How to Access a PC from Your iPhone or Android Device

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(Photo: Good Day Photo/Shutterstock)

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to work from home. This has included the need to access computers remotely with Microsoft’s Remote Desktop tool, which most people will use to connect their home computer to the one at work. But if you are on the go, you can also access a remote PC from an Apple or Android device.

You can view the screen, open files, and work with apps on your mobile device as easily (but maybe not as quickly) as if you were right in front of that computer. Here’s how to use the Remote Desktop mobile app to access a remote computer.


Allow remote access

In order to remotely access a computer, it must first be configured correctly. Go to Settings > System > Remote Desktop on the computer you want to access and make sure that Enable remote desktop the switch is on.

By default, the options for Keep your PC awake for connections when plugged in and Make my PC discoverable on private networks to enable automatic login from a remote device can both be activated. To view or change any of the options, click the Show settings link, but you can leave both enabled at this point.

advanced settings

Click it Advanced settings link and make sure the box for Configure Network Level Authentication is checked. This feature provides an extra layer of protection to ward off uninvited guests and malicious users.

If you are connecting to the computer on the same network at home or work via VPN or other means, skip the section for External connections. The section for Remote Desktop Port displays the default port for listening and accepting a remote connection.

While you’re at it, write down the PC name, as you’ll need it when setting up the connection.

remote desktop users

By default, any user with an administrator account on the remote PC can access it. Assuming you’re using a Microsoft account or a corporate account to log into Windows, it’s best to use that account to log in remotely.

If you want to give remote access to another account, click on the Select the users who can remotely access this PC link below. Click on Add and enter the username of the account you want to use.


Set up remote access from iPhone or iPad

add a computer

Now you can turn to your mobile device. To access the computer from your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, download and install the Remote Desktop app from the Apple App Store. Open the app, tap the + button in the upper right corner, and choose the option Add Computer.

advertising pc settings

In the Add PC window, enter the computer name or IP address in computer name field. Type the name of the account you want to use in the field User account or leave the field set to “Ask if needed” if you prefer to enter the name each time for security reasons.

Type a name in the Familiar name to add a more convenient label for this connection. Turn on the switch to Admin mode connects you to a console session to manage a Windows server; normally you would leave this option disabled. The option for Swap mouse buttons swaps the left and right mouse buttons.

In the Gateway section, you need to enable and configure the option to bridge only if your organization uses a remote desktop gateway to secure remote connections.

device settings

Swipe down to the Device & Audio Redirection section to enable all the features on your device that you want to use when dialing in remotely. You will probably want to direct the sound to play on this device. You can also enable the clipboard if you plan to copy and paste both ways. You can also activate the microphone, camera and remote storage. When you are done, press to safeguard in the upper right corner.

select desktop

An icon for the computer you want to access will appear in the app. Press this icon to establish the connection. The first time you try to access the computer, Remote Desktop may ask you to verify the connection to this computer. To permit Stop asking me for connections to this computer then press I accept.

remote session

You should then be connected to the remote computer. Now you can open apps and windows, manage the desktop, and do just about anything you could do if you were sitting at the computer.

To help you control your remote session, the app displays a small toolbar at the top that lets you zoom in and out of the screen, show your device’s keyboard, or switch to another remote connection.

remote connections

Tap the middle icon to view all your remote connections. Select a remote connection to switch to another session. This page has its own toolbar at the top. Press the House icon to return to the home screen, where you can set up or access another connection. Press the Hand the icon to switch to touchscreen mode and press the icon Mouse icon to switch to mouse mode.

Press the X in a remote connection’s tile to break the connection for that session. Otherwise, press Disconnect all PCs to end each current session.


Configure remote access from an Android device

add a computer

Remote Desktop for Android works the same as its iOS/iPadOS counterpart, although the setup process differs slightly. Download and install the app from Google Play. After launching the application, press the + icon and choose Add PC.

computer detection

If you are near the remote computer, the application will search for it at this point. If the PC is detected, its name will be displayed on the screen. Otherwise, press the Add manually link.

add pc settings

Type the computer name or IP address. For Username, tap the field that says Enter every time then leave this option as it is or press the Add user account and type the username and password. Faucet Show additional optionsthen enter a friendly name if desired.

You can add the gateway if your organization uses a remote desktop gateway. Choose to play audio from the remote PC on your device. Unless you need to adjust display resolution options, mouse buttons, admin session, and local storage, you can turn them off. When you’re done, click to safeguard.

select desktop

Tap the name and icon of the remote session you just created. If you receive the message that the certificate cannot be verified, check the box Never re-request connections to this PC then press Connect.

remote session

Once you’re connected to the remote desktop, use the toolbar at the top of the screen to zoom in and out, show the onscreen keyboard, or view other remote sessions. Tap the hamburger icon to show sidebars.

From there you can press the start new icon to start another remote session on another computer. Press the House button to return to the app’s home screen. Hit it mouse pointer icon to display a mouse pointer. Press the X in your computer’s thumbnail window to disconnect the current remote session.

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