Program: http://terryscomputertips.com/GoToMyPC — 30-day free trial
Function: Secure, remote access to your own computer
License: Commercial service, monthly fee, 30-day free trial
I was very impressed with the capabilities and speed of the GoToMyPC service. Pricing is very reasonable. The free trial is a great feature, especially since you can sign up with a credit card or without providing a credit card (for the free trial).
GoToMyPC is designed to allow a PC user to access his computer remotely. This user might be a salesman, a tech support person, a business man who left some files at the office (or at home), a traveler for business or pleasure. Access could be from across town or across the country.
Getting Started With GoToMyPC
On the remote PC, the PC that you’re actually using, you use a Java-capable web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc) to access your host computer (your office or home PC). Any web browsers that supports Sun Microsystems’ Java (free, www.java.com) will work, although not all features may be available on some browsers. You can even access and control your Windows PC from a Mac.
On the host, you set up GoToMyPC so that you’ll be able to securely access it remotely.
The first step is signing up for the 30-day trial of the GoToMyPC service. The unlimited-use free trial for 30 days should give you ample time to decide if this service is for you. GoToMyPC is priced at $19.95 monthly or $149.95 per year (25% discount off the monthly rate).
GoToMyPC uses your email address and a double-password system to contol access. During this initial signup, you assign your passwords and, of course, they’re only as secure as you make them and keep them. Good paswords are mixtures of letters, numbers, punctuation (if allowed) and both upper and lower case. GoToMyPC requires the passwords to be at least 8 characters and to include both letters and numbers.
The first password is stored on GoToMyPC’s servers and is used to log into their service. The second password is stored on your home/office host computer. It is used to gain access to your PC.
After you sign up for GoToMyPC, you download the GoToMyPC host program to install on the computer that you will access remotely. This program requires Java, which is free from Sun Microsystems (www.java.com). If you don’t have Java installed already, GoToMyPC will stop and allow you to download and install Java. However, I suggest downloading and installing Java ahead of time to smooth the installation of GoToMyPC.
After you install Java, you install the GoToMyPC program. This is the key to the process. The GoToMyPC program will periodically contact the servers at GoToMyPC.com to establish and maintain a connection. Then, when you want to access your PC remotely, you are actually sending a “response” to the host computer.
If you’re using a router to create a home network and protect your computer(s) from the Internet, that’s not a problem. Since you’re responding to an outgoing message from the host computer through the router, the router knows where to send the “response.”
You can set up one-time passwords for access to the computer; however, this feature is only available if you are actually sitting at the host computer. This feature means that you can invite a guest to have access to your computer. I haven’t tried this, but I assume that this could be used for demonstrations (by you or by the guest) and for remote assistance (by the guest).
From a remote computer, you open the web browser (IE, Firefox, etc), go to the GoToMyPC site and log in. You’ll get a screen that is customized to your ID — it displays a list of the computers that you are authorized to access (usually, just one) and connect buttons for each computer. Press the connect button, it contacts the remote computer and lets you log in with that computer’s special GoToMyPC password.
At that point, the GoToMyPC servers will download a small Java executable to the web browser so that it can talk to the remote computer. If your browser or other configuration blocks you from the automatic download and install, there’s an option to click on a link to download the file and run it. In one of my tests, the browser configuration blocked the download and installation, I used the downlaod link to download the file and run it.
So, how well does it work?
I’ll say it again — I was very impressed with GoToMyPC. My first attempt was to use GoToMyPC to access my desktop computer from my laptop. Even though both computers were on my home network, the connection actually left the “home” side of the router and then routed back in again. Response time was very good. Not only was I able to access the desktop machine, I was also able to use RealVNC (free version, no encryption) to access other computers on my home network. Cool!
I tried downloading a file from my desktop computer to the laptop computer I was using. Very easy and it was as fast as the connection allowed.
Later, I connected to my desktop computer from a remote PC across a slow business-class cable connection (much slower than my residential service has). Using the host (desktop computer) was easy across the connection.
Downloading individual files worked just as well this way. Then, I started up the RealVNC viewer on my desktop to connect to the RealVNC server on my wife’s computer for remote control of her computer. Again, easy connection, easy use.
My final test was to see if I could edit video on my desktop computer — using GoToMyPC across this slow cable connection. I did notice a speed difference between in editing video, but that’s hard to do across my home network with a 100 Mb/sec connection. At that point I changed the GoToMyPC setting for video from full-color to only 256 colors. The speed went up dramatically and I was able to edit the video without frustration.
I hadn’t thought about printing before, but that turned out to be easy, too. With GoToMyPC, I could configure a local printer (connected to the machine I was using) as the printer for the host computer. Run a program on the host; print to the printer beside me. Neat.
This seems to work only for real printers. I tried to set up a pseudo printer driver (Click2PDF) on my laptop to be the GoToMyPC printer, but that didn’t work (Click2PDF doesn’t set up via the standard Windows Printer Setup Wizard). I consider this a Click2PDF problem, not a GoToMyPC problem.
Besides that, I would not normally have a PDF printer on the remote PC I was using. The normal use for a PDF printer would be on the host itself, where I already had it set up. Using GoToMyPC, I would “print” to the PDF creator. Then, if I wanted, I could download the PDF that I created.