How to Access Windows From Your Mac

If you’re working from home and need to get remote access to a Windows 11 or 10 computer from your Mac, we have good news. It’s easy.

Microsoft offers a free tool to do the job. It lets you use your Windows apps, access files, or do anything else on Windows directly from your MacBook or another macOS machine.

Read on to learn how to set up your Mac with the Remote Desktop app to connect to Windows 10 and 11.

Step 1: Set Up Remote Desktop on Windows 10 & 11

Microsoft Remote Desktop requires Windows 10 (or 11) Pro or Enterprise, or Windows Server. The software runs on Microsoft’s proprietary RDP protocol, which isn’t available on the standard Windows Home Edition. So, if you need to connect to a PC running Windows Home, third-party remote access tools will help you out.

The first steps to set up Remote Desktop for Mac occur on your Windows computer.

On your Windows 10 or 11 PC, open the Start menu and go to Settings > System > Remote Desktop. Set Enable Remote Desktop to On, and click Confirm when prompted.

Your PC needs to be on and awake for you to connect remotely. In Windows 11, go to Settings > System > Power & battery to manage your power options. If you use Windows 10, you will see a Keep my PC awake option on the Remote Desktop screen itself that you can quickly enable.

You should probably only do this if you need constant remote access to the computer. If you don’t, then allowing it to sleep is wise.

Next, scroll down to Remote Desktop users/User accounts. By default, the account you’re logged into will automatically have remote access permissions. To allow other users to log in remotely, click Select users to add their usernames.

Get Your PC Name and IP Address

Finally, you need to grab a couple of pieces of info before you switch over to your Mac. On the same Remote Desktop menu, note your PC name. If the current name is generic, and you’d like to make it something that’s easier to remember, go Settings > About and click Rename this PC.

Next, you should find your computer’s IP address on your network. Go to Settings > Network & internet and select Wi-Fi (or Ethernet if you’re using a wired connection). Then, select the network you’re connected to at the moment. That opens the network’s properties screen. Scroll to the bottom of the page and locate the IPv4 address in the list. Make a note of this number.

Step 2: Install Microsoft Remote Desktop for Mac

Now it’s time to set up remote access to a Windows 10 or Windows 11 PC from your Mac. First, install Microsoft Remote Desktop from the Mac App Store. Microsoft also offers versions of the app for iOS and Android. The instructions for those platforms are the same as the ones we use here.

Download: Microsoft Remote Desktop for Mac | iOS | Android (Free)

Step 3: Add Your PC to Microsoft Remote Desktop

After installing it, launch the Remote Desktop client on your Mac and select the Add PC button to begin. In the open dialog box, type in the PC Name you checked earlier. If you cannot connect with this name, use the IP address you noted instead.

By default, the User Account field is set to Ask when required. This means it will prompt you for a username and password each time you connect. If you don’t want this, click the dropdown list and select Add User Account.

Add your username in the format domain\[username]—if that does not work, enter it normally. You can also add your password if you want to use automatic login. Leave it blank, and you’ll get a prompt to enter it each time.

That’s all you need to do to set up a connection. Click Save, and you can connect. However, you might want to adjust a few other settings before going any further.

Step 4: Configure Your Remote Connection

If you want to configure how your remote connection works, here are several options in the Add PC dialog that you can play around with:

  • In the General tab, add a Friendly Name to make a computer recognizable if you’ve got more than one connection set up.
  • Under the Display tab, check the box next to Fit session to window if you aren’t planning on using the remote connection in full-screen mode. Also, set Optimize for Retina Displays if you’re working on a high-resolution monitor.
  • In the Devices & Audio tab, choose which computer should play sound (if either), and specify if you want to use your Mac’s microphone.
  • However, the most important option is Folders. This allows you to make certain folders on your Mac accessible within your remote Windows session. You can access these folders through Windows File Explorer, where you’ll find them under This PC.

    You can work with files stored on your Mac in a Windows app or copy files between the machines. It’s all contained within the remote session, however. Sharing a folder in this way does not make the folder accessible on the physical Windows computer. Click Save to finish setting up your connection.

    Step 5: Connect to a Windows 10 or 11 PC From Your Mac

    You’re now ready to connect. Your PC must be turned on, awake, and connected to the same network as your Mac.

    The Remote Desktop app will list your computer under Saved Desktops with a thumbnail preview. Double-click it to connect.

    If you didn’t change the settings, you’d need to enter your username and password to establish the connection.

    Security Warning

    When you make an RDP connection from Mac to Windows, you’ll see a security warning relating to an unverified certificate. If you’re at home or working on a small business network, you can click Continue and ignore the message. Be wary about doing this if you’re on a large network with public access.

    Once You’re Connected

    When your Mac establishes the remote desktop connection, your Windows PC will lock and switch to the login screen. If anyone tries to use the PC, your remote session will end. You can’t have two people using the same computer at once.

    Using Windows on Your Mac

    Unless you changed the setting, your remote desktop session would open in full screen. To use it in a window instead, move your mouse pointer to the top of the screen and click the green window button at the top-left.

    Using Windows through Remote Desktop is pretty much the same as using it on a dedicated computer.

    One of the few changes (and a possible point of confusion) is that the app maps the keyboard shortcuts for Cut, Copy, and Paste to the ones used on macOS—the Command key. However, some other shortcuts continue to use the Control key as they do on Windows.

    You can launch apps, work on files, or even play games if you want to. There may be a little lag during heavy use, but most of the time, it’s fast and responsive.

    You can’t drag and drop files between Mac and Windows. They share the clipboard by default, though, so you can copy and paste between them instead.

    For a greater level of file sharing, set up a shared folder using the Folders configuration setting, as outlined above.

    Disconnecting and Deleting Your Desktop

    To disconnect and end the session, simply close the Remote Desktop window on your Mac. You can edit your settings at any point by hovering your mouse over the thumbnail in Saved Desktop and clicking the pen-shaped Edit icon. To delete a saved desktop, Control-click the thumbnail and select Delete.

    Remotely Access Your Computer From Anywhere

    Microsoft Remote Desktop is an easy way to access a Windows 10 or 11 PC remotely from a Mac. But what if you need to do it the other way around, or perhaps need to bring a Linux computer or a Chromebook into the mix?

    In that case, the quickest solution is to set up Chrome Remote Desktop, which is Google’s remote access tool that runs on any desktop computer with Chrome installed.

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