iPhone and iPad

The Best Free Remote Desktop Apps for Your iPad

James Bruce 25-03-2011

<firstimage=”//static.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/ipad-remote-desktop.png” />best remote desktop for ipadIf you’re like me, you often find yourself in the position of official technical support for your family and friends. So you’ll know oh too well the pain of trying to explain something over the phone. The answer to frustrating technical support is to remote control their computer for them, so you can show them exactly what steps to take. But remote desktop control apps aren’t just for technical support though – being able to control your own computers from anywhere there is an internet connection is powerful stuff. Read on to find out my favourite free remote control apps for the iPad, and why you might want to try them too.


Now is also a great time to remind you that we covered a number of iPhone based remote control apps The 7 Best Free Remote Control Apps for the iPhone Read More last year.

Why Would I Want To Remote Control My Computer From My iPad?

  • Support distant friends and family when they have computer problems.
  • Use your iPad as a remote control for your media center computer hooked up to the TV.
  • Download torrents without having to set up complicated web interfaces.
  • Do some quick image editing while out and about.
  • Put a server in the cupboard and manage it from your iPad.

Limitations Of Any Remote Desktop App

When dealing with remote desktop apps, the speed of your Internet connection is the only real limitation, and slower connections will result in higher latency and lower frame rates. For general computing, remote desktop control is generally quite useable – although it depends on the protocol being used.

Bear in mind that no remote desktop app is going to allow you to play graphics intensive games over the remote connection. Minesweeper – yes, Call of Duty – no. If you’re looking for a demo of what might be possible in the future though, I’d suggest you take a look at the OnLive iPad app, which lets you voyeuristically watch streaming live videos of thousands of people currently playing games through their onLive cloud gaming system.

With that in mind, let’s look at the four best apps I’ve chosen today.

Best Overall – Teamviewer HD

Free for non-commercial use, TeamViewer is the de-facto standard for cross-platform remote control, support, and presentations. With a simple 10MB download for Windows, Mac, Linux and iOS, TeamViewer really is as simple as it gets. Run the app, and get a 9-digit access code and 4-digit password. Type those into your app, and in seconds you’ll be connected. No fuss, no settings, no firewall configuration, no registration – it just works.


Here’s a screenshot of the Mac app. On the left is the access code to have someone connect to you, on the right is where you can connect to someone else.

best remote desktop for ipad

The iPad app only allows you to connect to another computer of course – you can’t remote control the iPad (well, not without jailbreaking 4 Compelling Security Reasons Not To Jailbreak Your iPhone or iPad Jailbreaking can get rid of Apple's many restrictions, but before you jailbreak your device it's a good idea to weigh up the benefits and potential drawbacks. Read More anyway).

Once connected, it’ll take a while to get used to the controls. To move the mouse pointer you drag it around, and you can also pinch the screen to zoom in and out. There’s no voice communications, so if you do need to voice chat then you’ll still need Skype or a phone. TeamViewer HD is perfect for quick and easy remote support though, and my personal remote control app of choice for any and every purpose.


Download the iPad, Android, and your OS version app all from teamviewer.com

Best Performance: SplashTop Remote Free (Mac & Windows)

Though the free version is limited to 5 minutes, I had to include this app because of the sheer performance. Basically, SplashTop is fast – fast enough that I was even able to open a streaming video application and watch a video jitter free, with the sound streaming perfectly too. Games are also possible, but not if they use directX.

ipad remote desktop

Honorable Mention For Mac & Linux: MochaVNC Lite

VNC is a standards based protocol for remote connections. It’s incredibly slow, but support is built-in to OsX through the Sharing option. For Windows, you’ll also need a VNC server of some sort, so you may as well go with one of the better options above. MochaVNC Lite packs a lot of features into the free price tag, and managed to find all my devices automatically.


ipad remote desktop

If you’re having problems on OsX, make sure you aren’t using your user password, but a special VNC password that is set via the Preferences -> Sharing -> Screen Sharing pane under Computer Settings:

best remote desktop for ipad

Honorable Mention For Windows: PocketCloud Free

For Windows 7 Remote Desktop connections (learn more about them in our free network manual Everything You Need to Know About Home Networking Setting up a home network is not as hard as you think it is. Read More ), PocketCloud was the most reliable free app I could find. RDP is a remote control protocol developed by Microsoft and used exclusively in Windows, though it doesn’t come with the home edition.


When you log in through RDP, you’ll be logged out on the actual system, which is rather disconcerting. It is however pretty responsive, far more so than a VNC connection would ever be. If you literally just need access to your own Windows desktop, then definitely go with this app. The free version allows you to configure just one device, and you do need to run a helper application as well as log in with a Google account, which may put a lot of people off.

As you can see, there’s a lot of choice when it comes to remote desktop control on your iPad. Personally, I’d go with TeamViewer HD for a universal option and ease of use for both end users, but it really depends upon your needs. No app will be perfect though, because the iPad is fundamentally a touch-screen device, and Windows/OSx aren’t. For more specific remote control uses such as movie streaming or iTunes control, you might want to look at more dedicated apps.

Let us know what you prefer in the comments.

Related topics: Remote Access, Remote Desktop.

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  1. Francis
    March 6, 2020 at 7:54 am

    Yeah, the above apps are good. Additionally, one can also use apps like R-HUB remote support servers for all remote access needs. It is easy to use and works from behind the firewall, hence better security.

  2. Lina
    May 30, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    There is a good app that I am using, however, it makes it possible to stream any media files from your iPad to various devices. What I really appreciate is that it supports many formats + has integration with YouTube.

  3. TomF
    November 24, 2015 at 8:38 am

    We like use another one too - LiteManager for free remote desktop. It's great simple app with fast tools!

    May 30, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    How does RDP iTap feature relative to the others?

  5. d hall
    May 12, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    i'm running a FileMaker Pro 11 Advanced database on my laptop (windows 7) for a music trivia show i do in pubs. the laptop is plugged into the house sound system, so i can't go from table to table with it...so i use a wireless headset for announcements and take in a wireless router, and connect to my laptop using my iPad 2 and TeamViewer...i control the entire show from anywhere in the pub...it's absolutely fantastic! i play clips, update team scores, and even show short video clips...all flawless!

    • James Bruce
      May 12, 2011 at 7:27 pm

      That is the most awesome use of remote desktop software I have *ever* heard of, Thanks D. That must be the coolest pub quiz ever!

  6. Stambaugh S
    May 4, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    I am glad that you bring up in this post that one of the major limiting factors is internet speed. I run on a 3g network with my iPad, and I really cannot wait to upgrade to 4g. The 3g is decent, but to do any real processing or graphics-intensive work remotely still requires that I use desktop-based software with a stronger network connection. For this I prefer proxy networks. -http://www.proxynetworks.com

  7. Badlogickiller
    April 27, 2011 at 10:00 am

    For 5 minutes, your grandma's cane can support an elephant. Use it for an hour at least before you recommend an app! :)

    • James Bruce
      April 27, 2011 at 10:06 am

      I specified it only works for 5 minutes, and I said why I wanted to include it. You are free to make your own decision as to whether it is suitable for you or not, thats why there arealternatives there too. I stand by my recommendation, and I pruchased the full version becuase of it's performance.

  8. jess
    April 22, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    TeamViewer works great. Use it on IPhone and IPad for a desktop and a laptop.

  9. Vivek Parmar
    March 25, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    Already used teamviewer on my PC, not on iPad. Other than teamviewer all of them are new to me. thanks a lot for sharing others also