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  1. Computer Skills
  2. Productivity
Computers

LogMeIn Alternatives for Remotely Accessing Computers

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:ShortLanguages:

With LogMeIn discontinuing the free version of their software, many people are looking for an alternative program to use, both for commercial needs and family support.

In this tutorial, I’ll teach you how to set up and use a couple of different options and decide when each is the best choice.

Definitions

Host: the remote computer to which you are connecting.
Client: the local computer or device from which you are connecting to the host.

Skype

If all you need is to occasionally help your mother or a friend with something on her computer, you might be able to get away with using Skype and talking her through the steps to fix whatever she needs help doing.

First, start a Skype call with the host.

Ask them to share the screen by clicking the + button on the host computer and choose Share screen….

Skype - share screen

Skype - share screen

Tell them to choose whether to share the entire screen or just one window.

Skype - choose what to share

Skype - choose what to share

Talk the person on the host computer through whatever needs to be done.

Pros

  • Easy
  • Familiar
  • Can use a mobile device for the client

Cons

  • Needs someone on the host end to allow the call
  • The client can view the host but not control it
  • No extras like file browsing, printing, etc.

Best For…

Skype is the best option for someone who only occasionally needs to help someone with a problem on their computer, and only if you can talk them through the steps on their computer.

Chrome Remote Desktop

Google has released a Chrome app called, appropriately enough, Chrome Remote Desktop. Both the host and client computers need to have Google Chrome and the Chrome Remote Desktop app installed. (You can easily explain the installation process over the phone, if needed for remote support.)

Install the Chrome Remote Desktop app from the Chrome Web store.

Install from the Chrome Web Store

Install from the Chrome Web Store

Once the app has been installed, click on the blue Chrome Remote Desktop icon to begin the session.

Start the Chrome Remote Desktop app

Start the Chrome Remote Desktop app

Chrome will request authorization; go ahead and allow it.

Grant permission to the app

Grant permission to the app

Occasional Connections

Click on the Get Started button in the top section.

Occasional support - get started

Occasional support - get started

Click the green Share button; this code will be needed on the client computer to connect. Once you’ve entered this code on the client computer, you’ll be connected and see the entire host’s computer screen in your Chrome browser window.

Occasional support - access code

Occasional support - access code

Always-on Connections

Chrome Remote Desktop also supports always-on connections; to set up on the host computer, click on the Get Started button under My Computers to enable remote connections. You’ll need to set up a PIN number with at least 6 digits to keep the connection secure.

Always-on PIN

Always-on PIN

On the client computer, any hosts you have set up will be listed under My Computers and you can click to open the remote session.

Pros

  • Relatively easy
  • Cross-platform hosts and clients (Mac-to-Windows and vice versa)

Cons

  • No extras (without using other Google services such as Drive, Cloud Print, etc.)
  • Requires both computers to have Chrome installed
  • No mobile device support

Best For…

Chrome Remote Desktop is probably the best choice for infrequent support needs or occasional remote computer use.

Back to My Mac

Back to My Mac is a service included in Apple’s iCloud suite. To enable it, open System Preferences, click on the iCloud icon, and enable the checkbox for Back to My Mac. You’ll also want to open the Sharing tab and enable Screen Sharing.

Tip: You’ll need to have a user account on both computers and that user account will need the same Apple ID associated with it for Back to My Mac to work.
Back to My Mac

Back to My Mac

Once you’ve enabled Back to My Mac on both computers, each computer will see the other and display an icon in the Finder sidebar. Clicking that icon will give you options for file and screen sharing.

Host in Finder sidebar

Host in Finder sidebar
Tip: your router/firewall may need to have some settings tweaked for optimum performance; System Preferences will give you some pointers if needed.

Pros

  • Built into Mac OS X
  • Easy and simple
  • Also allows for file sharing

Cons

  • Sometimes is a bit flaky or slow
  • Only allows Mac-to-Mac connections

Best For…

Back to My Mac is a great option for occasionally using your home computer while on the road or connecting to a Mac server you have somewhere else.

TeamViewer

TeamViewer is a popular third-party option with similar features to LogMeIn.

  1. Download TeamViewer, run the installer to get the software set up on the host computer.
  2. Once it’s installed, TeamViewer will give you an ID and password for remote control.
  3. The program will prompt you to set up unattended access; go ahead and turn that on so you don’t need someone on the host computer all the time to allow the connection.
  4. Then install TeamViewer on your client computer, enter the Partner ID and password, and you’ll be connected.
TeamViewer control window

TeamViewer control window

As a bonus, TeamViewer also allows file transfer (pictured below) and also has a “Meeting” feature that allows you to share your screen with other team members, along with audio and video.

TeamViewer file transfer window

TeamViewer file transfer window

Pros

  • Free for personal use
  • Includes file sharing and audio/video conferencing
  • Cross-platform; also has iOS, Android, and Windows phone apps available

Cons

  • Requires payment for non-personal use
  • A third-party service that may start charging for personal use as LogMeIn has done
  • Unable to change username/password to something more memorable

Best For…

TeamViewer works best for working with a friend or colleague on a project, particularly with a paid plan in a work environment.

OpenVPN (For Geeks Only)

Set up OpenVPN on the host and use an OpenVPN client on Mac/PC/mobile to connect, then use Screen Sharing/VNC to access the host. This topic is much too long to include in this tutorial, so here are a few links explaining the process:

Pros

  • Completely customizable and configurable
  • No reliance on third-party services
  • Uses existing screen-sharing protocols
  • Secure

Cons

  • Much more involved to set up

Best For…

OpenVPN is a great option for geeks who like to use open-source projects, don’t mind getting their hands dirty using the Terminal, and prefer to use built-in screen-sharing protocols.

Conclusion

In this tutorial, I’ve shared a few options to LogMeIn’s discontinued free service and explained how to set them up, as well as listing some pros and cons for each. Do you like one of these options, or do you have another one that you think is better?

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