Windows 10’s Remote Desktop options explained

Should you use Remote Desktop Connection, the Remote Desktop app, or MSRDC Windows Desktop to access Windows 10 PCs remotely? We detail the options and provide some troubleshooting tips in case things go wrong.

Microsoft Remote Desktop
Microsoft

Ever need to access a computer remotely? It’s easy to do in Windows 10, but Microsoft has provided a few different ways to get there.

One is the old, familiar Terminal Server-based Remote Desktop Connection (RDC), also known as MSTSC for its executable name mstsc.exe. Another is the newer Remote Desktop, a Universal Windows Platform app that Microsoft calls URDC, with package name Microsoft.RemoteDesktop_10.2.1535.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe. Figure 1 shows these two remote desktop clients side-by-side on a current Windows 10 desktop.

windows remote desktop fig1 rdc and rd app IDG

Figure 1: Old-style Remote Desktop Connection (RDC or MSTSC) on the left, newfangled Remote Desktop (URDC) on the right. (Click image to enlarge it.)

On the left, you see the old application-style Remote Desktop Connection (MSTSC). It’s been unchanged for a more than a decade. The General tab offers controls for quick connections, with other tabs (Display, Local Resources, and so on) for more detailed controls over the remote PC’s appearance, resolution, performance, and so forth. On the right, the newer Remote Desktop app (URDC) presents a sleeker, more modern appearance. It also makes controls and settings more directly available (through the Settings control at the upper right corner of the app window) and shows a thumbnail view for active connections so users can see what’s on a remote desktop.

There’s a third face to Remote Desktop also, but it’s designed to provide access to managed virtual machines (VMs) and virtualized applications via Azure (or equivalent in-house virtualized and managed infrastructures). It’s called the MSRDC Windows Desktop, and it works through a local or Azure-based Active Directory (AD) environment with an associated email-based login, such as bobsmith@contoso.com.

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