The Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) feature of Windows allows you to remotely view and control Windows Remote Desktops. Sharing resources between a local and a remote PC can be tricky, but it is possible to share local files and folders in a Remote Desktop session using RDC or other remote desktop tools like TightVNC
If you are using RDC and want to access files and folders on your PC when you are connected, you need to configure the RDC setting. You can set this every time you connect, or alternatively create a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) shortcut file to save your settings.
Access local files and folders via a remote desktop connection
The Remote Desktop Connection Tool uses Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol to create a Remote Desktop session with Windows computers and servers. It is included with all editions of Windows 10 and Windows Server.
Microsoft also offers RDP-enabled software to connect to Windows PCs on Macs as well as mobile platforms like Android and iOS. If you have a Mac, you can share files and folders on your Mac in Windows using the Redirection tab in Remote Desktop.
On Windows, the built-in Remote Desktop Connection tool allows you to configure file and folder sharing settings before connecting.
- First, open the Remote Desktop Connection tool. You can find it in the Windows Start menu in the Windows Accessories folder or by clicking Win + R to open the Run Windows dialog box, then typing mstsc and clicking OK to open it.
The Remote Desktop Connection Tool on first launch is pretty simple. Typically you will paste the IP address for your remote PC and click the Connect button, but you will need to configure additional settings before connecting if you want to access local files and folders.
- In the Remote Desktop Connection window, click Show Options.
- This will display the configuration options for the RDC. Click the Local Resources tab to access the sharing settings for the remote desktop session. Click More at the bottom under Local Devices and Resources.
- In the Local Devices and Resources field, you can configure RDC to share specific devices with your remote computer. To share your local files and folders, click the + arrow next to the Drives field to expand that section.
- In the Drives section, you can share your available Windows drives, any attached optical drives such as a CD or DVD drive, and portable storage such as flash drives that you maybe decide to connect later. Select any of the check boxes to grant access to the storage to the remote computer, then click OK.
- Once you have configured your drive sharing settings, go back to the General tab and enter the IP address of the remote PC or server in the Computer field under Login Options. Click “Connect” to establish a connection.
- After connecting to the Remote Desktop, open Windows Explorer. You can do this by right-clicking on the Start Menu button and choosing File Explorer. In Explorer, you should see your shared drives under Redirected Drives and Folders.
These settings can only be in effect for the duration of your remote desktop connection. To save these settings, you will need to save the connection as a shortcut using the RDP settings file.
Save RDC settings using the RDP shortcut file
The Remote Desktop Protocol settings files are intended to be interchangeable with other software that allows RDP connections.
- If you want to save your connection settings for easier access, or use them on another device, click Show Options in the Remote Desktop Connection tool.
- Make sure all your connection settings are correct, then in the Connection Settings section of the General tab, click Save As.
- In the file save window that appears, give the connection file a suitable name and click “Save”.
After you save the RDP file, you can use it to directly connect to the remote desktop in the future. Double-clicking a file to open it will launch the RDC tool and automatically connect using your predefined settings.
You can also access the file from Remote Desktop Connection by clicking Open in the connection settings.
If at any point you want to change these settings, follow the instructions above to overwrite the saved RDP file.
Share files and folders via VNC
Although Windows comes with an RDC tool, you can use third-party Remote Desktop Connection software to connect to Windows and other operating systems. VNC is one of the more popular RDP alternative protocols, with a variety of connection clients that you can use.
RealVNC is one of the most popular VNC server-client software combinations, but it only supports file transfers with a professional or enterprise subscription. A good free alternative for Windows users is TightVNC, which lets you transfer files.
To do this, you will need a VNC server installed on your remote desktop. Installing TightVNC usually installs both the server and viewer components, unless you change this during the installation process.
- If your remote VNC server is configured, download and install TightVNC on your local machine. Once installed, open TightVNC Viewer and connect to Remote Desktop by entering your IP address in the Remote Host field and clicking Connect.
- Once connected, click the File Transfer icon on the TightVNC menu bar.
- In the TightVNC File Transfer window, select the files and folders you want to move from A to B (local to remote or vice versa). Press the >> or << buttons to start transmission. Click Yes to confirm that you want to start the transfer.
Once you agree to start transferring, copying of the files and folders you selected will begin. If you want to cancel the transfer, click the Cancel button at the bottom of the window.
If you prefer a different client, you can use file transfer software such as WinSCP to move files between your local and remote Windows PC.