Getting started with Microsoft Remote Desktop for Android

Microsoft has quietly released a remote desktop client for Android that is available now at the Google Play store.

Microsoft Remote Desktop for Android
Ed Rhee/CNET

Remotely accessing a Windows PC can be a convenient way to access files and programs when you can't physically be at the same place as the remote PC. It's also a good way to troubleshoot problems with the remote PC as long as the problems aren't network-related.

There are some very good mobile apps already that allow you to connect to remote systems from your tablet or smartphone, like TeamViewer and Splashtop. Microsoft's RD client for Android, however, is free and doesn't require you to install an agent on your PC to use it. If you want to check out Microsoft Remote Desktop for Android, here's how to get started:

Enable remote connections on your PC

Step 1: Even though you don't need to install an agent on your Windows PC, you do still need to enable remote connections. On both Windows 7 and Windows 8, go to Control Panel > System and Security > System, then click on "Remote settings" from the left pane.

Windows remote settings
Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

Step 2: Under Remote Desktop, make sure that you allow remote connections to the computer and choose Network Level Authentication. If you have problems connecting, you can try disabling Network Level Authentication. You can also restrict connections to specific users by clicking on the Select Users button.

Allow remote connections
Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

Connect to your PC with an Android device

Step 1: Make sure when you launch the RD client, that you're on the Remote Desktops tab. From there, tap on the "+" to add a new connection.

Add new remote PC
Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

Step 2: Enter a name for the connection, the host name or IP address of the remote PC, and the log-in credentials if you want them saved. If you leave the credentials blank, you'll be prompted for them at the start of the connection. Tap "Done" to save the remote desktop connection.

Remote PC details
Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

Step 3: Tap on the connection you just created to connect. If you get an untrusted certificate prompt, select "Trust Once" or "Trust Always," if you trust the remote PC. You should then see your remote PC's desktop.

Remote PC desktop
Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

Navigating the remote connection

The connection bar at the top has two icons: the pan icon on the left and the keyboard icon on the right. Tap on the pan icon to zoom in on the desktop and move around. The keyboard icon displays or hides an onscreen keyboard. If the connection bar is in your way, you can long press on it, then move it from side to side.

Remote desktop connection bar
Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

Tapping on the connection bar will bring up the utility bar. With the utility bar, you can disable multitouch and use a cursor instead, display modifier keys for shortcuts, and access many extra keyboard keys, like the F-keys. Hint: double-tapping on the Windows key will toggle between the desktop and the Start screen in Windows 8.

Remote desktop utility bar
Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

To disconnect from the remote PC, tap the back button of your Android device twice. Also, if there are remote PCs that you frequently connect to, you can create direct shortcuts to them using the Remote Desktop widget.

 

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