Whether you're a developer or a sysadmin, a member of DevOps or a Digital Agency team, you'll often encounter situations that require you to interact between different operating systems. Connecting from a Mac to a Unix environment with SSH, using a terminal session, is fairly common. Connecting from a Mac to a Windows environment is a bit more fiddly.
System administrators use several devices for managing their server environments. For example, Mac users who work in their native Unix environment are familiar with using the terminal to SSH into their Linux-based servers. However, when using a Mac to log into a Windows environment, the task is different.
Setting up a remote desktop — Mac to Windows connection is fairly simple. Windows machines use RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) to manage connections between Windows servers and end-user devices. In this article, you will explore using a Microsoft remote desktop gateway to connect to a Windows server from a Mac. The focus will be on the essentials you need, the steps to follow, and the common issues you might encounter. Learn how to connect to Windows server from Mac.
What You Need
Step 1: Locate Microsoft Remote Desktop (Connection)
To download Microsoft Remote Desktop (Connection), open the App Store within your Applications folder by searching for the program. You can also do this by opening the Launchpad if it is not already one of the applications in your Dock:
You will need this app to run the remote desktop — Mac to Windows via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).
Step 2: Install Microsoft Remote Desktop (RD)
After locating the Microsoft Remote Desktop (RD) app, click Get. The icon will change to say Install, and the button will turn green. Click Install:
Your remote desktop — Mac to Windows server configuration is just a few simple steps away.
Step 3: Open the App to Start the Remote Desktop Mac to Windows Setup
Once installed, launch the app by clicking on the Microsoft Remote Desktop icon in your Applications folder or activate from within the Launchpad:
Remote desktop for Mac to Windows server setup is almost ready. There are just s few more steps:
Step 4: Set Up Your Microsoft Remote Desktop Mac to Windows Connection
With the program opened, you will either click the plus icon ( + ) at the top or Add PC in the middle of the window to add a new connection:
Fill out the highlighted boxes for the Windows server:
- PC Name: Enter the Windows server’s IP address.
- User Account: Click the dropdown menu and select Add User Account.
- User Name: Input your username for the target PC. For this example, root. is used.
- Password: Input your password for the target PC.
- Friendly name (Optional): Here, you can opt to enter a name for your User Account. For this example, this field is left blank. Click Add once completed.
- Group: The default will be Saved PCs. You can click the dropdown menu and add a custom Group Name if you would like.
- Gateway: If a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or other connection is necessary for accessing the server, you can click the dropdown menu and add it here. Otherwise, leave the default of No gateway, as in this example.
Once completed, click Add:
Your new server will show up as an icon in your PCs list:
Step 5: Open Your Windows Environment
Double-click on the icon for your server to connect to your Windows environment. If you entered the information correctly, the Windows environment will appear that will facilitate the Microsoft remote desktop — Mac to Windows server:
Conclusion — Remote Desktop Mac to Windows Server
Because Windows machines use a different protocol called RDP to manage connections between Windows servers and end-user devices, knowing how to connect to Windows server from Mac is essential. Using a remote desktop connection on Mac, we have documented above using the Microsoft remote desktop setup for Mac to connect to a Windows server for our tutorial.
You now know how to connect to a Windows server from a Mac. Using a remote desktop connection on Mac offers flexibility for system administrators who need to maintain a Windows server remotely. By installing the Microsoft Remote Desktop Mac application and following the steps in this tutorial, you can get logged in and working on your server in no time. The Microsoft Remote Desktop Mac application offers a lot flexibility for system administrators who need to maintain a Windows server remotely.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. How do I find the IP address or hostname of the Windows server I want to connect to?
If you know the name of the Windows server you want to connect to, you can open a command prompt and use "ping" or "traceroute" to identify the IP address of the Windows server you want to connect your Mac to.
2. Is it possible to transfer files between my Mac and the Windows server during the remote connection?
Absolutely! Assuming the administrator has enabled the required server settings, you can simply map a remote drive or folder to your Mac using folder redirection. Click on the folders tab and select Redirect folders. You can learn more about that from the Microsoft support article, "Get started with the macOS client" in the Learn > Windows Server > Remote Desktop Services area.
3. Can I use a VPN connection to securely connect to the Windows server from my Mac?
Yes, assuming your Windows server is configured to allow connections from your Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection, you can definitely connect to the Windows server from your Mac over a VPN connection.
4. Are there any known compatibility issues or limitations when connecting to a Windows server from a Mac?
Yes, there are a few. The Mac command button (⌘) is seen as the Alt button on a Windows server. The Mac Option and/or Alt button (⌥) is seen in Windows as a Ctrl button. Based on which version of Microsoft RDP for Mac you are using, the End-of-Line (EOL) character can transfer unexpectedly when syncing the clipboard from your Windows server to your Mac.
5. What alternative remote desktop applications are available for Mac users to connect to a Windows server?
There are several:
- TeamViewer: A versatile remote access and control software that allows you to connect to a Windows server from a Mac, with features like file transfer, remote printing, and VPN functionality.
- AnyDesk: A remote desktop software that offers high-performance and seamless remote access to a Windows server from a Mac, with an emphasis on speed and ease of use.
- VNC Connect: A screen-sharing software based on the open VNC standard, allowing you to remotely access a Windows server from a Mac and navigate it as though you were there in person.
Original Publication Date
This article was originally published in June 2021. It has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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