So you're out of the house for the weekend, and you've brought your trusty laptop with you, but you need something from your home machine. Here are a ton of different ways you can get to your home computer from anywhere, whether you just need a few files or full, unfettered access.
Access Your Computer's Screen With Remote Desktop Tools
No matter what you need from your home computer, you can get it by sharing your computer's screen with a remote desktop tool. We've shown you how to do this with TightVNC (and even secure it with Hamachi), though there are a load of great tools out there, from the dead simple TeamViewer to Windows' built-in Remote Desktop tool. If you want access from your phone or tablet, you can use one of our favourite mobile VNC clients as well, like PocketCloud for Android or Screens for iOS. It isn't always the most efficient way to access your computer from afar (say, if you just need to grab one file), but it's easily the most versatile.
Access Your Home Network With A VPN
If you don't need direct access to your computer, but want to act as if your laptop is still connected to your home network, you can do so by creating a VPN with LogMeIn Hamachi. This will let you listen to shared iTunes libraries, access shared folders, or do anything else you could do from inside your network. If you add the free Privoxy application to the mix, you can even use that VPN to secure and encrypt all your web browsing, so no one on that sketchy coffee shop Wi-Fi can see what you're doing. LogMeIn Hamachi is our personal favourite VPN, but there are some other great ones out there, including your guys' favourite, OpenVPN. Of course, Windows has a built-in VPN tool too, for you Windows-only folks.
Stream Media To All Your Devices From Home
If all you're looking for is access to your music and videos, VPNs and VNC can seem like overkill. Instead, you could just use an app like Air Video (for iPhone users), StreamToMe (for Mac and iPhone users), or Plex (for all users) to live convert and stream your videos to your computers and mobile devices. If it's music you want, Audiogalaxy and Subsonic both provide pretty neat services that let you access your tunes from the web or from your phone.
Access Your Important Files On-The-Go
If it's just regular old files you need, there are several ways to do that. While you could, of course, just sync your important files to Dropbox (even if they're outside your Dropbox folder), setting up a file sharing server can give you access to all the files you want, without dealing with Dropbox's size limitations. We're currently fans of the Pogoplug software, which makes sharing your files super easy — though with a bit of work, you can roll your own awesome, drag-and-drop enabled web sharing service, too.
Print, Torrent And More Using Simple Remote Tools
You can get a remote access app designed for nearly any task these days. Apart from the basics above, you can also shut down your Windows computer from anywhere with a simple app, or print documents at home with Google Cloud Print, or, if you're anti-Google, this Dropbox trick for both Windows and Mac.
If it's torrenting you're into, both of our favourite BitTorrent clients for Windows and OS X have remote UIs built-in. With just a bit of setup, you can monitor your torrents, add new ones and even download the resulting files to your laptop or smartphone. You can also add new torrents with Dropbox, though you won't be able to monitor them (if that matters to you).
These are just a few of the things you can do from afar, but they should get you almost anything you need with minimal setup. If you prefer to have your home computer go to sleep while you're away, you can even set up wake-on-LAN to turn it back on from afar. Got any other remote access tricks we didn't mention? Share them with us in the comments below.