Remote Access options to control a distant computer

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There are several free options to access one computer from another.  You can see the screen, type and mouse from a remote location, just as if you were in front of the real computer.

  • Access work computer from home computer
  • Use desktop computer from a laptop or tablet
  • Interact with laptop machine from a desktop computer.
  • Take control of another computer (with their permission) for tech support.

Some common uses for remote connections are:

  • Running a special program (say on a work computer) from another location.
  • Making use of a more powerful computer while elsewhere.
    • Some people use this while watching TV with a cheap laptop on the sofa to control the main computer in another room!
  • Accessing a remote computer to download files stored locally on the other computer.
  • Helping someone with a computer problem with remote support connection.

Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection

Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) software lets you control any Windows computer from afar. It comes with any Windows computer and there’s also a Mac client for Apple users.

You may already use Remote Desktop because it’s commonly used by organizations to let staff connect with office computers or virtual machines running on servers.  Some people use it to control other computers within their own home or office.

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The problem with RDC is the setup on the host (computer you want to view/control from afar).  It’s difficult to setup a home computer so you can access it remotely.  More accurately, Microsoft makes it seem easy but in practice there’s complications with multiple firewalls, port settings, dynamic DNS settings for a changing IP etc.

It’s a similar problem with other free remote access offerings like VNC.  They work well but bypassing modern security is difficult.

Some of the paid remote access offerings use VNC, Remote Desktop or similar.  You pay for them wrapping the technology in a simpler setup and configuration.

Happily, there are simple options available which are safe, handle all the setup for you and cost nothing.

Windows 10 for Microsoft Office users has a chapter all about Remote Desktop. How to setup, use plus the traps and pitfalls that aren’t often mentioned.

Chrome Remote Access

Our preference these days in Google Chrome’s Remote Access.    It’s simple, secure and works very well.

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Any Windows, Mac or Linux computer with the Chrome browser installed can be quickly setup to allow access from other devices.  All the hassle about firewalls, ports and IP addresses is handled for you.

It’s quite secure.  The connection is encrypted, naturally. Login to the host machine needs a PIN code to get into the remote connection PLUS the usual password for that computer.

Start in your Chrome browser at https://remotedesktop.google.com/access  that will take you through the setup for that computer.  It will install a Chrome Remote Desktop app.

From another computer or device, start with Chrome logged into the same Google account then go again to https://remotedesktop.google.com/access to connect with the other machine.  The client device can be another Windows, Mac or Linux computer, Chromebook, tablet or smartphone (Apple or Android).

TeamViewer

Teamviewer is a good commercial product which allows free, personal use.

Setup TeamViewer on the host computer, then install client software on another computer. Try it out from https://www.teamviewer.com/

Prepare your computer for isolation or quarantine

Collaborate remotely on documents, spreadsheets and presentations

Ignore Microsoft’s opportunistic marketing, Teams is not for everyone

Starting with Document Collaboration in Word, Excel or PowerPoint

Excel Sheet View solves a collaboration problem

Lock up your Excel worksheet or cells!

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