There are a number of ways that you can control other computers from another computer. Some of them are commercial products, like GoToMyPC, that are designed to let you control your home or office PC when you’re not there.
Others are designed for convenience so that you can work across a home network. Some have encryption and login capabilities so that they’re safe to use on the Internet. Others transmit their data such that anyone with access to the data (via a hub, for example) could monitor and record it, if they had the right software.
I’ve used GoToMyPC to access one of my home PC’s and found it to be a very interesting product and very capable product — you could even run a program on the computer you’re accessing remotely, and print on a printer connected to the computer on which you’re typing. I also found that I really didn’t need the remote access capabilities, since I have a notebook computer that’s with me when I travel, so I canceled my subscription to it.
The remote control program that I use almost every day is the free version of RealVNC.
RealVNC has three versions: the Free Edition, which I use; the Personal Edition and the Enterprise Edition.
The Free Edition is not suitable for use over the Internet or on any insecure network. It allows me to set up a login password to the remote RealVNC "server" but the free version does not encrypt the data being transmitted. Anyone who is in a position to intercept the transmission could do so. If I wanted to use it over the Internet, I’d use one of the paid versions, both of which offer encryption.
But, the Free Edition is great for me to use within my home to access my other computers. I can trigger updates, search for files, copy files from computer to computer, install programs, and do many other things remotely.
How does it work? You install RealVNC in Server Mode on the PC that you want to control from another computer. Then you install RealVNC in Client Mode on the PC from which you want to control the other(s). You can, and I do, install both Server Mode and Client Mode on my family’s PC’s, so I can control each from another.
RealVNC is not a monitoring or spying program. RealVNC displays the server icon in the Windows Status Bar when it’s running. Also, if you’re connected to a computer from another, the computer to which you’re connected will not be as responsive to the person sitting at it. Bottom line: it is for authorized remote control.
Most anti-spyware programs (like CounterSpy, which I use) will flag RealVNC and other remote control programs as spyware (since they allow another computer to see what’s happening on the host) — of course, if you intend to run the remote control program, you would tell the anti-spyware to ignore RealVNC.
My number one use is with my Home Theater PC. Since I don’t have a High-Definition television yet, I can’t just work with Windows XP on my 52" television — regular television doesn’t have a high enough resolution to be able to read Windows fonts. Whenever I actually need to do a PC-type function, including updating my HTPC software, I use RealVNC from my notebook. RealVNC gives me a full-color window on my notebook — showing the desktop of my home theater PC.
If you have a home network, you might want to look at the free version of RealVNC. It can save you from jumping up to go to the other computers whenever you’re trying to do software maintenance.
When I need to update Windows on my family’s PC’s, I can easily do it across my home network using RealVNC. When I need to find a file — or enable file-sharing for a directory — I can use RealVNC. I can even use RealVNC to copy a file from a third PC to the PC that I’m operating remotely.