If you work from home and need remote access to a Windows 11 or 10 computer from your Mac, we have good news. It’s easy.
Microsoft provides a free tool to do the job. It allows you to use your Windows apps, open files, or do anything else on Windows directly from your MacBook or any other macOS machine.
Read on to learn how to set up your Mac using the Remote Desktop app to connect to Windows 10 and 11.
Step 1: Set up Remote Desktop on Windows 10 & 11
Microsoft Remote Desktop requires Windows 10 (or 11) Pro or Enterprise, or Windows Server. The software runs on Microsoft’s proprietary RDP protocol, which is not available on the standard Windows Home Edition. So, if you need to connect to a PC running Windows Home, third-party remote access tools can help.
The first steps to set up Remote Desktop for Mac take place on your Windows computer.
On your Windows 10 or 11 PC, open the Home menu and go to Settings > System > External desktop. set Enable Remote Desktop until onand click To confirm if requested.
Your PC must be on and awake to connect remotely. In Windows 11, go to Settings > System > Power & battery to manage your power options. If you are using Windows 10, you will see a keep my pc awake option on the Remote Desktop screen itself that you can quickly enable.
You should probably only do this if you need constant remote access to the computer. If you don’t, it’s wise to let it sleep.
Then scroll down to Remote Desktop Users/User Accounts. By default, the account you’re signed in to automatically has remote access permissions. To let other users log in remotely, click Select users to add their usernames.
Get your PC name and IP address
Finally, you need to grab a few bits of information before switching to your Mac. On the same External desktop menu, write down your pc name. If the current name is generic and you want to make it something easier to remember, go Settings > About and click Rename this PC.
Next, you should find your computer’s IP address on your network. Go to Settings > Network & Internet and select Wi-Fi (or Ethernet if you are using a wired connection). Then select the network you are currently connected to. That will open the network properties screen. Scroll to the bottom of the page and find the IPv4 address in the list. Note this number.
Step 2: Install Microsoft Remote Desktop for Mac
Now it’s time to set up remote access to a Windows 10 or Windows 11 PC from your Mac. First, install Microsoft Remote Desktop from the Mac App Store. Microsoft also offers versions of the app for iOS and Android. The instructions for those platforms are the same as the ones we use here.
Step 3: Add your PC to Microsoft Remote Desktop
After installing it, launch the Remote Desktop client on your Mac and select the Add PC button to get started. In the dialog box that opens, type the PC name you checked it before. If you cannot connect with this name, use the IP address you noticed instead.
Default is the User account field is set to Ask when needed. This means that you will be prompted for a username and password every time you connect. If you don’t want this, click the drop-down list and select Add user account.
Add your username in the format domain[username]— if that doesn’t work, enter it normally. You can also add your password if you want to use automatic login. Leave it blank and you’ll be prompted to enter it every time.
That’s all you need to do to establish a connection. Click Save, and you can connect. However, you may want to adjust a few other settings before proceeding.
Step 4: Configure your remote connection
If you want to configure how your remote connection works, here are several options in the Add PC dialog you can play with:
- In the General tab, add a . please Friendly name to make a computer recognizable if you have more than one connection set up.
- Below the Display tab, check the box next to Fit session to window if you do not intend to use the remote connection in full screen mode. Also set Optimize for Retina Displays if you are working on a high resolution monitor.
- In the Devices and audio tab, choose which computer to play sound (if either) and specify whether you want to use your Mac’s microphone.
However, the main option is: folders. This allows you to make certain folders on your Mac accessible within your remote Windows session. You can access these folders through Windows Explorer, where you will find them under This PC.
You can work with files stored on your Mac in a Windows app or copy files between the machines. However, it’s all in the remote session. Sharing a folder in this way makes the folder inaccessible on the physical Windows computer. Click Save to finish setting up your connection.
Step 5: Connect to a Windows 10 or 11 PC from your Mac
You are now ready to connect. Your PC must be turned on, activated, and connected to the same network as your Mac.
The Remote Desktop app lists your computer under: Saved desktops with a thumbnail preview. Double click on it to connect.
If you have not changed the settings, you will need to enter your username and password to establish the connection.
When you make an RDP connection from Mac to Windows, you see a security warning regarding an unauthenticated certificate. If you are at home or working on a small business network, click Get on and ignore the message. Be wary of doing this if you are on a large network with public access.
Once you are connected
When your Mac establishes the remote desktop connection, your Windows PC will be locked and switched to the login screen. If someone tries to use the PC, your remote session will be terminated. You can’t let two people use the same computer at the same time.
Using Windows on your Mac
Unless you’ve changed the setting, your remote desktop session will open in full screen. To use it in a window instead, move your mouse pointer to the top of the screen and click the green window button top left.
Using Windows through Remote Desktop is much the same as using it on a dedicated computer.
One of the few changes (and a potential point of confusion) is that the app maps the Cut, Copy, and Paste keyboard shortcuts to the keyboard shortcuts used on macOS: the Assignment key. However, some other shortcuts remain the Check key like they do on Windows.
You can launch apps, work on files, or even play games if you want to. There may be a slight delay with heavy use, but most of the time it is fast and responsive.
You cannot drag and drop files between Mac and Windows. However, they share the clipboard by default, so you can copy and paste instead.
For a higher level of file sharing, set up a shared folder using the folders configuration setting, as described above.
Disconnecting and Removing Your Desktop
To disconnect and end the session, simply close the Remote Desktop window on your Mac. You can change your settings at any time by hovering your mouse over the thumbnail in Saved desktop and click on the pen-shaped edit icon. To delete a saved desktop, Control click the thumbnail and select remove.
Remotely access your computer from anywhere
Microsoft Remote Desktop is an easy way to remotely access a Windows 10 or 11 PC from a Mac. But what if you need to do it the other way around, or maybe bring a Linux computer or a Chromebook into the mix?
In that case, the fastest solution is to set up Chrome Remote Desktop, Google’s remote access utility that runs on any desktop computer with Chrome installed.