Ask LH: How Can I Browse Files Remotely?

Ask LH: How Can I Browse Files Remotely?

Dear Lifehacker, When I’m on the road sometimes I need to access files from my computer. I have a remote desktop app, which is handy when i want to do some work from my phone, but is there a service where I can just look through my file tree and download or send a link to the file?Thanks, Away From Home

Dear AFH,

Remote access software is useful, but, as you suggest, sometimes overkill if all you want is access to a single file on a different device. It also assumes that the host machine will be on and connected at all times.

To solve your particular problem, we’d recommend using a file syncing solution such as Dropbox, SkyDrive or Box. All of these services offer apps which let you browse files from multiple client devices. While they will typically sync all files to desktop machines, on mobiles and tablets they only open files on an as-requested basis, letting you browse files and share links with them. That matches your needs fairly precisely, and the basic service is free for all of them.

The one potential disadvantage of this approach? You need to store all your files in the relevant directory, which can be a challenge if the files you require are bigger than your available storage. You can pay for extra storage on all these services, but in practical terms active work files should easily fit into the standard allocation for any of them, unless you work in a very data-intensive industry.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • is awesome with an auto updater if you want live files. You can also set up your dropbox in an existing location (though not under Program Files).

    For myself I run for RDP/VNC access to my home PC/webserver – and dropbox under c:\www\ to keep my most up to date code with me at all times (though there’s some caveats with this)

    • THIS

      I use this from time to time and it’s great! Being able to access all the files through a browser is awesome. Logmein is also good, especially if you don’t actually need to download the file, but it needs a plugin to work whereas SkyDrive will let you access your PC’s files from any modern desktop browser 😀

  • I have same problem. I work with lots of large files and sync them between computers with bitsync. It dOesn’t makes sense to use services like drop box as files are updated frequently (`00s of mbs) and uploading to the cloud would take way too long.

  • I use the free version of Teamviewer. Let’s me remotely control and browse all the files on any of my computers and copy over what I need. The remote controlling is also really quite responsive. I’ve worked a whole day through it. Free iphone and ipad app too.

    I highly recommend it. Its free for personal use.

  • I feel like this is stating the obvious, but here goes anyway: Windows offline folder access.

    Laugh all you want but from w7 onwards it actually works very well, and size is only limited by your storage capacity. Bonus, you don’t need to be online to access your stuff, either.

  • and of course if you are on linux: scp/sftp.

    All you need is ssh access, and you can browse and transfer files from anywhere.

    • Dropbox works on Macs. You can browse Dropbox on Android, though it won’t show a tree as such.

    • Dropbox works on Macs. You can browse Dropbox on Android, though it won’t show a tree as such.

    • Teamviewer! Just like I said above, let’s you browse files and remote control, works between Windows/Mac. Free apps for Android/Windows Phone 8/iOS.

      Not sure about viewing the file structure of android phones though.

      • Team viewer is perfect! Thanks.
        But I find remote desktoping very buggy and won’t connect properly on the phone every time. Guess I’ll still need to keep my gotomypc subscription for that

  • skydrive is awesome.
    you can browse your whole computer if you wish, no need to remote desktop into it either

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