Whether you want quick access to your home computer from anywhere in the world or you're the go-to IT person for your friends and family, remote desktop applications are a godsend. Even better: They're easier than ever to set up. With the right remote desktop tool, you can access your home computer as though you're sitting right in front of it— no matter where you are, no matter what you're doing.
LogMeIn was one of the first popular remote desktop solutions aimed squarely at consumers, offering a quick, no-hassle set up to remotely control your computer from the comfort of any web browser. LogMeIn comes in a variety of flavors, but the two that are designed to satisfy your remote desktop needs are LogMeIn Pro and LogMeIn Free. A Pro account adds more features to the service, including drag-and-drop file transfer, file sync, and meeting tools. LogMeIn Pro isn't exactly cheap, at $US13/month or $US70/year, and while a Pro account offers more features than a free account, many users are still perfectly happy with LogMeIn Free.
TightVNC is a cross-platform, open-source remote desktop application. With TightVNC, you need to set up a VNC server on the computer you wish to access remotely; you can then remotely access that computer from anywhere else with any VNC viewer. We've already detailed how to set up TightVNC on your home computer, and if you'd prefer controlling TightVNC from a web browser to carrying a VNC client with you, you can also control TightVNC from the web.
TeamViewer—like LogMeIn—offers free and paid accounts for remote controlling any PC. Unlike LogMeIn, TeamViewer is free for all non-commercial users. It doesn't offer browser-based remote control, instead using small utilities to connect between computers. TeamViewer is even available as a portable application you can carry around on your thumb drive. Whether you want to set up personal remote computing or you're pull frequent tech support duty, TeamViewer has a lot to offer.
Windows Remote Desktop Connection (Windows)
Windows Remote Desktop—the default remote desktop app that comes bundled with Windows—is still more than enough for most Windows users looking for full-featured remote desktop control. If you've never happened upon the Remote Desktop Connection application buried in the Accessories folder of your Start menu, now might be a good time to try it out. Just be sure you've enabled remote desktop access.
UltraVNC is an open-source, Windows-only remote desktop application. UltraVNC supports a hefty feature set, including text chat, file transfer support, and support for optional plug-ins. Although UltraVNC only runs on Windows, you can still access your computer from any operating system using your web browser.
This week's honorable mentions go out to CrossLoop and mRemote. Whether or not your beloved remote desktop app made the top five, let's hear more about it in the comments.