the most seasoned Mac users sometimes need to access Windows applications to get their work done. While the two ecosystems were at odds with each other for most of their early days in the enterprise, there are now many options for Mac users who need to access a Windows app or server.
Tools like Parallels and Virtualbox are popular among users but, for years, one of the standard applications for connecting the two systems is the Microsoft Remote Desktop connection. And, fortunately, the process for downloading and using the Microsoft Remote Desktop on macOS Sierra is fairly straightforward. Here's how.
Note: If you want to access Microsoft Remote Desktop on an older version of Mac OS X, check out this article instead.
As with most modern Mac applications, Microsoft Remote Desktop is available for download through the Mac App Store. Go to the icon Dock on your desktop and click the blue "App Store" icon to open it.
Inside the Mac App Store, type "Microsoft Remote Desktop" into the search bar at the top right hand portion of the window. The option you want is an orange icon with a computer monitor on it. It should be the first option listed.
To begin downloading Microsoft Remote Desktop, click the blue "Get" button. This app is free, so no price will be listed.Once you click on "Get," the button will turn green and say "Install app." Click the button again.
For here, you can close out the App Store. To access the newly downloaded app, click the the grey "Launchpad" icon in the Dock. Click the Microsoft Remote Desktop app icon to open the app. If you can't seem to find the icon (it will look the same as it did in the App Store), try swiping left. If you have many application, the Launchpad will have multiple pages.
Another way to find the app is by using the Spotlight Search feature, which you can access by clicking the looking glass at the top right of your home screen, or by using the shortcut Command + Spacebar. Once you have Spotlight open, type "Microsoft Remote Desktop" and hit enter.
Once open, the app should look like this:
When you first open the application, you may be presented with a pop up window alerting you to what is new in Microsoft Remote Desktop. Feel free to close that window and continue on.
If you want to be able to quickly return to this application in the future, you should set it in your dock. To do so, right click (control + click) on the icon, mouse over "Options," and click "Keep in Dock." This will keep you from having to look for the icon every time you need to use it.
At this point you'll need to enable remote access on your target PC. For a Windows 10 machine, head to the start button on the bottom left of your desktop. Click the start button and then click "File Explorer." In the next window, on the left side of the screen, right-click the option that says "This PC" and then click "Properties" at the bottom of the following pop up window.
In the system properties window, click on "Remote settings" on the left-hand side. Make sure the radio button next to "Allow remote connections to this computer" is clicked. Also make sure the box next to "Allow connections only from computers running Remote Desktop with Network Level Authentication" is checked if you have that authentication.
If you want to get to this part faster, simply type "Remote Settings" in Cortana from your Windows desktop and and click the search result that says "Allow remote access to your computer."
You'll also need your full PC name if you don't already have it, which will be used to set up the connection. Click on the start button and then click "Settings" and the "System." At the bottom of the next window click "About" and the PC name should be available at the top.
Enabling a Windows 7, Windows 8, or Vista machine is a little different, but you can find out how to do that here.
Once you have enabled remote access and have the PC name, go to your Mac and click the "New" button at the top left of the Microsoft Remote Desktop screen. You'll be prompted to fill in a few fields.
First, you'll input the connection name. This is just an arbitrary name and has no real bearing on the connection itself. For example, you could call it "Sarah's work PC."
Next, you'll need to input the PC name (the one you wrote down from earlier), or the IP address so your Mac knows where to find the PC. The next line down allows you to configure a Gateway, which would allow a connection to virtual desktops or session-based desktops available on your company's network. Be sure to check with your network administrator to see if there is a gateway you are supposed to use.
Credentials is where you will type in the domain, username, and password for the target PC so you can log in through the remote connection. Once again, check with your IT admin, but these should be your standard username and password for your target machine.
Resolution, colors, and full screen mode are all personal preferences for how you want the remote desktop to launch on your machine. If you're not sure, start with the standard settings and go from there.
In the same window, click the "Session" tab in the middle to configure peripheral devices for your remote desktop. With the "Sound" drop-down, for example, you can choose where you want any sound to play.
Clicking the box next to "Connect to admin session" will allow you to connect to an administrator session on a Windows server, and "Forward printing devices" will make your local printers available during your remote desktop session. "Swap mouse buttons" will allow you to use left click commands with a right-click Mac mouse.
The third tap at the top of this window is "Redirection." Here, you can choose a local folder to be made available during your remote session. Click the "+" button, choose a name for the folder, and input the folder's path to have it available.
When you are finished configuring your remote desktop, click the red close button at the top left of the dialog box and your new remote desktop will be added. To start a session with that desktop, simply double-click it to begin.
If you want to edit, duplicate, export, or delete that remote connection, right-click (control + click) on the desktop name to access those options.
What do you think?
Is there a better way to access your Windows applications? Tell us in the comments.
- How to create a bootable USB installer for macOS Sierra (TechRepublic)
- Get your Mac ready for macOS Sierra (ZDNet)
- How to create a bootable USB to install OS X Mavericks (TechRepublic)
- The good and bad of Apple macOS Sierra (ZDNet)
- How to create a Windows-based USB installer (TechRepublic)
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.