How to Access Local Files and Folders on Remote Desktop Session

Windows Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) feature allows you to remotely view and control remote Windows desktops. Sharing resources between your local and remote PC can be tricky, but it is possible to share your local files and folders through a remote desktop session with RDC or other remote desktop tools such as TightVNC

If you use RDC and want to access the files and folders on your PC when connected, you will need to configure your RDC configuration. You can set this every time you connect, or you can create a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) shortcut file to save your settings.

Accessing local files and folders through a remote desktop connection

The Remote Desktop Connection utility uses Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol to create a remote desktop session with Windows PCs and servers. It is included with all editions of Windows 10 and Windows Server.

Microsoft also offers RDP-compatible software that allows you to connect to Windows PCs on Mac, as well as on mobile platforms such as Android and iOS. If you’re using a Mac, you can share your Mac files and folders with Windows in the Detour tab of the Remote Desktop app.

In Windows, the built-in Remote Desktop Connection utility lets you configure your file and folder sharing settings before connecting.

  • To get started, open the Remote Desktop Connection utility. You can find it in your Windows Start menu under the Windows accessories folder, or by clicking Win + R to open the Windows Run dialog box, then type mstsc and click Okay to open it.

The Remote Desktop Connection tool, when it first launched, is quite simple. Normally, enter the IP address of your remote PC and click connectbut if you want to access your local files and folders, you need to configure some more before connecting.

  • In the Remote Desktop Connection window, click Show options
  • This will display the configuration options for RDC. Click on the Local Resources to access the sharing settings for your remote desktop session. Click More at the bottom, under the Local devices and resources section.
  • In the Local devices and resources box, you can set up RDC to share certain devices with your remote PC. To share your local files and folders, click the + arrow next drives 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, as well as portable storage such as flash drives that you could connect later. Click one of the checkboxes to share that storage with your remote PC, then click Okay
  • With your disc sharing settings set, you will be returned to the General tab and type the IP address of your remote PC or server in the Computer box under the Login Settings section. Click Connect to make the connection.
  • Once connected to your remote desktop, open Windows Explorer. You can do this by right-clicking the Start menu button and clicking File Explorer. In File Explorer, you should see your shared drives listed under the Redirected drives and folders section.

These settings may only be valid for the duration of your connection to your remote desktop. To save these settings, you must save your connection as a shortcut using an RDP settings file.

Saving RDC Settings with an RDP Shortcut File

Remote Desktop Protocol settings files are designed to be interchangeable with other software that enables RDP connections.

  • To save your connection settings for easier access or use on another device, click Show options in the Remote Desktop Connection utility.
  • Check if all your connection settings are correct, then under the Connection Settings part of the General tab, click Save as.
  • Give your connection file a suitable name in the file saving window that appears, then click Save.

Once your RDP file is saved, you can use it to connect directly to your remote desktop in the future. Double-clicking the file to open it will launch the RDC tool and automatically connect with your predefined settings applied.

You can also open the file from the Remote Desktop Connection utility by clicking Open below the Connection Settings section.

If you want to change these settings at any time, follow the instructions above to overwrite the saved RDP file.

Share files and folders via VNC

Although Windows comes with the RDC tool, you can use other third-party remote desktop connection software to connect to Windows and other operating systems. VNC is one of the more popular alternative protocols to RDP, with several connection clients you can use.

One of the most popular combinations of VNC server client software is: RealVNC, but this only supports file transfers with a professional or business subscription. A good, free alternative for Windows users is TightVNCthat allow file transfers.

You need a VNC server installed on your remote desktop for this. Installing TightVNC generally installs both the server and viewer components unless you change this during the installation process.

  • If your remote VNC server is set up, download and install TightVNC on your local PC. Once installed, open the TightVNC Viewer and connect to your remote desktop by typing your IP address in the Remote host box and then click Connect
  • Once connected, click on the Transfer files icon in your TightVNC menu bar.
  • In the TightVNC File Transfer window, select the files and folders you want to move from A to B (from your local PC to your remote PC or vice versa). Click on the or tests to start the transfer. Click Yes to confirm that you want the transfer to begin.

Once you agree to start the transfer, the files and folders you selected will be copied. To cancel the transfer, click the Cancel button at the bottom of the window.

If you prefer to use a different client, you can use file transfer software like WinSCP instead to move files between your local and remote Windows PCs.

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