One Application, Two Versions
Microsoft provides a useful tool that allows users of OS X to establish a remote desktop connection with a PC running Windows. Or, more accurately, two tools.
Remote Desktop Connection Client comes bundled with Office for Mac 2011, but it can also be downloaded for free from Microsoft's website. The tricky part is that at this point there are actually two different versions of Remote Desktop Connection Client and which one you want to use is dependent on the version of Windows being run by the sever you're trying to connect to.
The previous version of RDC (Remote Desktop Connection Client 1.0.3 for Mac) is only able to connect to servers running a version of Windows prior to Vista, including:
- Windows XP Professional
- Windows Server 2003
- Windows 2000 Server
- Windows 2000 Advanced Server
- Windows 2000 Datacenter Server
- Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition
The current version (Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection Client for Mac 2.1.0 as of the writing of this article) is able to connect to servers running Windows Vista or Windows 7, but when using it we've encountered some problems connecting to servers running previous versions of Windows. My advice is to try using the current version of RDC, but if you get errors along the lines of "Remote Desktop Connection cannot verify the identity of the computer that you want to connect to" when you try to connect, downloading and using the previous version will probably fix your problem. In any event, both versions can be installed on your Mac simultaneously, so there's no reason not to get them both.
Connecting Using RDC for Mac
Once you've identified and downloaded the version of RDC Client you need, it's time to install the software and get started. RDC 2 is downloaded as a DMG containing a .pkg file that must be run in order to install the software. RDC 1 comes as a compressed DMG containing a folder that can be simply dragged and dropped into your Applications folder.
In any event, running the application will bring up a window with a text box for the server url and a "Connect" button. Simply enter the url or ip address of the server you're trying to connect to and click the button. If the client is able to establish a connection, a window will pop up containing the desktop of the server. Simply sign in and you're good to go!