Microsoft has released its Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) client for Macintosh, giving Mac users the ability to access Windows servers and desktops running Terminal Services or Remote Desktop Services. With the release of RDC, Mac users are now able to remotely access and manage computers running any of the following versions of Windows:

  • Windows XP Professional
  • Windows Server 2003 (Standard and Enterprise Edition)
  • Windows 2000 Server
  • Windows 2000 Advanced Server
  • Windows 2000 Datacenter Server
  • Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition

I’m going to provide the information necessary to install the Remote Desktop Connection for the Macintosh, and then I’ll walk through the procedure to connect to a Windows computer.

Download and install RDC
Prior to installing RDC, make sure your Mac meets the following requirements:

  • Single-processor Macintosh
  • OS X 10.1 or later
  • 128-MB RAM
  • Internet connection or a LAN connection to the remote computer
  • Stuffit Expander (required to open the downloaded software)

The Remote Desktop Connection is available from Microsoft Mactopia and is currently available for single-processor machines only. Support for dual-processor Macs is under development.

After downloading the client package, use the following procedures to install the software.

  1. Double-click on the downloaded file. Stuffit Expander should unpack the file and create the desktop icon for the Remote Desktop Connection volume. If the icon isn’t created, double-click the icon for the RDC100ENU.dmg disk image file.
  2. The Remote Desktop Connection volume contains a folder of the same name. Copy this folder to your hard drive.
  3. Open the Remote Desktop Connection folder on the hard drive, and then double-click the Remote Desktop Connection icon to run the program.

Using the RDC client
When the client runs, the first screen will prompt you to agree or disagree to the licensing terms for this software. You must agree to continue. The next screen contains several tabs used to configure the connection and to actually connect to the remote computer (see Figure A).

Figure A

The General tab is used to provide the name of the computer you want to access, the user name, password, and the domain for the remote computer. In Figure A, the remote machine has IP address I want to connect as user Jim McIntyre, and the domain is TPG.

The Display tab (see Figure B) is used to configure the resolution used to present the remote desktop. Some experimentation is usually required to establish the desktop resolution and color depth.

Figure B

The Local Resources tab controls how keyboard entries on the local (Macintosh) computer are interpreted by the remote machine, which resources on the Mac are made available to the remote computer, and whether or not sounds from the remote computer are played on the Macintosh. In the example shown in Figure C, sounds from the remote computer are played on the Macintosh, disk drives and printers connected to the Macintosh are shared with the remote computer, and a click of the Ctrl and Shift keys is interpreted as a right-click with the mouse on the remote Windows computer.

Figure C

The Programs tab lets you set the following controls for when a remote connection is established:

  • Programs to run on the remote (Windows) computer when the connection is made
  • The default folder (directory location) to start in when a connection is made

In the example shown in Figure D, the starting folder is c:\temp, and the program Microsoft Visio will start when the connection is made.

Figure D

Author’s note

Remote computers running Windows XP Professional will not start programs automatically. Instead, the complete Windows Desktop will be displayed. Any program on the remote machine can then be started by double-clicking on the Desktop icon or by using the Start menu.

Sharing printers
To make Macintosh printers available to Windows computers, use this procedure:

  1. Click the Options button in the upper left-hand corner of the RDC window.
  2. Under the Local resources tab, select Printers.

Print jobs from Windows computers may be sent to a PostScript printer attached to the Mac. Also, when a connection is made to a Windows computer, the RDC client on the Mac detects any PostScript printers connected to Windows system. A print queue is then created on the Macintosh for each printer detected.

When a connection is closed, the print queue is deleted. At this point, any pending print jobs will be lost. The print queue will be re-created the next time a connection is established.

There are some factors to consider before sharing a Macintosh printer:

  • Print queues on the Macintosh are created only when a PostScript-compatible driver is found on the Windows computer. Some Macintosh print capabilities will not be available to Windows clients. The Macintosh printers will appear in the Printers folder of the Control Panel on the Windows computer. Macintosh printers will be named using the following format:
    Macintosh Printer Name/Macintosh Computer Name/Session Number
  • If the remote computer is running Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition, Macintosh printers will not be made available.

Setting connection performance
The options available under the Performance tab allow the connection to be optimized for the type of connection used (see Figure E).

Figure E

The default for RDC is a 56-Kbps modem connection. This setting will work well even with a high-speed connection, but optimizing the settings for your connection will normally allow a better set of graphical features to be used. To optimize the connection, use the following steps:

  1. Click the Performance tab.
  2. Select the speed your connection uses.

If the new configuration exceeds any settings established by the network administrator, RDC will default to the maximum allowable settings.

To define new settings, select the five graphical settings available:

  • Desktop Background
  • Show Contents Of Window While Dragging
  • Menu And Window Animation
  • Themes
  • Bitmap Caching

Save connection settings
By default, the Remote Desktop Connection client saves connection settings to
Users/username/Library/Preferences/Microsoft/RDC Client Default Settings

These settings will be saved automatically when a successful connection is established and become the default for all future connections. You may need to save several different configurations, depending on the type of work being done during the connection. To save a different configuration, the best approach is to save the configuration settings to a file.

To save your connection settings to a file, use the following procedure:

  1. In the RDC window, click Options.
  2. Enter the connection settings and performance options for this connection.
  3. On the General tab, click Save As.
  4. Enter a filename for the settings file, and click Save.

When the connection settings have been determined, just click the Connect button, and you should establish a connection to the remote Windows machine based on the new settings.

Allowing access and printing
Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection client for Macintosh is a terrific utility that allows Mac users access to Windows applications and to perform administration tasks on Windows servers. In addition, it allows Windows users to access PostScript printers connected to Macintosh computers. If you need access to Windows from a Mac, or would like to use PostScript printing, this is the tool for you.