Most hosted desktops can be accessed via the Internet from most kinds of computing devices, including Windows, Apple, and Linux PCs, Android and iOS mobile devices, and thin clients. Not all hosting companies support all of these devices. The methods that users use to access their hosted desktops can also differ from one hosting company to another, as well as from one operating system or device to another.
In this article, we’re going to describe some of these different methods of connecting to hosted desktops in general terms, in order to give people that have never used a hosted desktop before—and that don’t have the time for a live demo—an idea of how they’re accessed.
Most users access their hosted desktops via a client (which is a lightweight application that allows users to connect to and utilize server-based assets), a web browser, or some combination of the two. These methods are all extremely easy to perform, even for novices; rely on free software; and take 1-3 minutes to set up at most.
Remote Desktop Clients: Remote Desktop Connection and Citrix Receiver
Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection is a client used by many, if not most, hosted desktop users. It comes preinstalled with all of the most recent versions of Windows, including Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10. There are also free versions of Remote Desktop Connection available for download for OS X, iOS, and Android.
To connect to a hosted desktop with Remote Desktop Connection for the first time, you usually just have to enter your hosted desktop’s address and your username and password (info that you should have received in your welcome email) into the appropriate fields and then click to connect. You can set up the client to remember these values for you, so that the next time you connect to your hosted desktop you just have to select an icon or an option in the app instead of having to re-input the address and your credentials each time.
Another client used by a lot of hosted desktop users is Citrix Receiver. Receiver is available for free for the Windows, OS X, iOS, Android, Linux, and Chrome OS platforms. If you’re on a Windows or Linux PC, you can download it from the Citrix website here; it may also be available for download from your hosting provider’s website. If you’re on a Mac PC, a Chromebook, or an iOS or Android mobile device, you should be able to download Receiver from your respective app store.
To connect to a hosted desktop with Citrix Receiver, you first have to create an account in the application by providing an account name and your hosted desktop’s address, and then log in to the desktop with your username and password. As with Remote Desktop Connection, Citrix Receiver will remember this info so that you can connect to your hosted desktop with just a click or two after the first login.
Other Remote Desktop Clients
There are other remote desktop connection clients out there besides Microsoft’s and Citrix’s—here’s a list of them.
Most hosting companies that recommend using a client to access your hosted desktops will tell you which client to use. Unless you know a lot about remote desktop connection software, you should follow your hosting company’s instructions here, because not all clients are compatible with all hosting providers’ desktops. Citrix Receiver, for example, will only work when the hosting provider uses Citrix software to create and manage its hosted desktops.
There are also a few hosting companies that offer their own, custom-developed hosted desktop connection clients.
To connect to a hosted desktop via a web browser, you usually have to navigate to a designated login page and then input your credentials. Your hosted desktop will then be launched in new window. You may or may not have to download additional applications or plugins to be able to access your desktop via a web browser; it depends on the provider.
Some providers require you to download and install the aforementioned Citrix Receiver, for example, though instead of connecting via the standalone client, you’ll connect via your browser, and the Receiver will operate in the background as a browser plugin.