Hamachi isn’t a brand new utility or idea, but I did want to ‘spread the word’ of this excellent program.
Hamachi is a service that runs in the background and connects your computer to any other computer you wish in a particular network. This creates an encrypted VPN (Virtual Private Network) between you and other PCs in your own network.
This becomes ultra convenient when you have a number of PCs that you want to connect to, for example if you have a work PC, home PC, school PC and/or servers. Once Hamachi is installed, the computers are available via IP address for their file shares, or any other service. Lots of people also use to play video games in a multi-player mode regardless of their location.
I like a few things about Hamachi that set it apart from the other VPN software available:
- Ease of use – Installing the program is a snap!
- Network Compatibility – Works with many types of networks, uses a variety of methods to get around firewalls (NAT, etc.)
- Cross-Platform Availability – Clients include the typical Windows and Mac, but also Linux, Mobile Devices, Windows Mobile and more.
- Security Built In – Communication between Hamachi clients is encrypted.
Windows Hamachi Install
Setting up the client is easy on Windows.
After installing the client, run it for the first time and “power” it on. It will have you create a network, and include a password so that anyone joining it (if it is a personal network, this would just be you) will need a password.
You will then join the network. For now, you will be the only one in this network. On subsequent installations, you can cancel out of the “create” network part. You will just join the network – so supply the password you used while creating the network.
Setting Hamachi up on Linux is a bit more difficult because it is via command line, however it is still easy as long as you are comfortable typing in a few commands.
From the readme for the Linux client:
- Run ‘make install’ and then ‘tuncfg’ from under the root account
- Run ‘hamachi-init’ to generate crypto identity (any account).
- Run ‘hamachi start’ to launch Hamachi daemon.
- Run ‘hamachi login’ to put the daemon online and to create an account.
- Run ‘hamachi join ‘ to join the network.
- Run ‘hamachi go-online ‘ to go online in the network.
- Run ‘hamachi list’ to list network members and their status.
More or less, this is all you will need to do. Depending on which flavor of linux you are installing this on, there may be some tricks you’ll need to use to get it working properly. Also, don’t forget to add it to your init scripts (or rc.local) to load on startup.
There is also a GTK GUI for the Linux client – see this forum post if you are interested in downloading or knowing more about it.
So now what?
So now that you have your machines set up, what can you do with them?
Here is just a random selection of some useful programs or services that you can use between your Hamachi clients:
VNC, Remote Desktop, NoMachine, etc. – Remotely access any PC on the VPN. The connection is encrypted, so you feel secure using even unencrypted protocols (like default VNC).
File Shares – Whether you use Windows file sharing, Samba or other protocols, you can access files on any other Hamachi PC. For Windows shares, just use the IP: \\5.x.x.x\. You can also map these shares to a drive, giving you access to your files like a local drive.
Music or Video Streaming – Use a streaming media server, such as Jinzora, to stream music from one PC to another.
Gaming – Play multi-player games with friends even if you’re on different networks.
Really anything you can think of that would be handy via a VPN, P2P network would work really well with Hamachi. Most connections are direct, so bandwidth is limited by your direct internet connection. In some cases a ‘relay’ is used to maintain connectivity, but this is only used in rare cases (Hamachi claims that 95% of connections are direct).
Finally, there are two versions of Hamachi. The free version has a few limitations – namely it will not run as a system service, is limited to the number of networked clients and uses ‘low speed’ relays (when necessary). The paid version takes away these limitations – for a full description see the comparison page.
The only two downsides that I can see to Hamachi is that it is closed-source, and that it depends on mediation servers. Being closed source, it is impossible to audit the code to ensure it is 100% secure and encrypted. The mediation servers have always worked well for me, but this adds in a 3rd party which some people may not like.
Hopefully you will find Hamachi as useful as I have! This program was purchased by LogMeIn a few years back but has retained its free and useful nature. If you have any particular issues with it, their forum is a great resource with lots of knowledgeable users.
Alternatives: OpenVPN is a similar service, but since there is no mediation server – configuration is a good bit more complex.
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