Microsoft Remote Desktop for iOS


Today, Microsoft released “Microsoft Remote Desktop” for iOS devices (iOS 5+). For a long time, the Apple store has contained many 3rd party solutions to this which usually require a 3rd party app to be installed on the Windows PC you’re connecting to (never a fan of this option), or have ‘basic’ Remote Desktop support, without the Network Level Authentication. This app supports it.

Firstly, by allowing this on any PC you’re opening up a way for attackers to get in. You need to weigh up the risks with this, and what data can be accessed. I won’t get into that with this post, but consider firewall settings and potentially using a VPN for extra security.

The iOS side of things is very simple. Go to the app store, install the “Microsoft Remote Desktop” app and launch it. You’ll end up with a ‘RD Client’ App on your home screen, and when launched will look like this (without my ‘Home’ connection):

2013-10-18T14-47-25_0Pretty clean. So, you can add a ‘New Remote Desktop’ if you know the PC name/IP address you’re connecting to. Most people will want this when they’re out and about though – so the first thing to do is make sure Remote Desktop is enabled on your PC.

At the PC end under System > Advanced System Settings are the Remote Desktop settings. Make sure you’ve got the ‘Allow connections only from computers running…’ tickbox selected. Why? Have a read here but the summary is that it’s more secure and is less susceptible to attacks.

system propeties

For the ‘Select Users’ box, add only the accounts you need to use remotely (unless they’re already a local admin). As part of this, you should have your local administrator account disabled as that’s often what someone or something will use as a username to try to access your PC. The account you’re planning to use can be a Microsoft account, so you’d just enter your email address (e.g. [email protected]) with your password, and that will authorise you to the PC.

Keep in mind you may need to allow port 3389 (RDP) traffic in via your Router, and have that go to the PC you’re trying to connect to.

Once you’re on, the iOS app is rather clean and easy to use. You’ll see a small menu bar at the top of the screen. To the right is the keyboard which has all the keys I could imagine wanting (even a start button!), and to the left is a zoom/scroll button. Pressing this shows a small circle in the top middle half of the screen, and zooms the screen in. If you want to navigate around in zoomed mode, press the circle and swipe the way you want to go. If you just swipe without starting at the circle, you’ll probably end up highlighting text like a mouse would. Right clicking is done by holding down your finger, and you’ll see a small square appear and increase in size, until the right click happens.

You can also change to mouse mode by pressing the middle of the top menu, which will drop down a larger menu. On the left side you’ll see a hand, press that and it will change to a cursor. The right side of this menu has the disconnect option when you’re done.

Android and Windows Phone 8 versions of Remote Desktop are on their way too, with the Android version available here:

Also Simon Sharwood from The Register has posted this article about the app and quoted me :)

Finally, here’s a really good article from Berkley University around Remote Desktop security

9 thoughts on “Microsoft Remote Desktop for iOS

  1. Can’t connect to server from iOS – but can connect from Windows and Mac. iOS just says that it is preparing

    1. That’s… weird. I tested again and from my iPad it connected perfectly fine. I’d be coin flipping between the device and the server having an issue, so would test a second device and/or a second server to connect to to see where the issue was.

      1. tested 4 different devices… all on iOS 8. I do not have any pre iOS 8 to test. What version are you running?

      2. I’ve just tested an iPad Air on iOS 8.1 connecting to a 2012 R2 box and it worked perfectly. (also tested on 8.0 and same result).
        If you want me to test connect to something I’d be happy to, use the contact me to let me know the details.

      3. Download 8.0.8 from an old device and loaded it on my iOS 8 device. It worked.
        So- not sure here. We do not use a gateway.
        But I do not see any traffic to my server when I wireshark it. My users are a little frustrated as well.
        I can set up an account tomorrow for you to test.

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