen.

Additional Settings for all the remote desktop connections

Additionally, you can also choose how the remote desktop is resized when you adjust the Microsoft Remote Desktop window, choose when the keyboard shortcuts are sent to the remote desktop computer or kept on your local Windows 10 computer, and "Prevent the screen from timing out" when a remote session is active.

Other options available in the Microsoft Remote Desktop app

Finally, you can make the Microsoft Remote Desktop client "Show desktop previews" (see desktop previews of remote PCs on the app's dashboard) and "Help improve Remote Desktop" (which sends anonymous data to Microsoft about how you use the app).

TIP: Did you know there is a version of the Microsoft Remote Desktop app available for Mac computers? To learn more about it, read How to remote access Windows 10 from Mac.

Do you use the Microsoft Remote Desktop app?

Now that you've learned how to use the Microsoft Remote Desktop universal Windows app, give it a try and let us know what you think. Does it offer everything you need? Did you come across any issues while using it? Let us know using the comments section below.