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Remotely Control Somebody’s Desktop the Easy Way

We’ve all gotten the call from some family member asking why their computer isn’t working properly. After an hour of troubleshooting over the phone with them or trying to get remote assistance to work we’ve decided we’re skipping the next family reunion to avoid being asked to help… there has to be a better way…

There is, and it’s called Crossloop – a completely free screen sharing software that’s extremely simple to use and very secure… since it’s not enabled all the time. I’d advise installing this on their computer even before they have problems so you’ll be prepared.

Yes, It’s Really This Simple

Tell the person that you are trying to help to open the application and select the Host tab. They’ll need to give you the access code and then click the Connect button.

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Type in the access code on your copy’s Join tab, and then click Connect. Note that the spaces are only for readability and not necessary.

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They’ll get a dialog telling them that you want to control their computer, tell them to hit Yes.

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The first time they run the app, they’ll need to click the Unblock button (unless you’ve already installed and configured it for them)

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Now you are controlling their desktop, and you can tell them to get lost while you delete the 389 browser search toolbars they installed.

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This application will work even if you have a firewall, and uses an encrypted connection. You can read more information about how it actually works.

Also Good to Know

You can click the little folder icon on the CrossLoop window to send files from one computer to the other.

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If you are having speed issues, you can tone down the amount of colors being shown, which should dramatically speed up the connection. Right-click on the CrossLoop window title bar and then choose Connection options:

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You can select the checkbox for “Restrict pixels to 8-bit (for slow networks)” which will make the picture really ugly, but you can breeze around and get things done. I’d only use this if you are having issues, but it’s good to know it’s there.

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After you end the first session you’ll get a dialog asking you to rate your session and provide feedback. If you complete it then it’ll go away.

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Overall this is a great application for doing remote help, much easier than driving to your family member’s house and listening to their stories about mowing the lawn in the snow while walking 20 miles to school…

Thanks to our forum moderator Scott for pointing out this app to me.

Download CrossLoop from crossloop.com

Note: If you have problems with Windows Vista as a Host, a workaround is to disable UAC prompting while still leaving UAC enabled.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 11/12/07

Comments (78)

  1. jsanderz

    Wow, I have used many Remote control applications and they have not worked as easy as this.
    I would love to do this from work but I am not allowed, shame.
    Has anyone else tried Crossloop?
    Regards.

  2. GT

    Thanks for another tool I can add to my arsenal.
    I like to use Teamviewer. It allows you to run it with or without installation and is pretty similar to the Crossloop you just mentioned.

    http://www.teamviewer.com/index.aspx

  3. Daniel Spiewak

    Another option is LogMeIn, which usually works pretty well. In fact, LogMeIn is used for a lot of corporate technical support. It’s not TightVNC-based though, unlike CrossLoop, so it’s performance probably isn’t as good.

  4. Lisaweb

    Thank you soo much for this! You sure called it right about Remote Assistance – forget about ever getting it to work! You were right about all the browser toolbars, too. Shoot, you were even right about wanting to skip the family reunion, cause you just know you are going to get accosted. *sigh* It’s not easy being a Geek. So thanks for making it easier! *leaves to download CrossLoop*

  5. Toby Adams

    would be nice if there was an easier distribution method. but its only a matter of time i suppose, its a bit more economical than log-me-in rescue!!!!!

  6. Scott

    Yes, I use this program all the time, especially with the ‘Dad’s’ (mine and the Father-in-law). It works flawlessly.

    As the Geek mentioned, you may want to get this downloaded to your client before there are actual problems.

    Neat Nebula skin too.

  7. mysticgeek

    I like the simple UI on this for the end user. Just remember … you help one relative once … you’re then helping ALL of them constantly.

  8. Lisaweb

    “Just remember … you help one relative once … you’re then helping ALL of them constantly.”

    Ain’t that the truth! lol

  9. Robert

    Good tool, but why do developers make their programs overcomplicated? Take a look at the Connection Options dialog – the example of worst design. Why I need to know what encoding should I use? CoRRE, Zlib, Tight, Raw… – what do the acronyms mean?
    Guys, keep it simple. Just a combobox with 3 (not more!!!) options enough.

    I would prefer http://www.techinline.com service that is simple as 1,2,3.

  10. MJ

    GoToAssist is probably the best (paid) method to address the issue of distribution, and feature set. There is a version that is a much more user-friendly experience from the perspective of the relative, so helping those mobs of friends and relatives is much simpler. In fact, you could probably start a small tech-business if you have the audacity to charge relatives for your time.

    However, on an infrequent and ad-hoc basis, I think CL is probably a good solution.

  11. Mrinal

    A BIIIG thanks from a small team at CrossLoop! We are small so this means a lot to us and I couldnt have imagined a better more detailed write up.

    Something that might be useful in terms of getting your contacts to download it by themselves before you start helping them is our little screen cast that you can share with them:
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=5CycDlbOzAE
    Finally, an alternative to change the color quality is by just clicking the gear box icon on the UI. From the Drop down, you can change it from low or high quality from the Auto selection done by the software based on yourm connection: http://crossloop.typepad.com/bringing_people_closer/2007/10/crossloop-114.html

  12. Alan

    I’ve tried Crossloop and it can be very slow. I have best results with ShowMyPC.com.

  13. The Geek

    @Robert:

    That connections options dialog is actually from TightVNC, not CrossLoop, and as Mrinal noted there’s actually an easier way to change the quality using the gear icon (I really should have mentioned that).

    The reason I wanted to show the connections dialog is so that you can see there’s all the power of VNC behind the product… loads of options to choose from if you need to.

    The reason I haven’t featured some of the other products mentioned is because they aren’t free. We like free software here, and open source is even better when possible…

  14. Troy

    I have used copilot.com for the past few months. I found out about it here on LH. It is a paid (time-based) product that works extremely well. The end user downloads a small program and enters the access code much like this. I’m surprised nobody mentioned it yet.

  15. Aric

    Even though GoToMyPC costs $20/mo, it is the rolls royce of remote access. Simple, reliable, and always within a few keystrokes. Plus I can transfer log files back and forth!

  16. Robert

    @The Geek
    BTW, are you aware of the problem with Vista UAC prompts that CrossLoop has? It simply terminates the session when a UAC prompt appears. I experienced the problem with CrossLoop and think it is due to VNC roots. VNC has BIG problems with Vista due to it’s architecture. Hmm… or rather Vista has BIG problems with VNC due to it’s architecture :).

    Please bear in mind that free does not not always mean good. I like CrossLoop, it looks really great, but it is not suitable for professional usage. When you need a reliable, fast and simple tool to support your customers, you have to pay.

    Products like LogmeIn Rescue/GotoAssist/Techinline/etc. are for professional usage that’s why they aren’t free. I would recommend you to have a look at Techinline – the guys made a really good service. And their code isn’t based on VNC, but is built from zero.

  17. The Geek

    @Robert

    I didn’t personally encounter that problem, but then UAC prompts were disabled on the Vista box I was testing it on. I would assume you can just run it in administrator mode on the remote box… will have to do some testing. Sadly it’s difficult to test every single scenario.

    I agree that a professional product is usually going to be better… but that’s the whole point, not everybody is a professional and wants to spend money on a product they might only use sometimes.

    Hopefully the CrossLoop guys are still reading this thread and can answer your UAC question before I figure it out.

  18. Andrew Wells

    I wish I would have known about that a couple of months ago. I already wrote up a customized version of ShowMyPC for my computer support clients.

  19. Paul

    I find that logmein is far superior to any vnc variant – as it performs much better – especially over slower connections. Works with Vista – no issues. Only downside is that if you are using logmein “free” version then you need to have the/a valid username/password for the machine that you want to remote control. I usally talk the other person through installing logmein free in under 5 mins. I use logmein free for personal (family) and business clients. BTW I used to use VNC and variants of VNC before I found logmein, might still have a place for Apple Mac/Linux and Windows 2000 where you want to access the real console and not a new login instance.

  20. Mike

    How about just installing gOS on their computers and never having to deal with techsupporting your family again?
    Plus, with it being Linux, you could use SSH and NX (MILES faster than VNC, give it a try!) if you ever had to do something for them, secure and safe to leave open all day long. Oh and throw a little port knocking, DenyHosts, and move the default port 22 to something else and you have a fairly hard system that uses keys rather than passwords. Crack a 2048 bit key in less than a year? Not even with a Cray.

  21. sam192

    That is what i was looking for :)

  22. Mrinal

    @ Robert, @ The Geek – here is what I got from our tech folks:

    “User Account Control (UAC) is a feature in Windows that can help prevent unauthorized changes to your computer. UAC does this by asking you for permission or an administrator password before performing actions that could potentially affect your computer’s operation or that change settings that affect other users. When you see a UAC message, read it carefully, and then make sure the name of the action or program that’s about to start is one that you intended to start.

    Unfortunately, this message and request for approval displays even if you are logged in as a user with Admin rights. When this message is displayed Crossloop is immediately disconnected.

    A workaround for this problem is to turn off User Account Control when using Crossloop. To do this go to; Start button/Settings/Control Panel/User Accounts and Family Safety/User Accounts/Turn User Account Control on or off. You will need to restart the computer for the change to take effect.”

    As far as CrossLoop for professional use goes, we already have a lot of businesses (and users now in over 150 countries) using us with their customers. Here are just examples, local and international, of a few that do:
    http://curasign.com/hulp.html
    http://www.abetterink.com/pages/support%20longest.html
    http://www.apttek.us/home.html

    We are also always listening and learning – the product has been out only for 12 months and you can be rest assured, we are continuously improving based on feedback so please keep them coming. We actually embrace constructive feedback since that is what has made us improve and grow.

    @The Geek – thanks for having the option of following this thread through emails. It really helps!

  23. bLuefRogX

    This looks nice but its just like UltraVNC’s reverse VNC feature.

  24. Tad

    I have also got this to work using Wine in Linux. This way you can help friends that are using windows without having to dual boot.

  25. Yoshi

    is there a linux version?

  26. Prem

    Ultra VNC is the best…….. It is free and have have lot of features that you ever imagine……..

  27. Ben

    Microsoft SharedView is also a nice light-weight app for this type of work. http://www.sharedview.com

  28. me

    Great application!

    I just used it to rid my Mom’s computer of a ton of “spyware”

  29. gaten

    I prefer UltraVNC SC (single click). You can make a stand alone executable file that the user simply double clicks, and it will connect to your computer and give you control automatically. No installation needed on the others’ machine, and best of all for me, the server part (on your computer) runs just dandy in Wine.

  30. David Mackey

    I love Crossloop. Its built on rock-solid VNC technology but adds that layer of usability that was so greatly needed.

  31. William Steele

    I liked the software, but in the tutorial you say you can right click on the title bar and in the menu that comes up you have access to connection options. I had no such option. I did change the image quality to a lower resolution and that seemed to help a little bit. Is the one shown in the tutorial a paid version? Thanks.

  32. NewLifeFromHeaven

    I will have to try this out sometime. Thank you for the great find.

  33. Bill Vincent

    Great review, we did one on our site as well. One thing I learned later is that with poor net connection (ie diaup or lousy DSL, or sat) the refresh is lousy and disconnections common. However, the simplicity of this application made it a standard in my on-call toolkit.

  34. Mrinal

    @ William Stelle – You can also just click on the top left corner on the VNC Viewer (on the JOIN side) and select what you want from the drop down. The ‘Full Screen’ is a good one which many miss – it helps to reduce scrolling. We do not have a paid version at this time.
    @ Bill Vincent – thanks for the review and Yes – we definitely recommend a good broadband connect for the optimal experience.
    @Yoshi – there is no Linux version at this time. The good news is we do plan to port CrossLoop across various platforms!
    For developments, I recommend that you stay close to our blog ( http://crossloop.typepad.com/ )

  35. Kelli

    I like LogMeIn, because I don’t need my 6 and 7 year old daughters to do anything if they are having trouble….or to prevent them from printing at the highest quality setting…

  36. Chuck Aylworth

    I have used NetOp On-demand for several years now. Not a bad product, but costs $3000 a seat. It was published by CrossTech Corporation, which apparently lost it’s franchise to distribute the product. Just curious, but is there any connection between CrossLink and CrossTech? In any case, a product that does for free what some products do for big bucks is a plus in my book. Thanks Geek, for the excellent referral.

  37. Mrinal

    @ Chuck – it is CrossLoop :)
    Let me know if you have questions.

  38. Chuck Aylworth

    My bad. Dang that spell checker, yeah, that’s the ticket. Oh the embarrassment. You didn’t answer my question though, did you?

  39. Mrinal

    Oops – you caught me Chuck. No, we have nothing to do with CrossLink or CrossTech :)

  40. willziam

    What happens if their problem is the internet connection?

  41. zero

    Ultravnc ownz all remote, its even better than RDP, you must install the mirror driver to get the performance increase and this bit is hard work sometimes!

  42. Mrinal

    @ willziam – we are helpless with a bad internet connection. We recommend broadband for the optimal experience. Thanks

  43. Bill

    If the internet connection is the problem, then a remote assistance application isn’t going to help, regardless of which one. You’re going to have to either go to the computer, or have it brought to you. :)

  44. Janice Mulvey

    Yes I would looooove to have this but I can’t get it to download.)o: When I click on the “Download Cross Loop from crossloop.com” this is what I get…………………………….
    type Status report

    message /index.html

    description The requested resource (/index.html) is not available.

    ——————————————————————————–

    Apache Tomcat/6.0.14
    Could someone please help me with this?
    Thanks, Janice
    igottheblues1@yahoo.com

  45. Surajit
  46. The Geek

    Looks like they changed the links… I updated the article with the new links. Sorry about that!

  47. Marty

    Newbie questions:

    Although generally PC savy, and called on often to solve others’ problems, I am a newbie to the whole Remote Control issue.

    Big question: What security is provided with these various programs/services. Once they set up to grant me access, what assurance is there that the provider of the software I use cannot subsequently access their computer?

    It looks like Cross Loop requires the computer I want to control to install software. It appears to me that techinline does not. Are there any other programs which do not require the helpee to install software?

    Why are the tools which come with Windows XP (Remote Assistance and/or Remote Desktop) sufficient? (I am having trouble finding details on exactly what these do, and how to run them.)

  48. RottNKorpse

    I know this is an old article but I wanted to get your opinion on CrossLoop vs GoToAssist…have you tried G2A?

  49. ZetaPirate

    This looks like a great idea for helping family members… Too bad I can’t download @ work. I don’t know so much about all this remote stuff, is there any risk to my computer getting a virus over the remote connection? Sorry if this is a stupid question, as i deal more with building computers than actually running them.

  50. RottNKorpse

    ZetaPirate,
    there is a chance to get a virus sure…but there is a chance to get a virus at any time you connect to the internet on any connection. There isn’t such a thing as 100% protected. However, CrossLoop and GoToExpress (same type of service) both have high priority for security so even though it is possible to get a virus at any time these services most likely won’t be the cause of getting one.

  51. The Geek

    There’s almost no chance of getting a virus through a regular CrossLoop session, since it’s based on VNC and doesn’t support drag/drop of files.

    If you are transferring files from their computer to yours using the file transfer utility and you pulled infected files from the other person’s computer, then you would need to be careful. Best bet is to not grab any files off their computer.

  52. paresh

    nice list, thanks for sharing.

  53. ZetaPirate

    I’ve been using this program to help my grandparents’ printer issues, but i have to keep scrolling around to get to the different parts of their desktop, even when on full screen. I tried to scale it, but when I click it, it just un-checks itself the next time i look at it. is there another way to just fit their desktop to your monitor?

  54. Iconoclast hero

    I run RealVNC free edition on my Vista and XP boxes. I’ve tinkered with Feisty’s remote access as well, but just enough to be able to remotely control it from a different room. What intrigues me about this discussion of CrossLoop is that no one mentioned opening ports on the router. I wanted to know if CrossLoop allows for remote control of someone’s PC without opening ports. For various reasons, my brother has locked down my mother’s computer and refuses to allow me to have any access to show her how to do things. If CrossLoop does not require opening ports, this may be something we may be able to agree upon.

  55. Ronin Vladiamhe

    This will come in pretty handy. The fact that someone at the host computer has to “approve” the connection from the access computer, is a pretty good security feature. Quick question though… Is the access code, the 12-digit number randomly generated and used to encrypt data sent between the host-client computers, different for each host-client session, or is the code created during the first host-client session, the same for as long as the program is installed?

  56. Mrinal

    @Iconoclast – you do not have to worry about opening ports etc. Download, Install and connect securely – with permission

    @Ronin – the 12 digit access code is generated randomly each time you run the app. Its part of our security model

  57. Iconoclast hero

    I will check out the CrossLoop site, but might still stick with RealVNC. This prompted me to look into how to get around opening ports on the server side… And realized that might be exactly what the listening VNC viewer might be for. I tested with a friend who can’t get into his router because he forgot the password and was able to successfully use the Listening VNC viewer.

    Thanks

  58. Anthony

    For this sort of thing, I find Techinline (http://www.techinline.com) to be a very straightforward and reliable service. Perfect for small businesses such as mine

  59. Gary

    Oh My God! I love you, man! Thanks so much! I hope it’s Vista compatible and free…

  60. smartguy

    how do u download it

  61. Bill Vincent

    Well, you could click the download link in the article, “smartguy”.

  62. Roger Stein

    Hi,

    I have a question for you guys. My work just switched to ProxyNetworks’ remote access software for security reasons. I was wondering what you guys knew about it. How does it compare with Cross Loop? I’ve heard it was better but it’s certainly more expensive. They were using something else before that – the name escapes me at the moment – and there were some concerns about the system being compromised? Any recommendations? Thanks.

  63. Aaron

    When visiting my grandson (in another city), I gave him my AIO printer but forgot to bring the Setup CD. With the Setup CD in my PC’s CD-drive would I be able to install the software onto my sons remote PC using CrossLoop?

  64. Bill Vincent

    That would require a VPN, or something similar. Easier, you could find the drivers/setup package online, (which are better than the CD anyway, they’re newer, usually) and download them and install them all via Crossloop.

  65. Ronin Vladiamhe

    Has anyone used Crossloop as a portable app? RealVNC and TeamViewer have “viewer” apps (no installation), which allow me to “geek” someone’s computer from any computer, using my thumb drive toolkit.

  66. Ringo

    The new version is very different. Has Access and Share tabs instead of above. It never connected my associate to my machine even after I send him the code number. It just kept timing out from the cl server.

    Too bad it didn’t offer an testing experience.

  67. AnonymousAKAMP

    Ooh this is going to be great! Thanks so much.

  68. anon

    I dont get it.. most people have a firewall router these days.. Does this circumvent that somehow?

  69. Midnight

    Is this free?

  70. Mike

    Thanks Just what I needed, can’t wait to try it.

  71. molind

    not sure this is even moderated any more but ? i was wondering if there was a way to get around the need the access code every time would like to set up my lap top to remote access my desk tops but don’t want to have to go and get a number every time i want to do it thanx a ton

  72. mark

    DAME WARE PEOPLE

  73. FreeAtLast

    As the 20 something who is nice to the 80 somethings in my family, I am the one whose phone rings when your computer is “on the fritz” (aka they try to do anything besides check their e-mail). After a 1 hour call explaining how to load pics from your camera to the computer to an e-mail attachment (easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle), I searched suicide, no I searched how to remotely access someones computer. Your advice saved me from cursing at my deacon grandfather and I will be installing this on all of my families computers immediately. THANK YOU SO MUCH!

  74. akhi

    meri sanajh me nahi aaya

  75. Ron

    I’ve been using LogMeIn FREE for a few years now.
    It started with 128bit encryption and they upped that to 256bit encryption.
    It’s easy but more important, IT IS SECURE for both computers.

  76. CoolGuy

    AWSOME i have windows remote assistance BUT this is just … a lot more reliable

  77. Kim

    errrr….Crossloop not my favorite.

    To fix mom and pops computer (freeware) I like Teamviewer. Clean and fast. http://www.teamviewer.com

    For commercial software I prefer ScreenConnect. I really like it for the same reasons I like Teamviewer and it is fractions of the price of most of the competitors including Teamviewer for commercial use. http://www.screenconnect.com

  78. Pat

    Thanks, that’s a great solution for home users.
    I’m working with Techinline remote desktop which is the best professional alternative to all expensive tools. Have a great set of functions, reliable and its price is affordable.
    So would suggest to use Crossloop at home and Techinline for working issues.

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