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USB To Remote Desktop: Definitive Guide

Jun 17, 2021

You will probably agree that it’s often challenging to access usb devices in a remote desktop session. As a workaround, you can try to connect the required peripheral directly to the remote machine or share a USB over the network.

usb to remote desktop

For example, when you work with a thin client which has limited functionality and you need to connect to a more powerful server. In that case, you will access the server machine over RDP and run an application installed there. If this program requires some data provided by your local USB peripheral, it can be quite problematic to redirect it to the app.

In this article, we are going to tell you about an efficient and user-friendly software application for redirecting USBs to a remote desktop with nothing more than a couple of clicks.

Connect USB devices to remote desktop - software method

If you want to connect to a local USB device from a remote desktop, there’s probably no better solution than USB Redirector by Electronic Team, Inc. This dedicated app is designed to redirect USB peripherals over RDP in such a way that they appear on a remote machine like they were physically attached to that computer.

UNG logo

USB Network Gate

4.9 Rank based on 179+ users, Reviews(72)
Download 14-day trial, You can share only 1 local USB-device
 USB for Remote Desktop

USB Network Gate (UNG) allows you to connect usb devices to a remote desktop. To take advantage of the app’s powerful functionality, you should install the utility on both computers: the one that has the device attached (UNG Server) and the one that will connect to it remotely (UNG Client).

USB Network Gate is a convenient tool that combines both Server and Client parts for RDP USB passthrough.

  1. 1
    On your local PC (where you run Microsoft RDP client), you’ll need to use the Server part of the software to share peripherals for redirection over RDP.
  2. 2
    On the remote computer (where the RDP Server component is installed), you should use the Client part of USB Network Gate for creating a remote connection to the shared device.

It’s worth noting that USB Network Gate requires activation. You need to activate the software for using it on the server computer (UNG Server). After that, you will be able to forward the USB device to the remote desktop. As for the Client part, it doesn’t need to be registered. You can install the app and use the Client module on an unlimited number of remote machines and connect to shared devices for free.

So, once you create a connection to a shared peripheral, the device shows up in the Device Manager of the RDP Server and all applications installed on that machine recognize the peripheral as though it were attached locally.

Note: Starting from version 7.x, USB Network Gate supports the ICA protocol, which means you can forward devices from a thin client to the terminal server over ICA.

USB to Remote Desktop software hosts versions for Windows, Linux, and Mac, so any server-client combination is possible. For example, your Windows PC can easily connect to a USB device from Mac or the other way around.

Try USB for Remote Desktop now
14-day free trial

How to connect USB to remote desktop

Here’s how USB redirection over RDP works. Let's consider the process step-by-step:

What you should do on the local PC (terminal server):
Install USB Network Gate and start it.
Find the required USB port/device in the “Local USB devices” tab and click “Share” next to it.
 USB for Remote Desktop
Connect to the remote desktop via Remote Desktop Connection.
Once you are done with the setup, click ‘Finish’. You might have to restart your PC or laptop to see the device.
On the remote client:
Once connected to the remote server via RDP, start USB Network Gate and go to the “Remote devices” tab.
 RDP USB redirection
What’s convenient is that the software will display only those USB devices that are shared on the host computer. Though you’ll still be able to search for USB devices on the network.
Also, you can enable the “RDP auto-connect” option, and all of your connections to devices in the Remote Desktop session will be re-established automatically without the need to start the program GUI.

USB for Remote Desktop software - must-have features

USB over RDP features

Accessing USB devices during Remote Desktop sessions can be quite a challenge for many users. To solve the problem faced by those who can’t utilize their USBs from Remote Desktops, top-of-the-line USB for Remote Desktop solutions must offer:

  1. 1
    A cross-platform solution that works perfectly well on Windows and Linux platforms. USB to Remote Desktop allows you to connect USB equipment to remote desktops over Microsoft RDP and Citrix ICA protocols.
  2. 2
    The utility supports a wide range of USB devices, starting from standard USB flash drives and finishing with USB Wi-Fi adapters, portable thermometers, and gamepads.
  3. 3
    As USB Network Gate is aimed at sharing USB ports rather than devices, it will connect a local USB device to a remote desktop automatically immediately after you connect it to a shared port. In this case, you don't even have to make any additional configuration.
  4. 4
    When dealing with Remote Desktop sessions, you can control access to connected peripheral USB devices by isolating the device. You can grant access to the device using Per-session isolation. This means that a user can freely access the device as long as the RDP session is active.

Try USB redirector RDP software now
14-day free trial

Challenge of USB redirection to Remote Desktop

When it comes to using local USB devices on a remote desktop within small companies and big enterprises, system administrators should always keep track of networks used by employees and devices they try to redirect to a virtual environment.

Many factors should be taken into account before trying to redirect USB to a remote desktop:

  • IT team needs to ensure that the network used for USB forwarding to the remote desktop will handle the requirements of the device that’s going to be shared.

  • Latency, bandwidth, and sporadic reliability can all negatively impact the network’s ability to provide a quality user experience when redirecting USB to a remote desktop.

  • Wide area networks (WANs) can be used to pass through USB to the remote desktop and are especially useful for those workers who have to often change their location. Unfortunately, at times WANs can offer not enough throughput, which means limited access to the functionality of local devices accessed from a virtual desktop.

  • Local area networks (LANs) which are widely used by employees on-premises often work better with RDP USB redirection. With a LAN, the network latency rate can be less than 20 milliseconds, which is rarely possible to achieve with a wide area network.

  • Another factor that is important for network administrators is keeping their VDI software updated. They need to make sure that the operating systems and servers they use can support USB redirector functionality.

What devices can be shared over RDP?

Some USB devices provide better performance when used in a remote desktop session. This should be taken into account by an IT team that configures access to USB devices within an RDP environment.

Note that devices that require substantial resources are not good candidates for USB redirection.

Share any USB device over Remote Desktop
 Printer and scaner
Printer and scaner
USB webcam
 Hard disk drive
Hard disk drive
 Barcode scaner
Barcode scaner

Scanner for remote desktop

For example, scanners fall into this category for their reliance on sequential processes. In some cases, RDP scanner redirection will not be possible or will only work with a limited set of their features.

Implementing Remote Desktop scanning in digital environments such as cloud or terminal servers can be extremely challenging. When Remote Desktop scanner redirection isn’t supported by default, it’s time to introduce a reliable USB to Remote Desktop software.

Software of this kind allows users to freely access USB scanners over RDP with the same degree of functionality as if the device was physically connected to the peripheral machine performing a Remote Desktop session.

Gaming controller over RDP

For those using gamepads to play computer games, and wish to run the gamepad on a stronger workstation/machine, a remote environment permitting access via RDP is needed.

USB to Remote Desktop software gives users the ability to share their gaming controller to remote desktop, and then establish a connection to the preferred gaming host.

Once the connection is made, games will treat the remotely-accessed controller as if it’s plugged directly into the PC hosting the session.

Access 3D mouse in remote desktop

Even today, connecting a 3D mouse to a remote desktop while having full functionality (use of buttons, macros, movements, etc) still poses a challenge. Hundreds of CAD and 3D-modelling professionals can’t utilize 3D mice on remote machines while using the Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol.

These issues occur because certain USB devices with more complex functionality (like a 3D mouse would possess) cannot redirect to remote desktops running Microsoft RDP protocol.

Share webcam over RDP

Today, forwarding a webcam to a remote desktop session is not that uncommon considering that the number of people being transitioned to the remote style of work is getting larger every day. Remote desktop connection is getting widely used to accommodate such a working style, however, it may be quite difficult to establish a connection between a local webcam and an RDP session.Share webcam over RDP.

The main issue with the webcams is that they are not getting recognized by the remote machine. It can be fixed by either tweaking a few settings or redirecting a device with USB to Remote Desktop software.

Inordinate bandwidth consumption is another problem that you may face when trying certain types of devices for USB redirection. This is certainly true of video and audio devices. Redirecting their data can result in slowing down the work of the whole network. These types of devices are not recommended for use with the remote desktop.

External hard drive on remote desktop

Accessing external hard drives via remote desktop connection from a local computer is quite simple. Similar to how copying files via network share works, disk drive redirection (including CD-ROM disk drives, hard disk drives, mapped network disk drives, etc), makes it easy to transfer files from a local host computer to a remote machine.

Run Microsoft Windows Explorer to see files on every redirected disk drive. Another option is to use My Computer to view redirected disk drive content. Drives display as: "drive_letter on terminal_server_client_name" when viewed by both Windows Explorer, and My Computer.

Citrix USB redirection

Generic USB Redirection is a feature that enables the Citrix USB redirection of varying devices from client computers to virtual desktops.

Generic USB Redirection manages request and response communication amongst XenDesktop VMs and client PCs at low levels. As long as the required device drivers are installed on the virtual desktop, one can avoid the hassle that occurs when installing them on client machines.

Using Generic USB Redirection allows users to access and control an array of USB devices through XenDesktop sessions. Users enjoy full control of their USB devices with the same level of functionality that one would experience if the device was plugged directly into the virtual machine.

Thin client USB passthrough

Thin clients use Remote Desktop Protocol, Citrix ICA, or any other communication protocols as a way of connecting to the terminal servers. This allows for remote printing, audio support, serial device support, terminal emulation, and support for USB devices.

Usually, when a USB device is connected to a thin client via a physical port, it becomes immediately accessible during local sessions. However, a thin client USB passthrough can come with few challenges:

  • Lots of USB devices are not suited for redirection over RDP by default. And those that can be redirected, often encounter various compatibility issues.
  • All users working on the same server can access the USB devices redirected from different thin clients.

Incorporating dedicated software for thin client USB redirection is the most convenient way to deal with these challenges.

Linux RDP USB redirection

Poor support or inability to connect complex USB devices (like scanners or webcams with the built-in microphone) over RDP is a typical problem with Linux RDP USB redirection.

Usually, Linux RDP clients are capable of redirecting some generic USB devices among which are printers and USB hard drives. To make this list larger, you can use USB Network Gate to share USB devices over RDP on Linux.

Chrome Remote Desktop USB redirection

Unfortunately, Google Chrome Remote Desktop does not provide a native method for sharing USB devices over Chrome Remote Desktop, which is a great functionality limitation. This issue has been around for years, but still, Google has not offered native support for Chrome Remote Desktop USB redirection.

Fortunately, USB Network Gate solves the problem and enables users to gain full control over USB devices from within Chrome Remote Desktop instances.

Top choice

USB Network Gate

  • Rank 4.9 based on 179+ users
  • Requirements: OS: Windows 7 SP1/8/8.1/10/11; Windows Server 2008 R2/2012/2012 R2/2016/2019/2022
    Architectures: x86, x64, ARM64
    . 9.25MB free space.
  • Version 10.0.2450. (15 Jan, 2022). Release notes