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Remote Smart Card Reader access - Extended tutorial

Olga Weis Olga Weis Aug 18, 2020

This post is all about remote Smart Card Readers access. Today you’ll learn all you need to know about remote smart card readers, network card readers, VirtualBox card reader, and how to access a smart card reader over LAN.

1. Smart card reader over RDP
1.1. Pros and Cons of the solution
2. How to get access to smart card over network (LAN/WAN/IP)
3. SCR in virtual machine
   3.1. VirtualBox
   3.2. VMware

It’s not unusual for multiple machines to - simultaneously- require access to content stored on a singular device. This is especially true in a business environment where massive loads of data are shared daily between numerous users.

In this article, we explain techniques for sharing smart card reader over network.

We’ll help you solve issues like your smart card reader not working, and how to use smart card reader remote desktop options. As well as remote desktop smart card reader (AKA smart card reader over RDP) and smart card over LAN tips.

Smart Card Readers access

One of the most frequently asked questions has to do with how to access smart card readers via remote desktop. Time to dive in and learn all about remote desktop smart cards and more!

Sharing A Smart Card Reader Over RDP Sessions

Establishing a smart card connection over RDP isn’t possible. Unfortunately, when users connect via an RDP, the session is redirected to a client machine, thus making the RDSH-connected card reader invisible. Using a smart card reader over LAN is an issue that many users seek solutions for.

Don’t worry though, because USB Network Gate was developed to solve your remote desktop card reading struggles.

USB Network Gate

Most often, connecting to RDP sessions result in any USB devices plugged into your computer becoming inaccessible.

No sweat, here’s exactly how you can access your USB devices over RDP:

   1. Start by installing USB Network Gate on your server and client computer.

Note: Server Computer = The “local” computer physically connected to the USB Device
Client Computer = The “remote” computer you want to use remotely to access the USB device

   2. Once installed on the “server/local” machine, set USB Network Gate to share USB devices to the RDP session.

   3. Similarly, once USB Network Gate is installed on the “client/remote” machine, set-up the client computer to access any USB devices that you specified to share over the RDP session.

The Advantages & Disadvantages Of USB Network Gate


  • Access USB devices Over Remote Desktop Sessions
  • Easy To Use
  • Awesome Customer & Tech Support
  • Cross-platform Compatibility (Windows, Mac and Linux Can All Talk To Each Other)


  • Not Free To Use

While you do have to pay for USB Network Gate for long-term use, a FREE 14-day trial is available.

How To Access Smart Card Reader Over Network

Now you know how to access smart card reader in RDP, let’s talk about Smart card reader over Network (LAN/WAN, etc).

Freely enjoy the full-range functionality of your USB devices remotely! USB Network Gate not only allows you to access a network card reader from an RDP, but it’ll work with your remote Smart Card Reader over network. So, here the steps you need to do.

Part 1:

Download USB Network Gate here.

  • Once installed, configure USB Network Gate using the following steps:
  1. Install and run on the server computer (the computer your smart card is physically connected to)

  2. Install and run on the client computer (the computer accessing the smart card remotely)

  3. After installation is completed, two tabs are displayed in the USB Network Gate application.

  4. As soon as set-up is established on both machines, start sharing your local smart card!

Note: If a port change is required, you can either encipher a data transfer, or add encryption to your connection. From there, just press the “gearwheel” icon beside the “share” option.

Part 2:

If you access smart card readers over the internet, an external IP address is required.

  1. Navigate to the “Share Local USB Devices” tab.
  2. Locate your USB device in the list.
  3. Select “Share”.

After clicking “Share”, your network smart card becomes accessible to the remote desktop session sharing the network.

Smart Card Reader in virtual machine

Not only can you access remote smart card readers over network connections like Ethernet or Internet. A virtual machine’s USB ports are limited. But, if you’re out of free ports, USB Network Gate lets you use a host computer’s USB ports instead. So no more trying to decide which USBs take priority over others.

Smart card readers are classified as a USB device by virtual machines. USB Network Gate also permits smart card USB device access using a virtual machine.

Follow The Steps Below:

  1. Download and install the Windows/Linux version of USB Network Gate on the server (physical/local) computer
  2. Download and install the Windows/Linux version of USB Network Gate on the client (remote/virtual machine) computer
  3. Enable sharing from the server computer
  4. On the client computer, connect to the shared device
  5. Ensure you’ve established connection between the local and virtual machine

A shared USB device should appear in your virtual machine’s “Device Manager” tab. Now, accessing your USB device from your virtual machine feels like it's plugged physically into the remote computer you're working from.

VirtualBox Smart Card Reader access

A situation may arise where your VirtualBox virtual machine can’t recognize your smart card’s certificates. Not to worry, because there is a solution.

VirtualBox Smart Card Reader

The steps below explain how you can configure your smart card reader to work with VirtualBox USB card reader on Windows 10:

  1. Disable/ Turn Off Your Virtual Machine (VM)

  2. Assure your smart card reader is connected

  3. Navigate to your VM’s VirtualBox “Settings” tab

  4. Go To: “Ports”

  5. Then Go To: “USB”

  6. Confirm “Enable USB Controller” box is checked

  7. Located to the right-hand side of the “USB Device Filters”, click the USB icon with the “+” beside it. (A list should then pop-up with all “attached devices” on it)

  8. Find your smart card reader in the list

    Add a new USB filter (default configurations are okay, so leave them as is)

  9. Once you hit “OK”, the card reader is added to the USB device filters list

  10. Close the “Settings” tab

  11. Turn your VM back on

  12. Navigate to “Windows Device Manager”. You should now see entries for “smart card readers” and “smart cards” listed

    Note: Smart cards should NOT be in the “Universal Serial Bus Controllers” list.

  13. Click the “expand” icon for the “Smart card readers” node

  14. Right-click the node, itself

  15. In the context menu: select “update driver”

  16. Follow the prompts for updating driver(s)

  17. Once fully updated, your specific smart card will appear in the “Windows Device Manager” list in place of a generic entry

***Repeat steps 15 through 19 using the “Smart cards” node instead of the “Smart card readers” node***

  1. Open the certificates doc again and enter a digital signature. Now the PDF reader should reflect the certificates relevant to your smart card.

  2. Select the appropriate certificate from the list

  3. Once prompted, enter your smart card’s PIN number

  4. Save as a “new document”

VMware smart card reader access - native solution

It’s possible to select smart card readers from a VMs “Removable Devices” menu. Smart cards are sharable with a virtual machine, or between a host computer and one (or more) virtual machines. This sharing capability is enabled by default.

VMware smart card reader

In “Workstation Pro”, your smart card reader will display as two seperate USB devices once plugged in. Smart cards can run in two mutually exclusive modes, so that’s why it will appear as two devices.

Smart Cards: Shared Mode

(Recommended) In the “Removable Disks” menu, your available smart card device is shared as “smart_card_reader_model”.

After connecting to a virtual machine, a shared reader displays as “USB Smart Card Reader” on a Windows XP “Guest” operating system.

Guest versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7 will see their smart card reader in their “Windows Device Manager”. The smart card is sharable with applications on both host machines and different guest operating systems.

Smart Cards: USB Passthrough Mode

As before: in the “Removable Disks” menu, your available smart card device is shared as “smart_card_reader_model”. Unlike before, USB Passthrough mode allows a single virtual machine direct control of a physical smart card reader.

You can’t use a USB Passthrough smart card with applications on host computers or other virtual machines. USB Passthrough mode should only be used if your specific scenario makes connections using “Shared” mode ineffective.

There’s a chance that you’ll have to install the manufacturer’s provided driver if you want to use USB Passthrough mode.

Smart cards are compatible with all Windows operating systems, as well as most distributions of Linux.

If you use a Windows virtual machine that runs a Linux host, VMware provides complete support for smart cards.

Smart cards on Linux OS usually require 3rd-Party software for domain authentication; as well as secure communication capabilities.

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