Remote desktop file transfer: easy methods and tips

| By:
Katarina Palacios

Remote desktop file transfer has become a linchpin in the IT world, enabling teams to quickly and securely exchange vital data across different locations. 

For IT teams managing vast infrastructures and resources, the ability to instantly transfer files to remote desktops and transfer files from remote desktop to local systems isn't just about convenience—it's about maintaining operational efficiency, ensuring timely decision-making, and fortifying data security.

As technology continues to evolve and remote work becomes a mainstay, mastering the ins and outs of file transferring isn’t just recommended—it's indispensable.

Why remote desktop file transfer is necessary

Remote desktop applications are pivotal mechanisms that substantially augment team operations. The immediacy of transferring files from a remote desktop to a local one allows for real-time access to crucial data, faster issue remediation, and better customer service. 

This efficiency is especially vital for global organizations or teams who have adopted a remote work model. No matter where an end user is located, remote desktop software can expedite decision-making and enable smoother workflows.

Even in traditional settings where in-person interactions dominate, there are inevitable moments when team members are away from the office. The ability to transfer files to and from remote desktops keeps remote workforces tethered to vital resources, even when physically distant.

A successful remote desktop file transfer process should reflect the below traits:

  • Efficiency: Meeting the digital age's demands for fast operations is vital. The speed of your file transfers should be quick and consistent to avoid creating too much downtime for the end user. 
  • Security: Encrypted transfers maintain data integrity and help ward off unsanctioned access. Security is paramount in this process, as remote transfer opens up new vectors of exposure for files.
  • Intuitiveness: The process must be user-friendly, allowing even the least tech-savvy individual to transfer files without hurdles. Because remote teams may be isolated, simplicity is key to avoid a backlog of support requests.
  • Versatility: Users should have the flexibility to connect across diverse devices, such Microsoft Windows, Mac, Linux, or mobile platforms, to enable universal connectivity. Support should also extend across browsers, including Firefox, Safari, and Chrome.

In essence, as the technological landscape and work paradigms evolve, remote desktop file transfer becomes more than a tool. It becomes an indispensable conduit, ensuring data and resources can flow seamlessly across teams.

If you're interested in learning more about the benefits of and capabilities of remote desktop software, download our feature sheet: 10 Reasons You Need a Reliable Remote Control Tool.

The typical remote desktop file transfer process

Wondering how to transfer files to remote desktops? Learning how to efficiently transfer files to and from remote desktops is more than a basic task for IT teams. It’s about mastering a process and employing advanced techniques to enhance security and efficiency.

Here are some general steps to get started with a file transfer:

  1. Setup and configuration: Ensure that each host system has remote desktop enabled before initiating any file transfer. This might involve navigating to system settings and granting permissions for remote connections.
  2. Establishing connection: Using a remote desktop client, enter the necessary credentials of the host system for any connection—typically the IP address and username. A password is often required to secure the connection.
  3. Accessing resources: Users are generally able to access various local resources of the client system once they establish any connection. This may involve navigating to settings within the remote desktop client and enabling access to specific drives or folders.
  4. Transferring files: With access permissions set, you can easily transfer files from a remote desktop to local during any session. Alternatively, some platforms might offer specific “move” or “transfer” functions for those seeking guidance on transferring files from remote desktops.
  5. Disconnecting: Once any transfer is complete, properly disconnect the remote session to maintain the safety and integrity of both systems.

What are the flaws in this process? 

The remote desktop file transfer process, while seemingly direct and efficient, does have roadblocks and challenges. Let's delve deeper into these potential hitches to better understand their implications.

Platform limitations

Different operating systems and software versions come with their unique set of functionalities. Basic or home editions of some platforms may not support the ability to transfer files to a remote desktop natively. This limitation compels users, especially professionals or businesses, to invest in higher-tiered versions such as professional or enterprise editions, adding costs and sometimes a learning curve due to varied interfaces and features.

Network restrictions

Connectivity forms the backbone of any remote desktop operation. However, ISPs or corporate network setups might implement cybersecurity measures that block or limit certain ports crucial for remote desktop protocols (RDPs). These restrictions can impede seamless file transfers, forcing users to find workarounds, use virtual private networks (VPNs) vs. a remote desktop solution, or liaise with network administrators to enable the required connectivity.

Speed limitations

While remote desktop platforms offer the convenience of accessing another system as if it's your own, the transfer speeds might not always be optimal. Especially when dealing with sizable files or bulk data, remote desktop file transfers can lag behind other dedicated file transfer methods, such as file transfer protocol (FTP) or secure file transfer protocol (SFTP). This could mean longer waiting times and potential disruptions in workflows, especially in time-sensitive tasks.

Security concerns

The very nature of remote access implies potential vulnerabilities. Unprotected or weakly protected remote desktop sessions can become prime targets for cyberattacks. These breaches might not just compromise the file being transferred but also provide intruders with access to sensitive system data. You can safeguard against unauthorized access and potential cyberthreats by ensuring encrypted connections, using robust and unique passwords, and implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA).

Usability issues

While most generic remote desktop tools aim to cater to a broad audience, this approach often leads to a sacrifice in specialized functionalities. Users might find these tools lacking in features that are crucial for their specific transfer needs, forcing them to resort to third-party software or additional plugins. On the other hand, IT teams can address these niche requirements with tools designed specifically for remote desktop file transfers, but they might come with their own set of limitations.

Clipboard restrictions

One of the handy features in remote desktop operations is clipboard sharing, enabling users to effortlessly copy on one system and paste on another. However, depending on the tool or software settings, clipboard sharing might be inconsistent or even unavailable. This lack of fluidity can hinder quick data transfers and impede tasks that rely heavily on copying and pasting between systems.

Solutions to support remote desktop file transfer 

While remote desktop file transfer has become a vital part of many organizations, not all remote desktop solutions are created equal. When seeking out a remote desktop tool, look for software with advanced features like role-based security, customer consent options, and session activity logging.

ConnectWise ScreenConnect is a best-in-class remote desktop and access software designed to deliver fast, flexible, and secure support anytime, anywhere. ScreenConnect session traffic is automatically encrypted with AES-256 block encryption, adding an extra layer of protection to help keep your file transfers and endpoints safe and secure.  

Start your free 14-day ScreenConnect trial to start delivering superior customer support today—no credit card required.


Protocols like the remote desktop protocol (RDP) and secure file transfer protocol (SFTP) allow file transfers to and from a remote desktop. Microsoft's remote desktop services frequently use RDP, allowing file transfers via the remote desktop connection application. SFTP offers a secure alternative for file transfers.

You can automate or schedule file transfers to and from a remote desktop using the "scp" command along with tools like "cron." The scp command works in conjunction with Secure Shell (SSH) for secure transfers. You can further automate these transfers by using a Bash script with input parameters.

The maximum file size for copying and pasting via remote desktop (RDP) is 2 gigabytes (GB). If you want to transfer larger files, you'll need to enable drive syncing. It's important to note that RDP is primarily designed for screen data transfer, which can slow down file transfers. If the computers are on different networks, you'll need to set up port forwarding or a VPN for RDP transfers.

To accelerate file transfers between your computer and a remote desktop, use specialized transfer tools, maintain a high-speed network connection, and compress files before transfer. Many remote desktop applications offer drag-and-drop features for convenience. Keeping your remote desktop software updated and using reliable third-party solutions can also enhance transfer speeds.