Use RDP Remote Desktop iFreeRDP on your iPad to access a remote PC

Will Kelly walks through setting up Remote Desktop iFreeRDP, a free iPad app that uses Windows Terminal Services to access remote PCs.

RDP Remote Desktop iFreeRDP

RDP Remote Desktop iFreeRDP is a free remote desktop solution that enables secure access to your desktop from anywhere. It supports all operating systems that support terminal services/remote desktop out of the box. With RDP Remote Desktop iFreeRDP, you get full control over Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat, and other installed applications.

Here are some of the features you'll find with RDP Remote Desktop iFreeRDP:

  • Gesture support for smartphones, tablets, and mouse pointer
  • Customizable resolutions
  • Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), Network Level Authentication (NLA), Transport Layer Security (TLS), or automatic encryption mode security
  • RemoteFX support with NEON optimizations
  • NSCodec 32-Bit bitmap compression support
  • Custom keyboard featuring all keys found on a traditional PC keyboard
  • Optimized caching for mobile 3G networks

Note: The free Android version of this app, available from the Google Play Store, is called RDP Remote Desktop aFreeRDP

Terminal Services support in Windows

It’s worth mentioning that Windows Home and Basic Editions don’t include Terminal Services (Remote Desktop services). Thus, iFreeRDP is really meant for Windows 7 Professional or Enterprise. However, you can certainly find a third-party solution to add Terminal Services to Windows Home and Basic Editions. My advice is to just stick with the professional grade Windows editions if you want to use this app for remote access.

Install and configure RDP Remote Desktop iFreeRDP on your iPad

Unlike other VDI solutions, like Splashtop 2, there's a bit more work to do when setting up this app. You need a basic knowledge of Windows Terminal Services and Windows networking.

Follow these steps to install RDP Remote Desktop iFreeRDP:

  1. Download the free RDP Remote Desktop iFreeRDP from the App Store to your iPad
  2. When you tap the iFreeRDP icon, the Connections screen will appear (Figure A):

    Figure A
    Figure A
    The Connections screen.

  3. Tap Add Connection, which is under Manual Connections (Figure B):

    Figure B
    Figure B

    The Add Connections screen.

  4. Enter a descriptive label for the connection you're creating in the Label field
  5. Enter the host name for the connection in the Host field
  6. The default Port is 3389, but you can tap on the X and change the port number depending on your security

Set credentials

The RDP Remote Desktop iFreeRDP app requires that you use your Windows username and password for login credentials.

To set your security credentials:

  1. Tap Credentials (Figure C):

    Figure C

    Figure C

    The Credentials screen.

  2. Enter your username in the Username field
  3. Enter your password in the Password field
  4. Enter your domain name in the Domain field
  5. Tap Add Connection to return to the Add Connection screen

Adjust settings

Screen settings govern how your remote desktop will appear in the app. There might be some trial and error with these settings.

Here's how to adjust the settings:

  1. The default screen setting is Automatic@16, but you can tap Screen under Settings to adjust your screen settings (Figure D):

    Figure D

    Figure D

    The Screen settings.

  2. Tap Add Connection to return to the Add Connection screen
  3. Tap Performance, and the Performance Settings screen will appear (Figure E):

    Figure E

    Figure E

    The Performance Settings screen.

  4. Select the performance setting you want for your RDP connection from the list
  5. Tap Add Connection to return to the Add Connection screen
  6. Tap Advanced Settings to open the Advanced Settings screen (Figure F):

    Figure F

    Figure F

    The Advanced Settings screen.

  7. Modify Advanced settings as necessary to ensure a solid connection to your remote desktop (but you most likely won't have to change the advanced settings unless you run into configuration issues)

Access a remote desktop from your iPad

After you configure your RDP connection, you're ready to access your remote desktop using this app. Here's how:

  1. Tap the iFreeRDP icon to open the app, and the Connections screen will appear
  2. Tap the connection to the desktop you want to access
  3. When you connect to the Remote Desktop, you'll have full access to a virtual keyboard and touch screen support for mouse gestures (Figure G):

    Figure G

    Figure G

    Virtual keyboard and touchscreen gestures.


While I like RDP Remote Desktop iFreeRDP, it’s definitely for more hands-on or technical users. This app isn’t my first choice for a RDP solution to support a BYOD rollout or mobile workers with varying degrees of technical skills.

On the bright side, this is a very robust and full-featured RDP solution that’s free, which makes it an attractive for testing and piloting purposes -- or for those times there just isn’t the budget to pay for an RDP solution. 

Do you use the RDP Remote Desktop iFreeRDP on your iPad? Tell us about your experience with this app in the discussion thread below.

By Will Kelly

Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management ap...