Remote Desktop FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions about Remote Desktop
- How does remote access work?
- What is meant by the "host" PC?
- What is meant by the "remote" PC?
- What are the benefits of remote access over using online backup to access my files?
- Is remote access secure?
- What is the difference between browser-based and remote-client access methods?
- Do I have to leave my host computer on all the time?
- Can any of these services be used to access a Mac?
- Can any of these services be used to access a PC from a Mac?
- How did NextAdvisor review these remote desktop services?
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Remote access creates a secure connection between two computers, allowing one to control another. Connect the remote to the host and it'll be just like you're sitting in front of your PC, even if it's across the globe.
The host PC is the one you want to access. This one will require the download of the software that will determine security settings and access levels.
The remote PC is the one you use to access the host. It will use either a browser-based method or a remote-client to access the other machine. Think of it like the remote control for a TV set.
Online backup services like Carbonite allow you to store files online that you can then access from another computer. Remote access allows you to do much more. You can actually control your host PC, meaning you can make edits on a document, change settings, perform maintenance, or transfer files.
Yes. You set the criteria required for access so only the right PCs are allowed to connect. Connections between PCs are always encrypted, so there's no chance of data intercept. Of course, the connection is only as secure as the PC that you're using. Be very careful about using untrustworthy computers to access your host PC. A public PC (such as one you find in an Internet cafe) can have spyware.
Browser-based remotes are easy, because you can access your host computer through a web browser with minimal downloads (you almost always have to download a small Active-X component for the browser). The only disadvantage is that these are often slower with more limited graphics performance. Remote access programs that use a separate remote software client often offer better performance and more features. These tend to be better for those who will always use a certain computer for their remote (such as a a remote computer at home to access a host PC at work). Either way, make sure you're using a computer that you trust.
In most cases, you do. The computer that you want to access has to be on. After all, it's running the software that allows access. Radmin offers remote power-on capabilities if your computer has Intel Active Management Technology.
Most of these services are designed to access a PC. Norton's pcAnywhere does have cross-platform capabilities.
Norton's pcAnywhere has this capability if you install the cross-platform package. Laplink has limited Mac remote functionality. GoToMyPC offers full Mac remote capabilities.
We used each and every service you see here. We set up two laptops, running them back-to-back to test the speed and ease-of-use of each service. Frankly, we were looking for the service that we would want to use. For the record, we were using two mid-priced laptops running Windows Vista, connected via an Internet network that's not too dissimilar from what most people have running in their homes.
Disclosure: NextAdvisor.com is a consumer information site that offers free, independent reviews and ratings of online services. We receive advertising revenue from most of the services we review. Our editors thoroughly research and whenever possible test each service we review and offer their honest opinions about each one. We are independently owned and operated and all opinions expressed on this site are our own.