If you need to control, fix or simply access another computer from a Mac, we’ve taken a look at the very best remote desktop for Mac software. Taking control or accessing another PC or Mac computer remotely is known as Virtual Network Computing (VNC) and also Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP – a proprietary protocol by Microsoft) and can be useful in a variety of situations such as screen sharing, working from home, fixing a computer remotely, gaming or administering a network of computers. For OS X users, a remote desktop client can also be useful if you want to run Windows only programs such as Visio on Mac, Publisher on Mac or Microsoft Project on Mac as they allow you to run the applications on a remote Windows PC but use them on Mac. Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection is still the most well known remote desktop client for Mac users to connect to PCs but there are now so many other better remote desktop clients out there such as GoToMyPC, Devolutions, Jump Desktop and Screens that allow anyone without any remote networking experience to connect to both Mac and PC. So here we take an in-depth look at the best remote desktop clients for Mac including some free remote desktop software for Mac as well.
- 1 Best Remote Desktop For Mac Software
- 1.1 GoToMyPC ($14.34/month) / Special Offer: 20% Discount $11.95/month
- 1.2 Devolutions Remote Desktop Manager (Free/Various Pricing Plans)
- 1.3 Jump Desktop ($29.99 Mac App Store)
- 1.4 Remotix VNC & RDP ($39.99 Mac App Store. Free Demo)
- 1.5 Screens ($29.99 Mac App Store)
- 1.6 TeamViewer (Free. $59 Commercial Use)
- 1.7 LogMeIn Hamachi (Free/$49+ per year)
- 1.8 Royal TSX (Free/$29+ Limited Demo)
- 1.9 NoMachine (Free/Cloud & Enterprise Versions)
- 1.10 Parallels Remote Application Server ($99/year)
- 1.11 Chrome Remote Desktop (Free)
- 1.12 Splashtop (Free/In-App Purchases)
- 1.13 Back to My Mac (Free for iCloud users)
- 1.14 Apple Remote Desktop ($79.99 Mac App Store)
- 1.15 Microsoft Remote Desktop for Mac 8.0 (Free Mac App Store)
- 1.16 Microsoft Remote Desktop for Mac 2.1.1 (Free)
- 2 Discontinued Remote Desktop Software For Mac
- 3 Conclusion
Best Remote Desktop For Mac Software
Note that most of the remote desktop software featured here is also suitable for connecting from Mac to Mac as well as Mac to PC and most are also compatible with OS X Yosemite, El Capitan and Sierra. We’ve covered a combination of paid and free remote desktop for Mac software and many vendors such as TeamViewe, LogMeIn Hamachi and NoMachine also offer a free version if you just want to use it for personal use and connect to a few computers. Some of the software featured here such as Royal TSX for Mac and Apple Remote Desktop are more suitable for system administrators than general users but we’ve included the best remote desktop software on Mac of all types.
Here’s then is our selection of the best remote desktop software for Mac. In the comparison table below you can see our top picks but we have also reviewed here several other excellent remote desktop clients as well. At the end of these reviews, we also take a closer look at the latest version of Microsoft Remote Desktop for Mac to see how it measures up to the competition.
|Our Ranking||Mac Remote Desktop Software||Price|
GoToMyPC is owned by Citrix, one of the biggest players in the remote desktop market. GoToMyPC is suitable for home users, samll businesses and corporation as it sets up everything automatically even if you’re behind a corporate firewall or on Mac or PC. As a result, GoToMyPC is a particularly popular choice among companies and corporations that allow employees to work from home. One nice feature of GoToMyPC is that you can invite another user into a session temporarily which is useful if you need tech support to help fix a problem with your Mac or PC. GoToMyPC is a bit pricey compared to other options featured here but Citrix has over 10 years experience in remote desktop networking and both reliability and customer service is widely regarded as excellent.
GoToMyPC also has an iOS app which allows you to easily connect to your Mac or PC from your iPhone or iPad. The cursor controls are well implemented in the iOS app and it’s one of the better remote access mobile apps out there for handling the difference between touch screen and desktop interfaces. If you connect to a PC, you can even hear the sound from your PC on your iOS device although unfortunately this doesn’t work for connecting to Mac. Other useful tools include the ability to cut and paste from Mac to Mac or Mac to PC, file transfers and multi-display support.
GoToMyPC uses 128 bit AES encryption which is pretty standard for most remote desktop software but it also puts two more layers of protection with dual passwords and end-to-end authentication. This makes it very secure and is largely due to GoToMyPC’s popularity in the enterprise market.
GoToMyPC usually costs $14.34 per month but is currently offering a 20% discount so that it costs $11.95 per month if you purchase an annual subscription. This is one of the cheapest subscriptions for remote desktop software on Mac and if you compare it the cost of having to physically travel to another location to access a Mac or PC, it’s definitely worth the investment. If you’re a small business and need to up to 50 computers, you need to sign-up to the Pro Plan which costs $23 per month. For large enterprises and companies, you can connect to 1000+ users although pricing for this is on demand.
There’s also a 30 day free trial of GoToMyPC so you can judge for yourself. Although you need to enter your card details to sign up for the trial, if you cancel the free trial before 30 days, Citrix won’t charge your card but will allow the 30 days term to complete before the trial expires. Some vendors can be unreliable when it comes to cancelling free trial subscriptions but in our experience, Citrix are very reliable about cancellation for all their products.
After years focusing on Windows, Developer Devolutions now has a Remote Desktop Manager for Mac. Devolutions Remote Desktop Manager is a powerful remote desktop software for Mac that’s free for individual use but can also easily be deployed in business environments.
Devolutions Remote Desktop Manager isn’t just a port of the Windows version – it’s been built specifically for Mac and the result is very good. Devolutions Remote Desktop Manager is a little bit like Royal TSX (see review later) and although it’s not quite as powerful as that, is definitely suitable for system admins and small businesses and has all you need to manage a network of computers.
One of the handy things about it is that it’s integrated with other popular RDP clients such as Teamviewer, Microsoft Remote Desktop (see reviews for both later on) and even Telnet. The interface is also well designed allowing you to organize sessions by groups or folders and if you already use the Windows version, you can connect to the same databases with the Mac version so you can access all previous sessions.
Devolutions Remote Desktop Manager isn’t quite as RDP novice friendly as applications such as Splashtop and Teamviewer but for those with just a little Remote Desktop experience, it offers a lot of Remote Desktop power for free. You can see a comparison of the Free edition with other paid versions here. You can also sign-up for a free 30 day free trial.
Jump Desktop is easily one of the slickest, easiest to use and best remote desktop apps for Mac available. Remote networking can be a complicated affair but it’s clear the developer has gone to a lot of effort to make remote desktop connections easy enough for anyone to use without sacrificing features and stability. In fact, Jump Desktop is unique in using your Gmail account to automatically setup and configure a remote connection without any further effort on your part.
Jump Desktop is extremely easy to use and doesn’t require networking knowledge making it ideal for beginners to Remote Desktop software. All you need is a Gmail account to get started:
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. You can also copy and paste between OS X and Windows and vice versa which is really helpful if you work on both Mac and Windows constantly.
You can also connect to another computer via WiFi which we found was the fastest way to connect. Connections via WiFi are almost instant and there is virtually no lag. You can also connect to another computer using iPhone too but this we found a lot slower although if you turn the settings down and run in greyscale, it’s also remarkably fast to say you’re connecting via a mobile device. It’s easy to see how many computers or devices you are connected to as you get live previews of all ongoing connections and we also found it seems considerably lighter on your Mac battery power than many RDP for Mac software.
Security is naturally a concern when sharing your screen and files with another computer but almost all the best remote desktop clients for Mac use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) as a minimum standard and some go beyond this. Jump Desktop is very secure and supports SSH connections and NLA for MSFT hosts.
Even in full screen mode we found Jump Desktop fast and stable, allowing you to share files and manage remote machines with ease. The live previews make it excellent at managing several connections at once and we also like the fact that it’s regularly updated to handle the latest Windows releases (it was in fact one of the first Remote Desktop clients for Mac that officially supported connections to Windows 8).
Overall, Jump Desktop is incredibly slick, user friendly, reliable and feels like everything Microsoft Remote Desktop should have been. If you want to see what it can do for yourself, you can try a free trial of Jump Desktop (note that this only works on OS X 10.8+ although there’s also an older version of Jump Desktop 4.0 available for OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and OS X 10.7 Lion). The full version of Jump Desktop is $29.99 from the Mac App Store which is a modest one-off price to pay without any other monthly fees for a first class VNC client with fast and efficient support from the developer.
You can watch Jump Desktop in action below:
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 (see more on Back to My Mac later in this article) which makes sharing screens between Apple devices particularly 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 quickly 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. You can clearly see how many connections you’ve got open via the Multiple Computer Observer screen:Remotix is also one of the most secure RDP clients for Mac available with built-in SSH tunneling for both RDP and VNC. You can also set a master password to protect all of your connections rather than have to enter individual passwords for each one. If you’ve been having problems with Back to My Mac, or just want to connect to Macs, Remotix is definitely worth checking-out.
Remotix costs $39.99 from the Mac App Store for personal use but there’s also a Professional License for $79.99 for small businesses and for large enterprises, a Site License for $799 and a Multisite License for $2399. You can download a 14 day free trial of Remotix and watch it in action below:
Screens for Mac remote desktop is an extremely user friendly and straight forward screen sharing tool for Macs and iOS devices. Screens is a remote access VNC client that features ScreensConnect – a free open source remote desktop client for Mac setup service which means you don’t have to configure routers, firewalls or anything else (note however if you’re behind a corporate network or firewall, ScreenConnect won’t work). There’s also Screens Express which provides an easy way to share your screen and vice versa with friends and family via a temporary link.
Like Jump Desktop, Screens is very slick and has clearly been designed specifically for OS X (although you can connect to Windows PCs with it too). What we like about Screens is that it automatically scans for iOS devices or Macs on the same WiFi or LAN network as you and all you have to do is click on it to connect and enter a passcode to start screen sharing.
Once you’re connected, useful tools include a screenshot tool, copy and paste from Mac to Mac tool and manage multiple displays at one time. Connecting to iOS is particularly well done as Screens makes your trackpad or mouse cursor fit perfectly well with touchscreens.
Note that there’s no web access to Screens – i.e. you can’t connect to a device via your browser like some VNC clients for Mac. Because it’s based on the open source VNC protocol, unless you use ScreensConnect it’s also a bit tricky to setup as you need static IP from your internet service provider (most people have a dynamic IP address). For quickly connecting to friends and family screens, Screen Express is also extremely easy to use.
Screens looks great on OS X, is easy to use and at $29.99 from the Mac App Store, is very reasonably priced for a reliable and thoughtfully designed remote desktop client.
TeamViewer for Mac is more of a screen sharing tool popular with gamers and those that need to perform maintenance on a remote computer. TeamViewer has been a long time rival of LogMeIn Hamachi and the free versions of TeamViewer and LogMeIn Hamachi are probably the most popular desktop sharing tools out there for Mac, mainly because they are very popular with interactive gamers.
TeamViewer can easily be used as an RDP client for Mac and is ideal for those that want to give remote technical help to friends or family or those that want to have more fun when gaming with friends. Teamviewer works on Windows, OS X, Linux, Android, and iOS and has some useful features such as wake-on-LAN to activate a Mac or computer in sleep mode and even put it back to sleep when you’ve done. You can transfer files, connect to mobile devices and copy and paste from one computer to another. Teamviewer is popular with gamers because it also supports online collaboration or meetings so you can chat with friends at the same time as playing.
TeamViewer is probably one of the easiest remote desktop clients for Mac out there. There’s very little configuration of ports or firewalls as everything is handled automatically by the setup wizard.
All you need to do is install the Teamviewer client on both machines, enter the ID of the computer you want to connect to and that’s it – extremely easy.
Surprisingly, TeamViewer is completely free to use for personal use although if you intend to use it for commercial gain – such as a remote PC or Mac repair business or in a business environment, it costs a modest $59 (one time payment). For this you get 1 user profile on up to 3 devices, 1 session channel, unlimited endpoints a basic management Console and the possibility to manage up to 200 unattended devices. There are Premium and Enterprise plans for businesses with advanced needs too.
You can watch an overview of Teamviewer for Mac below:
LogMeIn Hamachi for Mac is a powerful remote desktop solution which like TeamViewer also has a free version for up to 5 computers. LogMeIn is a good solution if you are working behind a company or enterprise firewall but is still easy to setup and use. LogMeIn does not compromise a firewall but unlike many VNC clients for Mac, is able to share screens behind one while still using SSL/TLS or even RSA SecureID and 2-factor authentication. There are also LogMeIn Hamachi iOS apps which make it very easy to log into your Windows PC on your iPad or iPhone.
The LogMeIn interface hasn’t changed much in the past 10 years and it does look quite dated and basic compared to TeamViewer. However, despite this it’s still very reliable and powerful and keeps things simple which isn’t a bad thing when it comes to remote networking.
Although LogMeIn Hamachi is free for up to 5 computers, anything above that costs $49 per year for up to 32 computers, $199 per year for up to 256 computers and $299 for unlimited networks. Note that unlike TeamViewer, LogMeIn Hamachi uses an annual subscription model rather than a one-off payment.
You can watch LogMeIn Hamachi for Mac in action below:
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 well designed and makes it straightforward to manage connections in the left-hand sidebar with convenient tabs to control sessions.
Royal TSX is very versatile supporting RDP, VNC, SSH based terminals or web-based interfaces. Security is a big selling part of Royal TSX for Mac as it uses using the highly secure 256 AES encryption standard. Other enhanced secure features include built-in credential management, safe team-sharing features and the ability to share a list of connections without sharing your personal credentials. Royal TSX is also one of the few RDP servers for Mac which supports PIV or CAC Smart Card Redirection. It’s also available for Windows, Android and there’s a Royal TSX for iOS app so you can open Royal TSX documents on Windows and Mac.
One unusual thing about Royal TSX for a Mac remote desktop software is that, like a browser, it can be enhanced with plugins. For example, there’s a TeamViewer plugin for Royal TSX which allows you remote control computers using TeamViewer. The FreeRDP Remote Desktop Plugin meanwhile allows you to connect to Windows Computers or to Hyper-V instance consoles using the Remote Desktop Protocol.
Although Royal TSX for Mac is a highly sophisticated and technical RDP software for Mac, the basic version is actually free for use without any time limit although it is restricted to no more than 10 connections and credentials and you can only open one TSX document per application. There are various pricing plans for those that need more than this with the Startup Bundle very good value at $82 including Royal TS for Windows, Royal TSX for Mac and Royal Server which is the Royal TSX powerful server software. Alternatively, an individual user license for Mac costs $29 which gives you 5 licenses and for small businesses and large enterprises, there are site wide licenses ranging from $536 to $1731. You can try a free trial of Royal TSX for Mac to judge before you buy too.
Royal TSX for Mac is definitely the Rolls Royce of remote desktop software and it’s incredibly powerful and versatile. If you’re a system administrator or IT professional, you can’t really get much better.
NoMachine for Mac is a slick Remote Desktop Client which tends to go under the radar when Mac users are looking for remote desktop software but is definitely worth a look. NoMachine looks great on OS X, is very easy to setup and use and there’s a free version for limited connections. The good thing about NoMachine is all you need to connect to another machine over the internet is its IP address and port number. It’s incredibly easy to use and setup with no manual configuration required.
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 but there are paid Enterprise and Cloud editions available. There’s also a free NoMachine iOS app which is well designed, easy to use and allows you to connect to OS X, Windows and Linux. The Enterprise and Cloud versions of NoMachine are seriously powerful and easily on a level with Royal TSX and Apple Remote Desktop. Enterprise and Cloud versions of NoMachine use a subscription model and start at $794.50 for up to 10 subscriptions and unlimited connections. The NoMachine Cloud Server Premium Subscription costs $6994.50 and is suitable for large companies managing computer networks worldwide.
Parallels Remote Application Server (formerly known as “2X RDP Client”) is a remote desktop server that can only be used with Parallels Client from the Mac App Store. Although the client is free to download, a subscription to Parallels Remote Application Server starts at $99 per year. Parallels Remote Application Server and Parallels Client are designed for the needs of businesses and works very well with all versions of Windows due to Parallels experience with running Windows on Mac via Parallels Desktop for Mac.
Parallels Client was originally a hugely popular independent app called 2x for Mac which was a popular remote desktop client used by major corporate customers such as Airbus, McKesson and WD-40. As a result, it attracted the attention of Parallels which bought it in 2015. Parallels then changed the name to Parallels Client and sold it alongside Parallels Remote Application Server. The old 2x client used to look like this:
And Parallels has updated the interface a little to make it look like this:
Parallels Client is free to download (if you’re still using Leopard OS X 10.5, you can even still download 2X Client for Leopard for free too) but it only works securely with a subscription to Parallels Remote Application Server which starts at $99 per year. Note that Parallels Client can also be used with other RDP servers but the default and securest is the Parallels Remote Application Server.
Parallels Client for Mac has a modern interface and is generally very fast and stable with secure SSL connections. One of the nice features of Parallels Client is that you can even play sound from other devices and machines you are connected to on your Mac and print remotely. 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 but it does now support Retina Macs. However, for those that are looking for a fast and reliable away to connect to Windows machines in corporate environments, it’s a very robust client.
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 or mobile device (including iOS). Once installed, Chrome Remote Desktop 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. Note that Google does not record any of your activity using Chrome Remote Desktop – it uses SSL and connections are directly from host to remote session with no Google interference in the middle.
You can watch how to use Chrome Remote Desktop below:
Splashtop (Free/In-App Purchases)
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. The downside is that Splashtop is only really free for local use because for remote access features across the internet, you must purchase in-app upgrades. 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. It’s also a little tricky to setup compared to LogMeIn or Teamviewer but o it’s generally very reliable and effective at remote networking.
You can see Splashtop in action below and download Splashtop for Mac here.
Back to My Mac is Apple’s iCloud answer to remote desktop networking. Since it’s an Apple product, you’d think it would make connecting networks of Macs easy but the reality is Back to My Mac isn’t one of Apple’s finer efforts. The problem is simply that it’s can be more complicated than it should be to setup correctly. If you can get it to work first time, it’s a very simple and effective way to share files and screens between Macs (although it doesn’t work on iOS).
As you can see from the Back to My Mac help page, there are several router or AirPort Base Station configuration issues that can prevent it working properly and there’s no automated wizard for setting it up. The advantage of Back to My Mac is of course that if you’re an iCloud user, it’s completely free to use.
You can watch how to setup and use Back to My Mac below:
No review of remote desktop software on Mac would be complete without a mention of Apple Remote Desktop which is Apple’s version of Microsoft RDP for Mac. However, it’s important to be aware that ARD is mainly aimed at system administrators and there are far easier remote desktop apps to use nowadays. Apple Remote Desktop is also only for connecting to other Macs and iOS devices and if you’re not experienced with remote networking or VNC clients, we don’t recommend it.
As a professional tool for system administrators to manage Apple devices on a network however, it gives you a lot of power to install software and updates such as Flash and Java, push UNIX commands and update OS X remotely. Because of the explosion in more user friendly remote desktop for Mac software, ARD has become an increasingly unpopular remote desktop solution except amongst IT users. You may also find that despite it being an Apple product, ARD for Mac is also frustratingly slow at times compared to most of the other remote desktop software featured here.
You can watch Apple Remote Desktop in action below:
No review of remote desktop software on Mac would be complete without looking at Microsoft Remote Desktop Manager for Mac. 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 RDP is used by applications such as Microsoft Azure to run Windows only applications and we showed how effective it is in our tutorial on How To Run Visio On Mac.
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, (see below) 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.
Microsoft also seems to be putting more effort into updating Remote Desktop for Mac too. More recently for example, it improved the app by allowing you to use Mac keyboard shortcuts for cut, copy and paste.
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.
According to Microsoft, officially you must have Tiger 10.4.9 or higher to use Remote Desktop for Mac 2.1.1. However, Remote Desktop Client 1.0.3 for Mac is still available to download and it 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 it. To connect Microsoft Remote Desktop to a 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.
The Remote Desktop Connection icon will appear in your Dock. Click on it and you will see the main interface:
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, you can change the display settings to control how Windows appears on your Mac including full screen mode. Like the latest version of Microsoft RDP for Mac, you can configure Remote Desktop for Mac Keyboard Shortcuts and play sound remotely from another PC.
Most of the most important features in Remote Desktop 8.0 are still in version 2.1. You can choose which drives and folders the PC has access to, print documents remotely and start applications on the PC using Remote Desktop Connection for Mac.
Overall, we do not recommend using the older version of Remote Desktop for Mac though. The latest version is faster, slicker, more secure and has more features. You’re much better off upgrading to the latest version of OS X and running Microsoft Remote Desktop 8.0.
Discontinued Remote Desktop Software For Mac
Slink and iTap used to be two very popular RDP for Mac clients. Unfortunately Slink now seems to be abondonware as the developer has disappeared without trace and you can no longer download Slink for Mac. iTap for Mac meanwhile was bought by Microsoft and integrated into the latest version of Microsoft Remote Desktop. We have included the information below purely for legacy purposes but the software is no longer available.
If you just want to share files between Macs then like Remotix, Slink is a very easy to use yet powerful solution. It only works with Macs but it does it incredibly well and makes accessing remote Macs in another location as easy as accessing as an external hard drive. The nice thing about Slink is that it adds remote Macs to Finder, iTunes, iPhoto and other Apple applications so that you can simply drag and drop files into them. You can even use Slink to bypass geo-restrictions in one country by accessing apps such as Eye TV on a Mac in another country.
Slink is very easy to use with very little configuration needed – just install the client on the Macs you want to use it with. It automatically configures your router if you’re at home to allow access to all Macs so there’s no messing around with opening ports as can be the case with OS X’s own integrated Screen Sharing tool. It’s obviously not suitable if you need to connect to PCs but if you’re a Mac based home or office with few technical skills, Slink is an excellent option.
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.
Although CoRD for Mac is still available, it has been effectively discontinued as it is no longer updated. However, CoRD for Mac has been and still is for some people a very popular free and simple Remote Desktop client for Mac. It’s very basic and nowhere near as complete or advanced as most of the VNC for Mac software featured here but it’s lightweight and free to use. Getting started with CoRD for Mac is very straightforward. 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).
Straight away, you should then be able to see the Windows PC you are connected to. You must of course accept the connection on the remote computer in order to start screen sharing on your Mac.
Although CoRD for Mac hasn’t been updated for years, it has at least been updated to support Retina Macs so that icons look good when connected to Windows. A while back, many people preferred CoRD to Microsoft’s Remote Desktop for Mac as it actually worked much quicker but the latest update to Microsoft RDP for Mac and the lack of development of CoRD has changed that somewhat. The main downside of CoRD is that it can be very unstable and does sometimes crash but not enough to be a real pain. The other big limitation is that CoRD doesn’t work on OS X 10.9 Mavericks or above and only supports connections to older versions of Windows. CoRD does not support anything newer than Windows 8 or above and has not been updated since Windows 7. Specifically, CoRD supports Windows XP Pro, Windows Vista, Windows, 7, and Windows Server 2000, 2003, 2008. Windows XP Home is also supported but you must configure it first to allow remote desktop connections by using this Microsoft guide. Note that you must run Windows in Low Security mode for CoRD to connect which may also leave Windows vulnerable during connections.
There’s really no need to use CoRD nowadays as it’s very outdated and no longer updated. If you want a free RDP client for Mac, you’re much better going something like the free versions of TeamViewer and LogMeIn.
As you can see, there is a wide range of Remote Desktop Connection Managers for Mac although this list is by no means exhaustive. Beyond these RDP clients for Mac, there are a few other more expensive high-end corporate Remote Desktop for Mac solutions that we haven’t mentioned such as Ericom Blaze for Mac designed for the needs of large organizations. Ericom is officially partnered with Microsoft, Oracle and IBM and pricing is only available by quotation. There are also more complicated remote desktop software for Mac such as RealVNC but unless you really know what you’re doing with router configuration and static IP addresses, there are far more user friendly remote desktop clients to use such as those featured here.
If you want an easy, user friendly way to connect from your Mac to another PC or Mac, we’re still big fans of GoToMyPC, Devolutions Remote Desktop Manager, Jump Desktop and for pure elegance, Screens for Mac. However, it has to be said that the latest version of Microsoft Remote Desktop has come a long way and now finally offers powerful RDC features fast and for free.
As stated earlier however, if you’re just intending to use a remote client to run Windows applications on your Mac, there are better ways and we recommend reading our guide on the Best Way To Run Windows on Mac. Using a remote desktop app or running Windows on a Mac simply to access Windows programs remotely can be fraught with technical glitches and problems and if it’s Microsoft Office applications you want to use on your Mac, you’re much better finding an alternative to Microsoft software such as Publisher for Mac, Access for Mac, Project for Mac and Visio for Mac.
If you have any suggestions for other remote desktop software for Mac that should be included in this article, or have any experiences or questions with the Mac remote apps reviewed here, let us know in the comments below.