Ask LH: What Are The Best Remote Control Software Packages?

Ask LH: What Are The Best Remote Control Software Packages?

Dear Lifehacker, I sometimes need to take control of a client’s PC and remotely install software, but don’t do it enough to warrant getting a full suite like GoToMyPC. What are some good options that work well on both sides? The people I am trying to help often have problems with the difference in right and left click, so I don’t want anything too complicated. Thanks, Total Control

Dear TC,

There are lots of remote control options out there. We’ve been using LogMeIn for a while now and it works well. It’s multi-platform so you can control just about any computer from almost any other device including computers, tablets and smartphones.

We’ve used it to control two-screen systems and it makes it easy to see either or both displays depending on what you need. The free version lets you remote control a system while the paid versions add file transfers, sound and printing.

Another option is Splashtop. Like LogMeIn, it relies on you installing a client app – there are Mac, Windows and Linux versions. You then use a client app – there are versions for just about every device you can think of including Windows RT – to access the desktop.

What we like about both these options is that they offer reasonably secure and simple connectivity without the need to mess around with router or firewall settings.

Both Apple and Microsoft offer remote connection options of their own. Apple’s Back to my Mac works well if you are embedded in the Apple ecosystem and use their routers. It also works with non-Apple network kit but our experience is that you’ll need to modify some port forwarding settings. Back to my Mac is a prettied up version of VNC. So, you can use any VNC client to access a Mac that has Back to my Mac enabled.

Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection lets you remotely control systems that are running Windows XP Professional edition; Windows Vista Business, Ultimate, or Enterprise edition; or Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, or Enterprise edition. If you plan to use it over the Internet then you’ll need to set up port forwarding on your router. Set TCP port 3389 to forward to the computer you wish to control. Check out our Hive Five guide to Five Best Remote Desktop Tools for some other options.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • A good one is Team Viewer — I’ve used it countless times for work. Though the licensing is high for non-personal use.

    • Agreed, Team Viewer is great, and very easy, all the other user has to do is give you their randomly generated ID and password.

      • Team Viewer is great, but it relies on there being a human at the remote computer to grant access. This article is more about the options where that is not the case.

        • Not necessarily true.. Teamviewer has the option to set a static password on the machine you want to remote control and the option to start when windows starts. I use it like this so for example, I want to connect to my PC at home from work. 🙂

        • That’s not at all true. You can connect to a remote computer without interaction at the other end, if you so desire.

    • Another thumbs up for TeamViewer

      I’ve used LoginMeIn, but found TeamViewer much better as it can bypass proxy server and VPN between my home computer and work station

  • Hey Wozza, thanks for the heads up. I am using Team Viewer on a Mac. I just opened it and was offered an update that includes the remote control feature of which you speak. Yaayyyy!
    I normally use Cross Loop which is even easier to use than Team Viewer, particularly for the noob at the other end. I see it also has a remote login feature, albeit through their website.

  • Remote Utilities worked great for me. It’s way more flexible than TeamViewer and LogMeIn.

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