Mac OS (formerly OS X) Microsoft Remote Desktop – a great Windows Development Tool!

My professional work is predominantly done using Windows-based tools – Microsoft Visual Studio, Microsoft Visual Studio Code (although there is a version for Mac OS), SQL Server, IIS etc. etc.

However my favourite productivity platform is Apple Mac OS. I have a reasonably powerful MacBook Pro, which I’ve got four displays attached to; the internal display, and 3 external displays. Here’s a photo of how the displays are arranged.

Multiple Displays on my MacBook Pro
Here are the Multiple Displays on my MacBook Pro

And my Windows machine, although it’s a reasonably powerful i7 Dell laptop, which can support one or two external displays, isn’t configured that way. The solution I’m using now to make working under Windows 10 a better experience, is to use Microsoft’s Mac OS based Remote Desktop App. I’m not sure when the capabilities I’m exploiting now, were introduced into the App, but the features it provides, allows me to do my development work, in a much more productive way, so I thought I’d share my experiences.

Firstly, one needs to configure a “connection” entry to the “remote” machine. In my situation, this involved setting up a permanent DHCP “reservation” for my Windows Laptop on my router, so that the Windows machine always gets assigned the same local IP within my local area network. Of course, if your router provides reliable name resolution within your local area network, you can probably quote the locally resolvable name of your Windows machine. Otherwise, stick with using the lan IP address of the Windows machine, which you’ve specified in the DHCP “reservation”

Then within the Mac OS Remote Desktop (RDP) app, you need to  add a new connection. On the first page of settings for the new connection, there’s nothing too remarkable.

RDP - Creating a Desktop - Step # 1
How to Create an RDP Desktop Configuration – Step # 1

Here are some notes about the various settings on this dialogue:

  • The IP address used is the IP address you have assigned to the Windows PC via the DHCP reservation at your router. Or as discussed above, if you have local name resolution, use the name of your Windows machine.
  • You could choose a User Account if you’d like to save some time whenever you connect to the machine, and if it’s a “Workgroup” machine, don’t forget to qualify the User Name with the “WorkGroup” name. For example: Workgroup\username. Otherwise leave it at “Ask when required”, and you’ll be asked for username / password combinations whenever you try to connect to the “remote” machine.
  • You can choose a “Friendly name” for the connection, which you would probably choose to be the name of the remote Windows machine as you know it.
  • And I have always left the “Reconnect if connection is dropped”, and “Connect to admin session” options checked.

The other configuration options that are definitely worth examining are on the Display “tab”, so click on that tab now:

Create Desktop Configuration Settings # 2
Create Desktop Configuration Settings – Step # 2

The key setting here that needs to be checked is the Use all monitors setting. When this setting is checked is when the true value of the Mac OS RDP client can be “exploited”. On my 4 display Mac OS machine, the result is quite remarkable, as you can see below:

My Mac OSX machine, looking more like a Windows machine
My Mac OSX machine, looking more like a multi-display Windows 10 machine

As you can see, using Microsoft Remote Desktop on my reasonably powerful MacBook Pro – certainly not the latest model – but an i7 – and able to support multiple displays – the key advantage is that it can use all of the displays on my Mac OS machine, when working on my Windows machine. My Windows machine – a laptop – normally only uses one display – the laptop display. But when connected to via Mac OS Remote Desktop, I have 4 Virtual Desktops to work on, arranged as they are under Mac OS! It really means that I can be far more productive than working directly on the Windows laptop!

I was really quite blown away by this discovery, but couldn’t find any particularly useful or informative resources explaining this advantage. So I thought I’d share my findings, in case others might have a similar situation!

I’d be interested to hear your experiences with this particular utility, and whether you’ve been using it in this way, or might start doing so? Let me know in the comments below.


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