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Microsoft Remote Desktop review

Read our Microsoft Remote Desktop review for detailed information about its performance and features

Microsoft Remote Desktop review
(Image: © Microsoft)

Our Verdict

Microsoft Remote Desktop runs well across a variety of devices and offers enough features for most individuals and many small businesses.

For

  • Immediate access to remote files
  • Supports Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android

Against

  • Automatically signs out remote users during remote connections
  • Options are distributed across several applications and can be difficult to locate

Remote desktop tools are the best option if you need to use a computer without being physically present. Different software offer different features, so it’s important to find the best remote desktop software for your business.

Microsoft Remote Desktop is one of the most commonly used remote desktop applications, and it provides strong features for both personal and business contexts. In our Microsoft Remote Desktop review, we’ll examine the software’s pros and cons and see how it compares to other remote desktop solutions.

Microsoft Remote Desktop: Plans and pricing

While Microsoft Remote Desktop is compatible with all versions of Windows 8 and 10, only WIndows Pro and Enterprise users can set up their computers to be accessed remotely. In other words, any computer running Windows 8 or 10, including the Home edition, can be used to access another device, but that device needs to be running the Pro or Enterprise version of Windows.

Microsoft Remote Desktop review

Only Windows 10 Pro users can host remote desktop connections. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Windows 10 Pro costs $200 and up. If you’re currently running Home and want to upgrade to Pro for remote desktop access, go to Update and Security and then Activation from the settings menu. Home to Pro upgrades are currently $99.

Microsoft Remote Desktop: Features and utilities

Users can access remote devices from a computer or by downloading the mobile app on iOS or Android. Either way, Microsoft Remote Desktop provides a seamless experience that’s almost as good as having the computer in front of you.

Microsoft Remote Desktop review

Microsoft Remote Desktop enables admins to add and delete remote resources. (Image credit: Microsoft)

If you’re using a mobile device, the app includes separate keys for modifiers like control, alt, and option. This enables you to perform keyboard shortcuts as if you were physically using the computer.

Similarly, Microsoft Remote Desktop gives users access to files stored on the remote computer, making it easy to print or share documents from any location. You can also set your desktop to stay awake when not in use to prepare for a remote connection. Your admin can publish resources for remote access, including virtual desktops, session-based desktops, and RemoteApp programs.

Microsoft Remote Desktop: Setup

To set up a connection in Microsoft Remote Desktop, click Add, then enter the computer’s name and your user account. Keep in mind that the host computer also needs to be configured to accept remote connections. This option is available in System Settings under Remote Desktop.

Microsoft Remote Desktop review

You can quickly add connections with the name of the PC and your user account. (Image credit: Microsoft)

The Settings app also contains an option to allow remote desktop connections from other user accounts. These need to be approved in advance to create a remote connection later on. You should also write down the name of the host computer, which you can find under “How to connect to this PC.”

Microsoft Remote Desktop: Interface and performance

The Remote Desktop app runs well and comes with a sleek interface. Unfortunately, local users are logged out while using Remote Desktop, so we didn’t have a way to test the lag between devices.

Microsoft Remote Desktop review

The Microsoft Remote Desktop app makes it easy to manage connection settings. (Image credit: Microsoft)

After opening the application, you’ll be able to add a new connection or adjust settings. The simple and clear interface makes it easy to understand how to set up remote desktop connections.

Performance was excellent throughout our tests, with videos and other types of dynamic content displaying well on the remote device. Of course, results may vary depending on your internet connection and the kind of work you’re doing.

Microsoft Remote Desktop: Security

As in other areas of the app, Microsoft provides powerful security tools without making them obvious. You can create a secure environment for Microsoft Remote Desktop in a few simple steps.

Microsoft Remote Desktop review

Local Security Policy provides full control over remote access permissions. (Image credit: Microsoft)

For example, the Local Security Policy app includes an option to limit remote access to certain groups. It’s easy to mandate manual whitelisting for each new connection—just click Local Policies, then User Rights Assignment, and finally Allow Log On through Remote Desktop Services. From there, you can add individual users in Settings under Remote Desktop.

Current versions of Microsoft Remote Desktop come with network level authentication, which automatically verifies users through the network before connecting them to the device.

Microsoft Remote Desktop: Support

The Microsoft website contains help articles covering a variety of topics, including several on Remote Desktop. If you don’t find the information you need, you can also search the support forum or create a new post. The community is extremely active, so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting help.

Microsoft Remote Desktop review

The Microsoft community is an invaluable resource for Remote Desktop users. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Alternatively, the Get Help app is the best way to get one-on-one support in Windows 10. Help is provided by Windows Advisors. There aren’t any listed support hours, and response times can be unpredictable—we waited for more than ten minutes before closing the chat window to receive an email reply.

Microsoft Remote Desktop: Final verdict

Microsoft Remote Desktop is unnecessarily complex, with two distinct Windows apps and additional options in both Settings and Local Security Policy. That said, it provides strong remote desktop performance on Windows 10.

Furthermore, it gives users helpful tools like seamless access to remote files, function keys on mobile devices, and remote resources like virtual and session-based desktops. All things considered, Microsoft Remote Desktop is a convenient and powerful solution if you need to access a desktop remotely.

The competition

Microsoft Remote Desktop offers important advantages compared to Chrome Remote Desktop, one of the most popular free remote desktop applications. For example, Chrome Remote Desktop doesn’t support file transfers between devices, and the mobile app is limited to the normal smartphone keyboard.

On the other hand, certain paid solutions include critical features for some business contexts. TeamViewer provides comprehensive reporting, integration with CRM and helpdesk systems, and a dedicated Management Console that enables administrators to manage connections throughout their organization. Team licenses cost $199 per month, while Multi User and Single User are $99 and $49, respectively.

To find our more about Microsoft Remote Desktop Manager, read our guide to the Best remote desktop software.

Alex McOmie

Alex is a writer focused on providing insightful, actionable content that can truly change the way readers approach their finances. 

Alex has been writing as a freelancer for several years on a variety of topics including marketing, parenting, and customer relationships along with personal finance. He’s particularly interested in the way seemingly small adjustments can transform a person’s financial outlook.