Many Mac users are frustrated with Microsoft’s Remote Desktop client so we’ve taken a look at the very best RDP for Mac alternatives. For those new to remote desktop clients, RDP stands for Remote Desktop Protocol and is used to control or view a PC or Mac remotely which is known as VNC – Virtual Network Computing. This can be useful in a range of situations such as system administration, fixing someones computer remotely or if you just need to access your office computer from home. If you just want to fix someone’s Mac or PC remotely or access a Mac on a home/office network, we recommend you read our article on How To Share Screen On Mac but for serious remote desktop connection needs, you’re in the right place. Microsoft RDP for Mac is the most well known client for Mac users wanting to connect to PCs and in 2013 it was finally updated it for OS X 10.7 Lion and above including Yosemite. However, despite waiting 2 years for an update, Mac users are still finding that it lacks the functionality of the Windows version. The good news is that there are many excellent alternatives now available on Mac. Here we’ve taken a look at the best RDP clients for Mac, including free alternatives. At the end, we also take a closer look at the latest version of Microsoft Remote Desktop for Mac. You can download a free trial for most of them by clicking on the names.
The Best RDP For Mac Software
Apple Remote Desktop ($79.99 Mac App Store)
Apple Remote Desktop is Apple’s version of Microsoft RDP for Mac although we hasten to add it’s only for connecting to other Macs and is considerably more advanced. Apple Remote Desktop is more of a professional tool for system administrators to manage Apple devices on a network although more general users that just want to connect their Macs at home can use it too (although it’s a relatively expensive solution for something so simple). If you’re a system administrator on a network of Macs who needs lot of administrative power to install software and updates remotely, then look no further than ARD.
Remotix VNC & RDP ($39.99 Mac App Store. Free Demo)
Remotix is an extremely fast, slick and user friendly remote desktop connection client for Mac. Remotix is integrated with OS X’s screen sharing tool which makes sharing screens between Apple devices very easy and reliable. In fact, If you just need to share the screen of your iPad or iPhone with your Mac, then there are few better RDP clients around. There’s very little lag in connections made with Remotix to Windows either as it optimizes itself for the speed of your internet connection. For those new to remote desktop connections, it guides you clearly through the setup process. You can store connection profiles via iCloud backup and even access printers from your remote Mac using Remotix.
Jump Desktop ($29.99 Mac App Store)
Jump Desktop is probably the slickest, easiest to use and in the opinion of many, best RDP client for Mac out there. It’s certainly one of our favorites. Jump Desktop is incredibly slick, user friendly, reliable and feels like everything Microsoft’s client should have been. Jump Desktop for Mac is also multiplatform supporting iPad, iPhone, iPod and even Android.
Alternatively, Manual setup is also available for those that know what they’re doing when it comes to Remote Desktop connections:
One of the smartest things about Jump Desktop is that it can map Mac keyboard shortcuts to make them work on Windows:It also supports SSH connections and NLA for MSFT hosts. Live Previews of all ongoing connections and it seems considerably lighter on battery power than most RDP clients. Jump Desktop is fast, very stable, allows you to share files to the remote machine and it’s superb at managing several connections at once. It was also one of the first Remote Desktop clients for Mac that officially supported connections to Windows 8.
If you want to see what it can do, you can try a free trial of Jump Desktop (only works on OS X 10.8+). There’s also an older version of Jump Desktop 4.0 available OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and OS X 10.7 Lion. The full version is available for $29.99 from the Mac App Store. It’s a small price to pay without any other monthly fees for a first class VNC client and most users report support from the developer is also fast and helpful.
Royal TSX ($38. Limited Demo)
Royal TSX for Mac is focused firmly on system administrators or professionals with remote desktop needs that need a high level of security. Royal TSX is very clearly laid out making it easy to manage connections in the left hand sidebar with tabs to control sessions. Royal TSX for Mac is also one of the most secure remote desktop connection clients for Mac using the highly secure using 256 AES encryption standard. One extra nice thing about Royal TSX is that, like a browser, it can be enhanced with plugins. Royal TSX for Mac is actually free for use without any time limit although in free mode it is restricted to no more than 10 connections and credentials and you can only open one TSX document per application. It’s also available for Windows, Android and iOS so you can open Royal TSX documents on all platforms. Royal TSX is also one of the few RDP servers for Mac which supports PIV or CAC Smart Card Redirection although be aware that this feature is not yet working in OS X 10.10 Yosemite.
CoRD for Mac (Free)
CoRD is a very popular free and simple Remote Desktop client for Mac.
The quickest way to connect to a Windows PC using CoRD for Mac is to type the IP address or host name of the computer you want to connect to into the Quick Connect toolbar item and press enter (Shift-Enter will connect to the console).
You should then be able to see the Windows PC you are connected to:
Although CoRD for Mac isn’t regularly updated, it has been recently updated to support Retina Macs so that icons look great when connected to Windows. Many people find that CoRD works faster than Microsoft’s Remote Desktop for Mac. The downside is that it does sometimes crash but not enough to be a real pain. Please note however that CoRD only supports:
Windows XP Pro
Windows Vista (only in Low Security mode)
Windows 7 (only in Low Security mode)
Windows Server 2000, 2003, and 2008 (only in Low Security mode)
Windows XP is supported but you must configure it first to allow remote desktop connections by using this Microsoft guide.
There is no official support for Windows 8.
iTap for Mac ($20)
IMPORTANT UPDATE: On 8th October 2013, iTap for Mac was discontinued after being bought by Microsoft. Some users have switched to the new Microsoft Remote Desktop for Mac 8.0 which was released around the same time iTap closed. The information below is purely for legacy and reference purposes.
iTap, full name iTap Mobile RDP, was a relatively new RDP for Mac client that quickly became popular and caught the eye of Microsoft who bought it in late 2013. iTap was a powerful solution that was aimed mainly as business users and cost $24.99 from the Mac App Store or €20 direct from the developer until it was discontinued.
A 14-day free trial used to be available which was fully functional but disconnected after 10 minutes.
It lacked some of the features of Microsoft Remote Desktop for Mac and CoRD but it displayed much better than Microsoft’s RDP on Retina Macs and was generally very stable and fast, hence one of the reasons Microsoft bought it.
iTap used its own full screen mode and went straight into full screen as soon as you established a connection although it would have been preferable if it had been integrated with Mountain Lion’s full screen mode. One other slight problem with iTap Remote Desktop for Mac was that it didn’t re-establish a connection if you suspended or put your Mac to sleep. In some cases, you had to Force Quit iTap in order to reestablish a connection. Finally, managing several different connections at once was tricky – there was no easy way to organize several screens open at the same time. If you want to see what iTap for Mac might have evolved into, you’re best bet is to try Microsoft Remote Desktop 8.0 which was based upon it.
2X for Mac (Free)
2X for Mac, full name 2X RDP Client (Remote Desktop), is a free RDP for Mac client that’s used by some major corporate customers such as Airbus, McKesson and WD-40.
2X Client for Mac is free from the Mac App Store although if you’re running Leopard OS X 10.5, you can download 2X Client for Leopard for free from the developer site. Note that 2X for Mac works with it’s own server – the 2X RAS Server which is available as a free download. It also works with RDP connections but the default is the 2X server. 2X for Mac has a modern interface and is generally very fast and stable with secure SSL connections. One of the nice features of 2X is that you can even play sound from other devices and machines you are connected to on your Mac. You can switch between OS X and Windows simply by hitting CMD+Tab, cut and paste using Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V and there’s very little lag on connections. However, you can’t change default connections and you can’t duplicate a connection which is annoying if you work with multiple connections. There’s no way to import connections from Microsoft’s RDP client and as yet, it also doesn’t support Retina Macs. However, for those that are looking for a free, more reliable alternative to Microsoft’s VNC app, it’s definitely worth trying.
NoMachine for Mac is a slick but free Remote Desktop Client which tends to go under the radar on Mac but is definitely worth a look. Like Jump Desktop, NoMachine looks great and is very easy to setup and use. All you need to connect to another machine over the internet is its IP address and port number. A setup wizard clearly takes you step-by-step through the connection process. Commections are stable and fast and there’s a NoMachine forum where you’ll get help with any problems you might have with the client. There’s also an extensive knowledge base for those with more technical needs but generally, you shouldn’t have many problems if you just need NoMachine for basic remote connections. NoMachine for Mac is free for personal use with paid Enterprise and Cloud editions available. There’s also a free NoMachine iOS app.
TeamViewer (Free for private use, $59 for commercial use)
TeamViewer is more of a screen sharing tool popular with gamers and those that need to perform maintenance on a remote computer. However, it can be used as an RDP client for Mac. Teamviewer is extremely easy to use and ideal for those that want to give remote technical help to friends or family.
All you need to do is install the client on both machines, enter the ID of the computer you want to connect to and that’s it – extremely easy. Teamviewer is cross platform so you can connect to a Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad or Linux machine with ease.
Chrome Remote Desktop (Free)
Chrome Remote Desktop is a Google plugin which works directly within the Google Chrome web browser. If you’re a Chrome user, it’s a very simple and free way to connect your Mac to another user. Simply install the Chrome Remote Desktop plugin and you can connect to any other user with Chrome installed on any type of computer. Once installed, it works pretty much in the same way as Teamviewer. Just enter the ID of the computer you want to connect to, and it will connect instantly. Since it’s only a browser plugin, it can be prone to a certain amount of instability and bugs and there’s no way to share sound between computers with it but as a cheap and cheerful VNC solution that requires no client to install, it’s very effective.
Beyond these RDP clients for Mac, there are a few other more expensive high-end corporate Remote Desktop for Mac solutions such as Ericom Blaze for Mac designed for the needs of large organizations. Ericom is partnered with Microsoft, Oracle and IBM and pricing is only available by quotation.
If you need a VNC client for professional or regular use, it’s definitely worth paying for one and the best we’ve tried so far is Jump Desktop – it’s easily the slickest and easiest to use. However, if you just need to occasionally connect to another computer or device, any of the free options covered here should do.
Splashtop (Free but in-app purchases for some features)
Splashtop is another user friendly way to connect to another computer or device. There’s a free version for personal use and also Enterprise and Business plans. SplashTop is particularly good for gaming needs as it streams 3D graphics, sounds and video across local devices extremely well. For example, if you need to play a 3D game from your iPhone or iPad (SplashTop for iPad is also available for $4.99 from the Mac App Store), SplashTop enables you to play it on your Mac with almost no noticeable lag. Splashtop is only really free local use however because for remote access features across the internet, you must purchase in-app add-ons. If you want to access another computer over the internet for example, you must pay for Access Anywhere which costs either $1.99 a month or $16.99 per year. You can see SplashTop in action here:
Microsoft RDP for Mac is now called Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection Client for Mac (confusingly also known as RDC for Mac or Remote Desktop for Mac). Remote Desktop Connection Client for Mac is a Microsoft tool which allows you to connect your Mac to PC Windows machines and other devices.
Microsoft released the latest version of Remote Desktop for Mac 8.0 on 17th October 2013. It was the first update to the client in two years and previous to that, there was no official Microsoft RDP client on Lion or above. The last version, Remote Desktop Connection for Mac 2.1.1, only supported up to OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and does not officially work with Lion or above although some users claimed they had limited success using it. With the release of Remote Desktop 8.0 however, Mac users finally have an official client for OS X Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks and Yosemite.
The release of Microsoft Remote Desktop for Mac 8.0 coincided at the same time that iTap for Mac (see review mentioned earlier) was discontinued and the similarities in the new 8.0 version confirmed that Microsoft bought HLW Software’s iTap client. The question is, have they improved it or ruined it?
Remote Desktop 8.0 allows Mac users to access virtual desktops on Windows, Windows RT, Windows 8, iOS, OS X and Android. The Mac version also includes support for printing to Mac configured printers and support for multiple monitors/projectors for presentations.
Version 8.0 is definitely an improvement over version 2.1.1 but yet still falls short of the Windows version. The connection speed is the most notable improvement on the last version and both full-screen and multi-monitor support were long overdue. The latest version also supports high quality audio and video streaming and connections feature greater NLA quality encryption.
There are some basic features missing from the Mac version however which many users will find frustrating. For starters, there’s no way to import connections from the old version of Microsoft RDP for Mac meaning you have to go through the time consuming process of re-setting up all of your connections again. There’s also no way to manage or even see how many multiple connections you’ve got going on at one time. Also, simple features such as Font Smoothing, Wallpaper options and Full-Screen drag are missing. Unlike the Windows version too, the Mac version does not support more secure methods of login such as via smart cards, PIV and CAC cards etc. If you need PIV and CAC Smart Card redirection support, check out the Royal TSX client further down in this article.
The Mac version also seems less helpful than the Windows version. For every new connection you make, you must preconfigure everything and add it to a connection list – you can’t simply just paste in an IP address and connect to another machine like the old version. It can also be quite unreliable at connecting – sometimes it simply times out, freezes or won’t connect and you feel like you’re never sure if you can trust it to work when you really need it.
Officially you must have Snow Leopard 10.5.8 or lower to use Remote Desktop for Mac. However, Remote Desktop Client 1.0.3 for Mac is still available to download and works on older PPC Macs. Remember that if you have Office for Mac 2011 installed, you already have Remote Desktop Connection for Mac 2.1 as it is included in the suite.
To connect Remote Desktop Connection to PC, you need network access and permission to connect to the computer. The PC must also be running Terminal Services or Remote Desktop Services. Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection for Mac does not yet work with Windows 8 but works with everything else from Windows 7 to Windows 2003.
How To Use RDP 2.1.1 For Mac
Using it is extremely simple. Just run the installer:
Then Simply enter the name of the PC you want to connect to on your network or the IP address of the PC.
There are several preferences and controls in Remote Desktop Connection once you’ve established a connection. You can save your Windows login information:
If you have any suggestions for other RDP for Mac software that should be included in this article, or have any experiences to share with them, let us know in the comments below. Note that if you simply want to share your Mac’s screen with another Mac user, OS X already has a built in Screen Sharing tool. For details how to use this, check out our article How To Share A Screen on Mac.