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Ask the Readers: How Do You Remote Desktop Access Distant Computers?

You’re at a computer at point A, but the computer you want to interact with is at point B, and the only thing connecting you is a series of network switches and cabling. How do you comfortably control the remote computer?

While there are a variety of ways to control a computer from afar, sometimes there’s just no good substitute for accessing the user interface as if you were sitting at the computer–a feat made possibly by remote desktop software. This week we want to hear about both your favorite remote desktop tool and your best tips for getting the most out of a remote desktop session–from banishing lag to improving mouse-cursor tracking, any tips are fair game.

Sound off in the comments below with your remote desktop tips and then check back in on Friday for the What You Said roundup.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 08/29/12

Comments (96)

  1. Joe

    I use DynDNS to keep up with my home’s changing IP address, and use Windows 7/8′s built in remote desktop to access my main computer and server.

  2. Michael

    For both my business customers and family I use LogMeIn for remote access for anything that needs to be done. Works wonders since I am about 2K miles away from the customers I support. While I am trying to get that far away from my family it isn’t working.

    Other options I have used mainly with business customers is standard RDP or in rare cases VNC with forwarded ports for several workstations.

    ~M

  3. r

    Active Directory on Win2008r2,
    Visionapp Remote Desktop,
    TeamViewer,
    SysAid,
    …and a bunch of other things if needed.

  4. Josh Gunderson

    Splashtop into my Windows 7 desktop via my HP Touchpad.

    Also: mstsc /v [name or IP]

  5. NotSteve

    SCCM, VNC, Gotoassist, and Logmein. On the rare occasion, Windows 7′s built in remote assistance.

  6. dima

    My workstation and server: Windows Remote Desktop.
    Tech support for relatives and friends: TeamViewer.

  7. Abraham

    LogMeIn works great for my needs, it’s OS independent just need an updated browser, they even have an app for iOS

  8. Xps

    Exactly the same as dima (#191110). Remote Desktop Connection for my computers, TeamViewer for family and friends at a distance.

  9. hjarrell

    I use ssh from ubuntu.

  10. Michzel Fusion

    Exclusively Logmein. Sometimes Logmein rescue. It just works. Figures it’s own around firewalls.

  11. Mark

    At work – Remote Desktop Connection Manager or RDTabs due to quantity of servers I need to connect to (100+)
    For supporting family & links back to my home PC – LogMeIn. It just works.

  12. Sream

    Mostly prefer TeamViewer, since it’s easy to use and thanks to the user list, I know when the users online are that I need to access.
    Also a good application is the new Remote Desktop inside the Windows 8 Modern UI, quite some special functions and the full-screen interface are putting it to a whole new level (which I don’t get with the free version of TeamViewer).

  13. Nick

    TightVNC on my computer, and androidVNC on my Nexus 7. Just amazing! Takes a little setup cause I had to forward ports through the router and configure both, but worth it the few times I’ve needed it! Otherwise like everyone else says just use RDC between my home computers.

  14. Sean

    When i am at school is use SSH to to login at home. I also tunnel smtp(my school blocks smtp), RDP and other ssh(for the rest of my network) over that one. It’s a simple VPN service.

  15. jeristair

    Teamviewer. Free for personal use, remote desktop connect program. Has a chat function, also calling. Great program, also very helpful for helping someone with a problem someone might have on their computer.

  16. webdev

    TeamViewer! (also on Android)

  17. DeAnn

    LogMeIn Pro 2 for my clients, free for friends and family that need help.

  18. Lee

    Mostly, I use TeamViewer, both when I’m connecting to my desktop or giving remote support. I have also used VNC for computers on a local network, or RDP a few times.

  19. Kottra

    Hamachi, I find it the best.

  20. Paul

    A friend of mine showed me an app called ControlByMail which he used email for remote file access, and to remotely send DOS commands and keystrokes by email. It was perfect because no matter where you were, or which device you had, as long as you had email, you had remote access. Sadly, it seems to have closed up shop, with its site down and nowhere to download it. Anyone know where I can get a copy?

  21. binary

    I use putty to setup my tunnel then use windows RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) to access my router that is set up to port forward to my NAS (Network Access Storage). I have logmein setup as a backup in case any ip’s need to be changed under the DCHP client list.

  22. Atomsk

    I use SSH tunneling with my DD-WRT router to RDP into my home boxes. That way I can just use 127.0.0.1:3391 and it works the same cause the business where i work blocks almost all outgoing ports.

  23. TheFu

    * ssh 99.99999% of the time using keys, not passwords.
    * NX to a FreeNX server the rest of the time – when a GUI is needed.

    VNC and RDP need to be through a VPN or tunnel to be secure.
    FreeNX uses an ssh tunnel automatically and is 2x more efficient than either VNC or RDP methods.

  24. Dan

    Teamviewer, it does everything I need. Best of all, for those “one offs”, a user can run it w/o even doing an install. What could be simpler?

  25. Matthew T

    I use SSH for basic access and an NX server for GUI, because both are extremely fast and secure. A little work to set up, but well worth it in the end.

  26. wbrown

    LogMeIn and teamviewer. both solid and reliable.

  27. Luinox86

    TeamViewer.

    It’s great and with a few settings it becomes a bit faster which is enough for my needs. And secure enough as it has a White List where I put my own account details so the people I connect to are completely safe even if TV is on 24/7.

    Any faster alternative?

  28. spike

    Servers and static workstations, RDP.
    Otherwise, LogMeIn Free (company) or TeamViewer free (personal)
    I also have LogMeIn as backup on a couple servers; if anything breaks, LogMeIn finds it’s own way through firewalls; port forwarding, etc.

  29. Zak

    ssh -Y from Ubuntu of Scientific Linux.

  30. tilius

    Current or new session?

  31. TrinaryOC

    I use LogMeIn and Windows native remote desktop. Both are very solid. I love LogMeIn for the ease of access. My tablet, phone, or any computer. I also use 2X Client for RDP access from my Android devices. Regardless of the method, always connect through a secure VPN.

  32. TrinaryOC

    I should also mention Chrome Remote Desktop. Wonderfully for a one off connection to a client computer, as long as you have someone at the other end.

  33. nonosh

    Teamviewer for off-site access. Windows Remote Desktop for on-site LANs.

  34. benjamin lee

    me using teamviewer to access my freiends netbook located overseass..

  35. Jushilli

    I use TeamViewer or Ammyy to connect to workstations and Remote Desktop Connection Manager v2.2 or Terminals 2.0 for RDP connections to servers

  36. Alex M

    For people who need quick help I use chrome remote desktop, it’s quite laggy, crashes once in a while but lets me get the job done. Otherwise for my xubuntu servers I use ssh to tunnel vnc traffic with just port 22 open on my router

  37. djordje

    No Machine is also great, works over ssh, therefore secure too – just need to open port in your router.

  38. SysAid Technologies

    Thanks “R” for mentioning us :)

    As mentioned we offer a remote desktop access with our “My Desktop” module, which is intergrated in SysAid (an all in one comprehensive ITSM solution).

    For more infomation:
    http://www.sysaid.com/my-desktop.htm

  39. bemymonkey

    DynDNS, non-standard port-forwarding and RDP. Best protocol hands-down… guess I’m lucky I only run Windows ;)

  40. Greg Mac

    I need to remote into many computers, sometimes 6 to 15 at a time. RD Tabs is great because it takes up one window and all of the RD sessions open within tabs. There is a favorites list for easy storing/retrieving of servers. The product is made by Avian

  41. NSDCars5

    TeamViewer.

  42. Bigbird

    I use mRemote – a multi protocol tool that allows me to setup the various connection settings the multitude of servers / machines that I need to access. Mostly using RDP, but I have also used VNC to access my parents PC in the past.

    Sadly it doesn’t help when the issue is with their router :o(

  43. Alex

    I use a variety of protocols to access remote machines: RDP, VNC, RAdmin…
    My morning routine is to check a large number of machines in the minimum possible time.
    To do this I use mRemote. This software is a real time saver as it lets me store the connections’ information and open various connections in tabs. The tabs are well thought, because it has tabs for groups of connections and inside of those tabs are the tabs of the opened connections. To access a machine you just need to double-click the connection in the connections panel and you’re in :)

  44. Hauberk

    Remote Utilities is great. Has free and enterprise editions and can bypass firewalls.

  45. doubleohseven

    We use Bomgar for end user support, and we use RDC for server access.

  46. WhiteRanker

    Hamachi to find them, RDP to connect to them

  47. Techy1984

    I use TeamViewer. I can setup a VPN on the fly or just a simple file transfer.
    Plus they offer a portable version in addition to the web client.

  48. Dda

    Logmein. The free version gets the job done, and I got the iphone app on a sale for a few bucks last year.

  49. midstaffmike

    We use Bomgar to provide remote support to our customers.

  50. Iszi

    RDP is fine for me. Use DynDNS to find the computer, and poke holes in the appropriate router(s) or host-based firewall(s) where needed. For extra tin-foil hattery, set up a VPN.

    To get to someone else’s computer, have them share their desktop via Join.Me – a free service hosted by LogMeIn.

  51. Ashwin Nanjappa

    Remote Desktop between computers within work network.
    TeamViewer for connecting from outside.

  52. thendricks

    I now use TeamViewer. It is fantastic, simple, and effective.

    I have used LogMeIn Free and Pro and found it useful but not as good as TeamViewer.

    I’ve also used Remote Desktop built in to Windows, but again, TeamViewer is just easier to use. Plus, it has a great iPad app that allows me to access my main computer remotely from my iPad.

  53. Snake

    RD Gateway with an SSL cert to remotely access any system in my network.
    Team viewer to my gateway server with RD manager installed as a backup.

  54. Jeremy

    I have to resoundingly repeat Teamviewer. I purchased a busienss license with them and I love it. Would like to upgrade, but just haven’t had the money.

  55. Darryl

    TeamViewer. Have used LogMeIn, Kaseya, and VNC and many more…TeamViewer is the best of the lot by far. I’ve used this since 2006 and it’s never been an issue.

  56. David

    logmein – for personal (free)

    gotomypc – for business (about $100/year)

  57. KC

    LogMeIn, hands down the best!

  58. Rick

    I use Remote Desktop Connection at work for internal servers and workstations, but for computers outside the firewall, such as helping friends and family, I use Teamviewer.

  59. Ron

    Easy..so easy..

    Use TEAMVIEWER !

    I have used it for a long time now .. It is a life saver.

    A breeze to use.. can do a Windows log in remote boot, transfer files, transmit audio and or video and conduct team meetings, presentations, password protection, etc..

    WONDERFUL SOFTWARE and the Teamviewer folks update the software quite often.

    Plus it is all FREE !

    Get it at teamviewer.com

    ENJOY !!

  60. mma173

    TeamViewer

  61. Stefan Wright

    I use TeamViewer for all my support needs. Its free for personal use, and I can also control the pcs in my group from my Galaxy S3. The only downfall is no WOL feature but when I last mentioned it on facebook to Teamviewer they said it has been passed to the development team for reviewing so maybe they will look into it. If anyone else can suggest something free that can keep a log of computers to connect to, and that features WOL i’d look at changing

  62. Al Pope

    We use TeamViewer.

  63. mooseman645

    At the office I use RDP, VNC, cisco vpn for offsite connections, and PUTTY.
    At home I use RDP, VNC, Teamviewer, and PUTTY

  64. scott

    For Work and for accessing my home computers I use VNC.
    To help with lag, I have found if you disable the remote desktop wallpaper can help wonders. especially if it is a very large picture.
    I use TeamViewer to help family members they just download the quick support app and run it. No installation needed by them.

  65. Bart

    I have been using “join.me” for a little bit and it works very well….chrome remote desktop is another good one….finally you can’t go wrong with pc anywhere.

    Others i have used…

    RDP
    Windows Remote Assistant
    goto assist
    MS office communicator share desktop
    webex

  66. Mtech

    I use Logmein and am amazed the free version can be used even for business purposes. I also felt so bad and wanted to pay for the Pro version just out of gratitude but they called me personally from the USA and said why pay when the free version does all you need!

    What a company.

    Teamviewer is great but prohibitive price wise for my humble salary. Also Kudos to Dyndns as our third world country doesn’t offer fixed IP addresses (except at exhorbitant cost)

    Logmein Rocks

    PS: I do have Servers with LMI and RD as a backup back door

  67. Mtech

    PS: Logmein doesn’t care if the free version is used on a server. Try that on Teamviewer, it assumes Server=Business=Must Pay :-(

  68. IgImAx

    Hi All

    I use teamviewer, also test for long time TWD Remote anything and Symantec PC Anyware and Join.me …. but none of them were fast and reliable and easy to use like Teamviewer! Its stable at any type of networks! Dialup and ADSL and … you can use it for Internet or LAN connections. also it will not require your IP address or remote desk to use! it create ID for each system and then u can use it …
    * No need to remember other system IDs! just create and account at TV software very easy and save all IDs inside it then each time one of them get access to internet you will notify! (you can add 43 ID+ Account name at free version)
    * Both users can switch desktop by one click!
    * No need to install it! just choose RUN at setup progress. with less than 4M it will be good for any network speed connection to get it!
    * At new version (7) you have more features like white board and Meeting (Webcam+voice)
    * File transferring
    * Restart remote windows system to Safe mode with network support, great for troubleshooting!
    * Clipboard sharing!
    * Drag and drop files to remote desktop (At v7)
    * Text chat/Voice/Webcam
    * change remote resolution/color deep/disable aero/… from TV above toolbar at remote desktop window
    * Disable input devices at remote or start blank screen at remote If remote TV set to allow these!
    * Use AES 256bit algorithm for secure connections between 2 computers.
    * User at remote computer can take over or setup new setting for control over remote process.
    what can i say more!!?? It’s easy to use and Its secure and more important of all! its free!!!

    Cheers
    IgImAx

  69. Lloyd Kuhnle

    I currently use Windows Live Mesh, but I know that will be going away soon. (to be replaces with Sky Drive) At that time I will be using LogMeIn again. (LogMeIn however I found to be a bit slower)

  70. Rimas

    only Logmein the best remote support – logmein rules

  71. Rekab

    Crossloop Pro

  72. Dietmar

    LogMeIn since it first became available – always reliable!

  73. Daniel

    SSH because I use linux a lot

  74. HEnrique

    I think the variant offered by MS (mstsc) does a very good job since it does not require any new interface, making it easier to control in a known environment.

  75. luv2fish

    Comodo EasyVPN – free for non-commercial use. I use it to log in to an elderly relative’s computer when he needs help.

  76. Johnny D

    TeamViewer

  77. KMFDMKid2000

    Team Viewer for remote assistance, LogMeIn for personal use, because it fits neatly in the browser and I can hide it among all of my open HTG and Make Use Of articles. True story.

  78. Scott

    Like several of the previous posts, I have used LogMein and it was great. Within the past 6 months, I have switched over to exclusively using TeamViewer. It is easy to use both as the individual receiving support and the person providing the support.
    It features a file transfer interface, chat interface, and allows you to save computers for future connections. The only thing I haven’t gottent to work is the VPN feature…presumably something with firewalls.
    The best feature is the QuickSupport/Portable versions that allow me to simply email someone the link and they can run the program (without needing to install or deal with admin permissions). The user provides the id and password and BAM, I’m in. I end up installing the full version onto the computers anyways to make it easier to monitor.
    Also, the second best feature is the FREE app for Android that allows me the same remote control features I enjoy from my desktop for the on the go, urgent situations.
    The small downside, and its still worth using despite, is that becuase I enjoy the free personal version, there is a popup at the end of the connection saying “thanks for using the free version”.
    I have tried using a VNC program as some of my colleagues have recommended but I really havent had much succces implementing it (again probably firewall issues). TeamViewer requires no special configs for routers or firewalls.
    http://www.teamviewer.com/en/index.aspx

  79. jarcmaster

    Ubuntu-Linux: The built in function to remotely view a computer most of the times does the trick over the router and allows to connect to the computer using simple VNC protocol without having to forward ports and that.

    Windows XP-Integrated remote desktop, but has the downside that the standard default port 3389 has to be open on the router, so to help a buddy does not work, but for you is absolutely the best using as another user said dyndns.org, as every windows computer has RDP by default you dont need any software plus you can attach any drive or printer to it.

    Android: There are hundres of apps for remote desktop RDP, VNC and custom made protocols, all of them needs some kind of client running on the equipment thought.

    Other: Join.me is the simplest way to help anybody without programming extra stuff or routers, the other user just needs a browser (any) and click an option, another click to run a program and that’s it, give you the telephone number based access code and boom, plus you get no mouse or keyboard, you need to ask for to the user to answer YES, this gives you a better security against security breaches.

  80. Jasonwuzthere

    I use teamview 90% of the time now. It’s simple, and lightweight. Not having to install it on the other computer is nice. So is being able to access them anytime if you do install it.

  81. Huisie

    When travelling, I use Live Mesh to access my home PC.
    For remote support of family, friends or colleagues:
    - LogMeIn for those less savvy
    - TeamViewer.for those more savvy

  82. pampido

    Team viewer

  83. heaterman

    RDP and Teamviewer corporate!!!

  84. Mol

    VNC for security reasons.

  85. Stuart

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned DameWare by Solarwinds. It’s not free however they used to let you evaluate their product indefinitely (now it’s a two-week trial). It’s great in an AD environment, sometimes I’ll use RDP to get to the server in a remote location and then use DameWare remote control to remote into the machine that I need to access.

  86. Irish_IT

    ThinVNC and an SSH tunnel baby! The only safe way to view remotely no matter where you are.

  87. Gary

    I used TeamViewer… great tool.

  88. Martin

    A mix of Logmein free / Pro and Central.. for work and friends and family. It don’t get much easier.

  89. ARFallaha

    I always use Teamviewer to remote control a computer, and its very good.
    If you have a slow computer connection it allows you to lower the desktop details (resolution, make background blank) to make it faster and to make the cursor steadier. moreover, you can do file transfer sessions and presentation sessions as well.
    BUT I have no idea wether this app is secure or not thats why I do NOT use it if I computer B was a server!

    However, I have always been interested in learning how to use Microsoft built-in applications to remote desktop a computer and hopefully someone well post something about it.

    Thank you HTG

  90. Duke Okil

    If you are need something in-house meaning in a business environment, i would go with Goverlan Remote Control. Thing is that alot of big corps dont like having a cloud solution for remote control. Even though cloud is great for home use.

    Its got encryption, and supports RDP shadowing and Citrix shadowing!. If you are in a citrix environment then you know shadowing is a pain in the rear. Especially if you got multi monitor setups.

  91. Frank

    mstsc.exe

  92. nic

    i’ve tried TeamViewer and very simple to use….

  93. darkprop

    teamviewer for family and friends.

  94. Wendy

    TightVNC for my internal network, LogMeIn for the external machines I support.

  95. DM

    Anybody heard of JOIN.ME its free and easy to use. Its power by logmein and from what i see alot of you like Logmein. Check it out!

  96. RAMAKRISHNAN

    I use AMMYY remotedesktop it is free and easy to use.

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