Save Money: Dump GotoMyPC and Similar Remote Desktop Programs
We are saturated by adds for programs that will “let” us access our work PCs from home, or vice versa using a third party product that will run you about $40 per month. That’s $480 per year. I can think of a few other things I’d rather spend that money on especially when, by virtue of my ownership of a Windows-based PC and an Internet connection, I already have the ability to do this.
Your Windows XP, Vista or 7 computer has a program built-into is called Remote Desktop which uses the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to allow desktop level access to or from your computer over the Internet. With just a few clicks, you can access your home PC from work or the road. If you have dominion over your work PC, or are in good with the IT guys, you can also access your work PC from outside the office at no additional cost. Here’s a quick overview of how to set everything up:
1. Enable Remote Desktop on the PC – In Windows XP, right click My Computer > Remote Tab and make sure All users to remotely connect to this computer is checked. Click Select Remote Users and make sure you are listed.
2. Configure Router Pass RDP Traffic – Open port 3389 to the desktop PC you want to access. The last entry in the example below shows how this configuration looks on my LinkSys firewall
3. Use DynDNS – If you don’t have a static IP address, install DynDNS which will help you get to your PC from anywhere in the world using a friendly name like, mydesktop.freeIP.com. You can set up a free account at http://www.dyndns.com.
4. Leave the computer ON! – This might seem like a no-brainer, but I get asked this by enough people to warrant mentioning it here. You’ll need to make sure to leave your computer on if you plan to access it remotely. You’ll also want to adjust your Power Options to prevent the computer from going to sleep. Click on Start > Control Panel > Power Options and set all options except Monitor to NEVER.
5. Configure the RDP Client – Finally we are ready to connect to your desktop PC remotely from say, your home machine or laptop at the coffee shop. All you need to know if the IP address or the DynDNS name you set up.
Click Start > Program Files >Accessories Remote Desktop Connection and enter the IP address or DynDNS name as shown below and click Connect and you’re in!
While I assure you all of the steps I describe above are super easy, there are free alternatives that do not require as much configuration. LogMeIn.com offers a great free service and requires only a quick installation of their software. Once installed, you will be able to access your computer over the web from any other computer in the world via the logmein.com web site.