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USB over RDP: Definitive Guide

Editorial Team Editorial Team
Jun 13, 2023

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

Let’s talk about the USB Redirector app for redirecting USBs to a remote desktop in a couple of clicks.

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usb to remote desktop

USB over RDP software guide

If you want to connect to a local USB device from a remote desktop, there’s probably no better solution than USB Network Gate 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.

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USB Network Gate
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Try for Free 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.

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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.
 install usb network gate
Find the required USB port/device in the “Local USB devices” tab and click “Share” next to it.
 Select USB device
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.
 Share USB device
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 over RDP software benefits

USB over RDP

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.

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14-day free trial

The challenge of RDP USB passthrough

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.

USB Redirection (or Universal Serial Bus redirection) is a technology that allows an end-user to connect external devices to a USB port on one computer (known as the “server” computer) and let them access the device either from an application, or a remote desktop (known as the “client” computer).

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

A software solution for USB over RDP Mac support

USB Network Gate is a professional software application that makes it possible to securely connect to any USB device from a Mac running an RDP client.

All major operating systems are supported by this USB over RDP solution. USN Network Gate lets you mix and match clients and servers running the Windows, macOS, or Linux OS. USB devices can be freely shared among computers running different supported operating systems.

mac remote desktop share usb

Use the following steps to share a physically connected USB device with a Remote Desktop session running on your Mac.

  1. Download and install USB Network Gate on your Mac.

  2. Start USB Network Gate on the Mac and navigate to the Local USB Devices tab. A list will be displayed showing you the devices that are physically attached to the computer. Select the device that will be made available to RDP sessions by clicking the Share button next to its name.

  3. Next, install the RDP client for Mac - xfreerdp. It is a prerequisite to install the home-brew installation app before proceeding. Then execute the following command:

    brew install freerdp.

  4. When the installation is complete, launch the macOS Terminal application and run this command:

    xfreerdp --plugin usb4rdp <remote address="">

    parameter with the <remote address=""> remote server’s IP address/domain name/computer name.

    The previous command starts the xfreerdp RDP client and the plugin from the Electronic Team. This enables the user with the RDP session to use the functionality of USB Network Gate.

  5. You can use the following command to load additional plugins available for freeRDP.

    xfreerdp --plugin cliprdr --plugin usb4rdp xxx.xx.xx.xx

    This command launches the RDP client xfreerdp along with the cliprdr and usb4rdp plugins. This allows you to synchronize the clipboard data between the terminal server and the client.

  6. Start xfreerdp with the following options if you plan to share an audio device over RDP.

    xfreerdp --plugin usb4rdp -0 -o server

    This command uses the functionality of USB Network Gate to redirect the audio device instead of the native capabilities of the RDP client.

Important notes:

  • The usb4rdp plugin available from Electronic Team is compatible with version 1.0+ of xfreerdp.
  • On Macs running OS X versions 10.8 or newer, the latest edition of XQuartz should also be installed.
  • The encryption, authorization, and compression options are not available when using USB devices in an RDP session on a Mac.

Frequently Asked Questions about USB over RDP Connections

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 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.

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.

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.

USB Network Gate
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