Do you want to share your Windows screen with a friend or colleague so they can troubleshoot technical issues? Perhaps you want to access your Windows desktop from your tablet to watch a movie in bed?
It’s easier than ever to get remote access to your machine, with many free tools available.
Let me introduce you to seven of the best. If you know about a great tool I’ve not covered, make sure you leave your suggestion in the comments.
TeamViewer is perhaps the most well-known of all the third-party tools available. It’s over 10 years old and has a loyal base of users.
It doesn’t just specialize in screen-sharing and remote-access. The software also lets users transfer files between connected PCs, conduct web conferences, and make online presentations.
By default, you need to enter a PIN code to connect to someone else’s machine. However, if you regularly connect to the same group of computers you can create a group within your account, thus allowing one-click access.
Unlike some of its competitors, the software also allows group sessions. When in a group session, you can easily pass control of a machine between users, rather than only allowing a one-way session.
Best for: All-around screen-sharing and remote-access.
Chrome Remote Desktop has one glaring drawback – both computers need to have the Chrome browser installed. If you use an alternative browser, you should look elsewhere.
However, if you use Chrome and you’re looking for an easy-to-set-up, no frills remote access tool, you would struggle to find a better option.
Install the extension from the Chrome Web Store, connect the two PCs using the automatically-generated access code, and you’ll be up and running in seconds. You can permanently link together two computers if you need regular access.
Google has aimed the software at home users who need to do some quick troubleshooting; it lacks the advanced features of some of the other options on this list.
Best for: Quickly troubleshooting Granny’s laptop.
3. Microsoft Remote Desktop
Microsoft Remote Desktop is Windows’ native screen-sharing solution. It uses the propriety Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) technology and is supported by all versions of Windows and lots of third-party tools and apps.
Even though Microsoft has built it into Windows, it’s not the easiest (or best) option for a lot of people. Its biggest problem is that RDP servers are only available on Windows Pro and above; you won’t be able to connect to anyone who is running the Home version of the operating system.
Beginners might find the app difficult to set up. If you want to connect to machines outside your home network, you need to know the IP address of the person you want to connect to and configure their router to accept incoming remote desktop connections.
Ultimately, it’s important to understand Microsoft Remote Desktop is designed for office use, not home use. If you want to troubleshoot a family member’s PC, look elsewhere.
Best for: Using in a small office environment.
Splashtop is only free when you’re accessing other devices on your home network. If you want remote access, you’ll need to cough up $16.99 for the Anywhere Access Pack.
However, if your sole aim is to access your Windows machine from another part of your home on a tablet or smaller netbook, this is the best solution. It excels at streaming video over the connection; the visuals are smooth, audio is crisp, and there are no lag times.
Therefore, it’s perfect if you want to use a tablet to watch a movie saved on your desktop. You won’t have to deal with compatibility problems, transferring files, or memory issues.
Best for: Streaming video from Windows to a tablet on your home network.
The development team behind AeroAdmin clearly took inspiration from TeamViewer; the way the app works and the on-screen visuals are strikingly similar.
Unlike TeamViewer, however, it does not require any installation. You just need to run the 2 MB EXE file and follow the on-screen instructions. It means you can keep a copy on your USB flash drive and instantly provide remote access to any machine you are sat in front of. You can make a connection using your computer’s IP address or by sharing the automatically-generated passcode.
You can also configure the app to run before any user logs on. As such, this tools can give you unattended access to your machine.
Best for: Remote access on-the-go.
Seecreen is AeroAdmin’s direct competitor. It’s written in Java and does not require any installation or configuration; just download the 500 KB EXE file and you’ll have remote access in seconds.
Its feature list is almost identical to AeroAdmin; you can chat and have VOIP calls with fellow users, transfer files between connected machines, manage multiple user accounts, configure the app for unattended access, and maintain contact and computer lists.
The only real difference is the way the app looks on-screen. Seecreen is arguably the less-polished of the two. If you need an instant screen-sharing solution, try them both and see which you prefer. Make sure you let us know in the comments!
Best for: Instant screen-sharing with plenty of added features.
7. Lite Manager
I’ll conclude the list with Lite Manager. It’s an under-appreciated program that offers many of the same features as some of the expensive paid tools.
Of course, the basics like file transfer and text chat are covered – but here are some of the coolest advanced features:
- RDP integration
- screen recorder
- remote installation of screen-sharing software
- network mapping
- IP filtering
- registry editor
- cascade connections
- 30 connected computers
A paid version is available ($10 per license), but for most people it’s unnecessary.
Best for: Getting lots of advanced features for free.
A Word of Warning
There are a couple of things to watch out for when you’re using remote desktop software.
Firstly, hackers often use these types of apps in tech support scams. Someone will call your house and encourage you to install their app of choice. As soon as you do, they have complete access to everything on your machine. As such, make sure you only give access to people you know and implicitly trust.
Secondly, if you use an account to log into the app, it is hackable. TeamViewer was a victim of such a hack in mid-2016. Thousands of users reported that hackers had penetrated their machines, with some even claiming they lost money from their bank accounts.
Now it’s time for you to share your favorites. Which app do you use to access your machines remotely? Let me know in the comments below.
Image Credit: Who is Danny via Shutterstock.com