It is possible to control computers in another remote location even if it is located at the opposite side of the world by using a PC that is equipped with the software and an Internet connection. Fortunately the software to access a remote computer has been greatly simplified over the years solving many common problems such setting up dynamic DNS service to automatically point to your changing IP address, port forwarding, firewall configuration and etc.
Remote access software can be installed for long term usage which administrators do to access their servers from home or another location to perform maintenance or troubleshooting. However, if you need to temporarily and quickly access your friend or relative’s computer to help configure a software or fix a minor problem, it doesn’t make sense to go through all the trouble in installing and configuring a full blown remote access software. A much easier way around this is to use the dedicated remote access software applications that are made to quickly and easily provide short term online support. Here are our top 8 picks that are free to use.
Since avast! version 7, a new feature called “Remote Assistance” has been included in their software which means this feature is only exclusively available to users who have avast! antivirus or Internet Security programs installed. To access this feature from avast! 8, go to the maintenance tab and click on Remote Assistance found on the menu at the left hand side. There are 2 huge buttons either to allow remote control or control remote computer.
Clicking the Allow Remote Control button will generate an 8 character code which is to be given to the controller. The controller will then click on the Control Remote Computer button, enter the code to the textbox and click Connect.
At the bottom of the viewer you will find 3 buttons which is to send the Ctrl+Alt+Del combination key, launch file transfer window and view in full screen. Although not mentioned anywhere, we think that avast! Remote Assistance is using TightVNC because the File Transfer window looks exactly the same. After testing avast! Remote Assistance , we found that the transfer and refresh rate is quite slow.
7. Chrome Remote Desktop
Chrome Remote Desktop by Google is a free app that allows remote control right from the Chrome web browser or Chromebook. Although it is useful, there are some requirements such as both users required to have the Chrome browser installed, signed in to their Google account to download and install the 22.6MB app, and finally grant the Remote Desktop app permission to know who you are on Google which some users who are concerned about their privacy may not be comfortable with.
Once Chrome Remote Desktop is installed, the usage is pretty easy. The computer that will be remotely controlled will need to click on the red colored Share button to obtain the 12 digit access code and give it to the person who will be controlling the computer. As for the controller, click on the Access button and enter the code followed by clicking Connect.
Chrome Remote Desktop is only capable of controlling the computer remotely but without any fancy features such as file transfer, VOIP and etc.
CrossLoop’s software works just about the same as the rest on this page but one thing that made it stand out is the marketplace where one can provide and receive computer remote online support for a fee using CrossLoop. To connect, both users who want to access and share will have to download and install CrossLoop. The computer that will be controlled will have to go to the Share tab to get the 12 digit code from the Access Code textbox and give it to the controller.
The controller will then enter the given Access Code in the Access tab and click connect. Once the connection has been initiated, the shared computer will also need to manually approve the remote access before the connection is established. CrossLoop uses TightVNC Server 220.127.116.11 to share and UltraVNC Viewer 18.104.22.168 to access.
CrossLoop is placed at the 6th spot because it requires installation when most people doesn’t like to install additional software that is only being used temporarily. The 2 minutes share timeout is sometimes not enough to get connected especially for someone who doesn’t know anything about the computer. During testing we also experienced intermittent connectivity problems to their relay servers. File manager is also not available on the free version.
Although Firnass is still in Alpha/Beta status, we will still include it on our top 5 tools to provide remote assistance because it is very small at only 668KB in size, free, runs on Windows, Mac and Linux because of Java, uses their own screen sharing protocols unlike most that uses VNC or RDP, chat and VOIP support, file transfer, run a remote command, session recording and many more to come on future version.
The steps to connect is slightly different from the rest. Firstly a connection will have to be made from either party by providing the 6 digit ID and clicking the Connect button.
A new window will open on both parties upon successful connection. The computer that wants to be controlled with have to click on the play button which will only appear upon moving the mouse cursor to the small black screen.
Once the screen is shared, the viewer will have remote access to the computer. The toolbar with options will be revealed when the mouse cursor touches the arrow pointing downwards that is located at the top of the viewer.
4. ShowMyPC Collaboration
ShowMyPC Collaboration is a freeware version of the paid application that allows remote assistance with some additional features such as sharing folders, switching presenter and recording screen being disabled. To get connected, download the program, run it, click show my PC now button and a 12 digit password will be generated which is to be given to the person that will be remotely controlling this computer.
As for the viewer, download and run the same program, enter the password in the View PC textbox and click the play icon to start connecting. By default ShowMyPC will attempt to connect using a direct P2P connection and will fall back to SSH if P2P fails. Although ShowMyPC build 3152 seems to be released on January 2013, it uses an old version of TightVNC Viewer 1.5.2 built on Jul 8 2010 and TightVNC Server 22.214.171.124 when the current version is already at 2.6.4. File manager is one of the very few features available on TightVNC.
3. imPCRemote Instant
imPCRemote Instant is a free permission based remote access tool that supports Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. It uses one of the most popular VNC variant called UltraVNC that is up-to-date to make the connection. Instead of using the traditional method in connecting to remote computer through IP address, imPCRemote Instant uses the user generated ID to connected between endpoints. There are 2 builds available which is the user and admin. The user version is to be controlled while the admin version is the controller. The person that wants to be controlled will have to download the user version, run it and provide the generated 9 digits to the controller.
As for the controller, download the admin version, run it and enter the given 9 digit code where the connection will start to initiate and an UltraVNC viewer will launch when connected. You can find options to disable input and blank remote monitor, chat and start file manager from the icons at the top bar.
2. Ammyy Admin
Ammyy Admin would be our second choice that is free for non-commercial use if for some reason our first choice does not work. To get connected using Ammyy Admin, both operator and client needs to download the same file that is slightly over 700KB in size from the official website and run it. The client provides the operator an 8 digit code that is gotten from the program followed by manual approval from client to allow remote control, access to file manager, voice chat and RDP connection.
Ammyy Admin seems to be using VNC but a heavily modified one so you can expect to find features that are similar to what VNC has to offer. It has a file manager, voice chat and uses AES-256 encryption.
Do note that Ammyy Admin only works on Windows and there is a possible access limit restriction for connection by ID if it is used more than 15 hours per month. This restriction does not apply if you connect directly to the client’s IP address.
TeamViewer is our favorite software for providing remote assistance because not only it is very easy to use, it also packs with premium features which is free for non-commercial use and even support all major operating systems such as Windows, Mac, Linux and mobile devices.
To get connected, the computer that will be controlled will have to first download a single portable executable file that is less than 5MB in size called TeamViewer QuickSupport by clicking on the “Join Remote Control Session” hyperlink found at the TeamViewer’s homepage, run it and tell the controller the 9 digit ID and 4 digit password. Then the controller will have to download the full version of TeamViewer and either select to install or run as portable. Enter the provided ID and password into TeamViewer and the remote computer’s screen will show up on the controller’s computer.
Some of the useful features found in TeamViewer is the ability to show black screen on the remote computer by installing a monitor driver, disable remote input to prevent the user from overwriting your input, switch sides with partner to show the other user what is on your screen, obtaining basic system information such as computer name, username, CPU, operating system, hard drives, network card, file transfer, screen recording, remote printing if hardware is available, chat via text or voice over IP, support multiple monitors, remote reboot include to SafeMode and transferring computer sounds.
Editor’s Note: All of the above remote access software uses their own relay server to make connections based on ID or access code rather than IP address. You can take a look at ChunkVNC if you want to create your own relay server or use UltraVNC’s PCHelpWare, Single Click or OneClick VNC Helpdesk if you want to create a customized auto connecting remote support customer modules.