Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), developed originally by Microsoft, is a network protocol that provides a way for people to get access to a computer remotely with a nice lightweight user interface along with input devices like keyboard and mouse. Both Windows 7 and 8 come with a native Remote Desktop Client that lets you connect to the remote machine through this protocol. However, for people who constantly need to manage multiple machines at once, you will need a program that manages multiple connections for you to make your life easier. And here are 3 of them that are free and great for you to consider.
Remote Desktop Manager
It’s a feature rich remote connections manager that manages not only multiple remote desktop connections but many other protocols as well, such as VNC, Citrix, HTTP, FTP, LogMeIn, TeamViewer, Putty, etc.. You can save credentials locally in the database, which is protected by the AES encryption, or in the external applications like LastPass or KeePass, or on their new released Remote Desktop Manager Online.
What’s good about this tool is that it also supports and integrates pretty well with many popular services as well. Such as:
- Intel AMT support – to allow remote console asset access even when the computers are off.
- Hyper-V dashboard – to manager hyper-v powered VMs.
- Windows PowerShell support
- Advanced Data Source support, including Amazon S3, Dropbox, FTP, SQL Server, etc..
- Integrated password manager
- Microsoft Azure Console
- Many VPN connections
If you are looking for one that is not only managing remote desktop connections but also many other things, this Remote Desktop Manager could be your answer. The Standard edition is FREE, and according to this comparison sheet, it could just be good enough for most of your IT tasks.
Please also check out our full review of the product here.
Terminals is another feature rich, tab-based remote desktop clients manager that uses Terminal Services Active Client (mstscax.dll). Other than RDP connections, Terminals can also manage most of other popular connections as well, such as VNC, Console, SSH, VRRC, Citrix, RAS, HTTP, etc.. As a bonus, it also handles a variety of networking operations like Ping, Trace Route, WMI Explorer, TCP Connections, DNS Lookup, Time Sync, etc..
Terminals is an open source project that has been quite actively maintained and developed for a number of years. It’s on stable version 2 and can be running on Windows XP, Windows 7, and Windows 8. Both 32-bit and 64-bit editions are supported.
Remote Desktop Connection Manager
Microsoft itself also offers a manager tool called Remote Desktop Connection Manager 2.7 (RDCMan) that helps you manage multiple remote desktop connections. It’s similar to Windows Servers’ built-in MMC Remote Desktop Snap-in but more flexible.
It works on Windows 7, and server version from 2003 and up. For Windows XP, you will need the latest version of RDP client in order to use it.
/update on Nov. 24, 2014/
The RDCMan 2.7, released on Nov. 11, 2014, is a major feature release. New features include – Virtual machine connect-to-console support – Smart groups – Support for credential encryption with certificates – Windows 8 remote action support – Support for Windows 8, Windows 8.1 / Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2
MultiDesk is another simple tab-based remote desktop manager that only manages multiple RDP connections for you. All connections can be managed through a server/group folder structure. It’s free and portable. all configurations and connections are saved in the save folder in an XML file. Since it’s portable, you can easily carry it with you so you can get access to it with all the same information.
We actually have reviewed this tool before. Check it out if you want to know more.
That actually made the no. 4 tools I covered here, instead of 3 I intended, but I guess you wouldn’t mind knowing one more option.
RD Tabs is another tab-based remote desktop manager that not only put Remote Desktop sessions to the tab but also provides extra features such as favorites with advanced editing, command line scripting, connection thumbnails, encrypted passwords, detached connection windows, remote desktop screen capture, remote terminal server information/management, RDP 6.0 support, etc. As one of our lovely commenters, Samuel Davis, states, it’s simple as hell.
/update on Nov. 28, 2014/
mRemoteNG is a fork of mRemote, an open source, tabbed, multi-protocol, remote connections manager. It supports not only RDP protocols but also some of the other popular ones as well, including VNC, ICA, SSH, Telnet, etc. It’s a simple program to use and manage all your remote desktop connections from a central location.
I actually have been using 2x Client for quite a while, not on my main Windows desktop but on my mobile smartphones. I don’t feel its Windows Client offering more compelling features than the ones I mentioned above, but they do have a wide range coverage on other platforms, Linux, Mac, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Chrome App. They even have versions for Windows Embedded Systems.
So if you are looking for one mainly used not on Windows Desktop platform, 2x Client might be the one to go. The user experience on 2x Client is better than Microsoft’s own RDP client on both iOS, Android, and Windows Phones.
I personally have used Terminals for years and absolutely like it. It’s rock solid and has everything I wanted. However, the Remote Desktop Manager looks so promising and so powerful. It can be your powerful weapon to cover all your needs within one consolidated environment.
That doesn’t mean you should overlook the other tools we mentioned in this post. Both Microsoft RDCMan and MultiDesk are simple and just work. If you are the guy who doesn’t always fall in love with an all-in-one kind of tool. These two are probably your answer. Besides, if managing Windows Servers via RDP is all you needed, why you need a tool with a bunch of features you will never use?
As for managing a bunch of connections on a mobile platform, 2x Client is definitely the way to go.
Last updated: 12/22/2015