When I’m watching my 4 year-old son downstairs in my family room, I often sit at the kitchen table with my Dell laptop and surf the web or try to get some work done via a wireless connection to our home router. What I find most convenient, is using Windows Remote Desktop to connect to my main desktop PC located in my office upstairs. Using my internal home network, I can “see” and interact with my main desktop PC just as if I was sitting in front of it. Luckily, the Windows Vista Business OS has the option of remote desktop access built-in (Vista Home Premium, however, doesn’t).
Recently, I’ve been using a web-based service called LogMeIn which allows me to similarily connect to my main desktop PC from outside my local home network. For example, I often connect to my home computer while on business travel from my hotel room. Why would I want to do that, you might ask? Well, it’s much easier for me to initiate the remote connection to my home PC and then fire up Outlook to check my emails, or to bring up the FireFox web browser on my home PC to access my favorite links, etc. This is much easier than trying to duplicate mail accounts and web links on my work laptop (which I take with me on business trips), and I can keep work files and business files separate.
What’s nice, is that LogMeIn works very well, and is fast (with a reasonable internet connection). And best of all, it’s free! There’s a version called “LogMeIn Free” which is a freeware version of the LogMeIn application that does everything I need to do. The only thing it doesn’t have, is the ability to easily transfer files to and from my desktop PC (if you want that feature, you’ll need to get the paid subscription version of LogMeIn).
To use LogMeIn, you run their installer program on the PC which you want to access remotely (in my case, my home PC) and it will install a special server application that will “listen” for incoming connection requests from the LogMeIn servers. The only requirement, is that your PC is connected to a live Internet connection. Once you have the server application loaded and running, you can make a remote connection from a different computer by using any web browser and going to the www.logmein.com web site. You then sign in using your login email address and password, and can make a remote connection to your home PC. All data sent between the PCs and LogMeIn servers is encrypted.
After I make the login connection, I will see my home desktop PC’s screen inside the web browser interface. I can then run any application inside that viewport as if I was sitting in front of my home PC. This is a nice feature for gaining access to your home PC while on travel, or trying to diagnose a family member’s PC problem without being there.
I often use this method to check Windows Media Center on my PC to make sure my favorite TV shows are scheduled for recording, or to see of the DVRMSToolbox software I have running has converted the recorded shows to WMV format format for my Zune. Also, it’s a nice way to check that I didn’t run out of disk space with my recorded shows before I returned home.
So, I highly recommend you check out LogMeIn Free for remote computer access. It’s free, and a really handy method for accessing your home PC while on the road!