How to access your PC remotely

Monday, June 2, 2008

There are a variety of situations for which remote control of your home PC via the Internet can be helpful. When you're visiting friends far from home, for example, but forgot to transfer the promised vacation photos onto your laptop, gaining access to your PC can be invaluable. Several Windows versions offer remote access through the Remote Desktop function.

But, there are also stand-alone programmes allowing PCs to be controlled from any browser. This latter category includes VNC (Virtual Network Computing Protocol) and the variants based upon on it.

The most recent version of VNC sends a small programme onto the other computer, known as a client or remote computer, which is used to control the home PC. The client's browser then displays a view of the desktop back at home and with it full access to the PC. That said, access via browser is more sluggish than if the VNC software is also installed on the client machine. During installation it must be indicated whether the PC being used is a client or server PC.

For security reasons the access password should be set on the server PC. The user must also ensure that the software will not be blocked by a firewall. Internet service providers generally assign their customers a new IP address for each new online session.

To make remote control possible, a so-called dynamic DNS service must be employed. Many routers come ready-made for services like DynDNS.

The ISP provides the user with a domain name, including information on host, user name, and password, to enter into the router. The base service is generally free. During a comparison of several VNC variants, Munich-based PC Professionell magazine found UltraVNC to be the best. The software is available for Windows and Linux.

The chat options provided by the software as well as the simple exchange of files and folders are calling cards of the cost-free software. CSpace is also available as a no-cost remote software option.

The software must be installed on the Client PC, and only works with Windows and Linux.

It does not offer browser support. Remote control then works without configuration -- even through routers and firewalls and without port forwarding.

One of several cost-free VNC client programmes for Mac OS X is Chicken of the VNC. Microsoft primarily worked its Remote Desktop service, including remote control and remote servicing, into the pro versions of its operating systems. "Where available, Remote Desktop is without question the best choice for remote control of current Windows systems," Hanover-based c't magazine found. It is quick, convenient, and seamlessly integrated into the system.

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