How to Use Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection for Mac

For most of us that have a Mac we are so happy to have it that we don’t ever miss Windows, however, just because we don’t miss it doesn’t mean we don’t need it. Unfortunately there are still many programs that can only operate on Windows based computers, especially in regards to our employer’s computer. This makes it tough if we want to work from home, but that’s where the Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection for Mac comes in.

As you may or may not know, there are some ways to run Windows on your Mac which then allows you to run Windows based programs on it,  but the Microsoft RDC for Mac works differently. By using a remote desktop connection you can actually connect your Mac computer to one or more Windows computers so that you can easily work with files and applications on any Windows computer from your Mac.

Can You Use Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection on Your Mac?

Before you get too excited about using Windows from your Mac, you should know that the latest version of the Remote Desktop Connection (RDC )for Mac is 2.1.1. Why is this not great? Well unfortunately, this version is not meant for use with Mac OS X v10.7 Lion, or later versions. However, many users have reported that it does work, even though Microsoft does not support it. So it may be worth a try. If you have Snow Leopard or an older OS X version, you should be okay.

As for your Windows connection, in order to connect with a Windows computer, you must enable network access and the appropriate permissions. The Windows computer must be running Remote Desktop Services or Terminal Services. Both services are packaged with Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, and Server 2003 through 2008.

How To Install RDC

Installing this application is quick and easy. The first thing you should do is stop all running applications, including any Office applications. When all other applications have stopped, and you know that your computer meets the necessary requirements, you are ready to download and install the application. To do this;

  • Click on the Download button, or click on the appropriate language link on the product website.
  • Follow the onscreen instructions to save the file to a location on your hard drive. If you use the Safari browser, the file is automatically saved to your desktop unless you specify  it to go somewhere different.
  • Once the file is downloaded. Double-click on it to place it on the desktop, and then double-click on that to open it. *Note* In some cases, this step is done for you.
  • Once the Remote Desktop Connection volume window is open, double-click the Remote Desktop Connection.mpkg package, which will begin the installation, and then simply follow the onscreen instructions.
  • Once the installation successfully completes, you can safely remove the installer.

How To Use the Remote Desktop Connection

Step #1: Once you have installed the RDC application, you will find it listed in your Applications directory (go to Finder and Applications). To run RDC, all you need to do is double-click the icon. This will bring you to a connection screen. To connect to one or more Windows computers, you simply need to know either the name, or the IP address of the other computer.

How do you find the Window’s name or IP address though? 

To do this you will need to go to the the Windows computer you want to connect to and click on the Start button. Next you will select Accessories, and then Command Prompt. This will bring up a window that looks like a DOS window. At the prompt type: ipconfig /all. This will bring up a window with a lot of numbers and other information in it. Simply scroll down until you see the IP Address line, and copy down that number.

To find it by computer name instead of the IP address, again go to your Windows computer and If you have the My Computer icon sitting on your desktop, right click on it and choose Properties. If you do not have it on your desktop, go to the Start button, and right click on My Computer from there and choose Properties.

Depending on the version of Windows you are using, the computer name may be close to the bottom of the window that pops up. Alternatively, you  may have to click on the computer name tab to find the full computer name. Once you have found the name of the computer, write it down. You will also need to write down the name of the domain or workgroup. If the name of the workgroup is simply workgroup, this information may not be of any use, and the IP address should be all that you need.

Step #2: You will now need to allow users to connect remotely to the computer. To do this, click on the Remote tab, or the Remote Settings tab. Once there, make sure that the correct box is checked so that users can connect remotely.

Step #3: If the Windows computer is on a home network and behind a router, you will likely have a private IP address. These typically begin with 192.168, or 172. If this is the case, you may need to set up port mapping. This will redirect any remote desktop requests to your computer. You will need to redirect port number 3389 to your local PC’s IP address.  Port 3389 is the default port for Windows Remote Desktop.

Step #4: The Remote Desktop Connection window on the Mac should now show a connection screen. It is here where you would type in the Windows computers IP address or full name. There are a few other options that can be changed such as the size of the remote desktop, how you want the remote desktop window to open, and the configuration of colors you want to use. Once you have the settings how you want them, simply click connect.

If everything is setup correctly, you should see the login screen on the Windows computer if you have it password protected, and if you don’t have it password connected you will see the Windows desktop.

Voila! You’re done and you should now be able to work with your Windows PC and files from your Mac.  There are other ways too, such as using a virtualization program, but using the RDC is definitely one of the best and easiest ways to have your Mac and still have access to Windows too.

50 Kimberly Carver


Kimberly Carver is a trained Mac Specialist/Expert. Trained both in school and on the job she continues to educate herself about Macs at every opportunity she gets. Kim’s official training and areas of expertise include: Mac specialist, AOL IT Tech, certified paralegal, research specialist, and licensed private investigator.