Remote desktop services allow you to use one computer to access another. With remote desktop access you can browse all the files on your work computer from your home computer, control your home computer while on vacation, or provide technical support for others. Practically anything you can do on your host computer (browse the web, open programs, print files) you can do with your remote computer. And it's secure: you set up your host computer to allow only the right users to access your machine. To find a remote desktop program that works for your needs, check out our reviews below.
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Did you know?
Remote desktop access isn't just for accessing your own files away from home. If you frequently find yourself helping out a friend or relative with their PC, you can use remote desktop to assist them with technical support without leaving the comfort of your own home. Using remote desktop, you can watch their screen and walk them through essential steps, or take control and do it yourself. Most remote desktop services allow you to send messages via chat, and some even let you use VoIP to communicate by voice.
View our full comparison and reviews of the best remote desktop services
Control all your PCs
Say you're on a trip when something comes up at work and you need to make changes to a file that only you have access to. Use a remote computer to access your work computer and it'll be like you're right there. But remote desktop is not just for work. You can also use it to run your home network. If you have children who have computers, you can access their PCs to run anti-virus programs or monitor their activity. If you use a media PC for your home entertainment needs, you can use remote desktop to control it from any room in the house. It also makes file sharing a breeze: drag and drop photos or other personal documents from your host PC onto your remote (and vice-versa).
Browser-based or remote client
Some services use your browser for remote viewing and control, and some use a separate piece of remote desktop software. Deciding which one is best for you will depend on how you plan on using remote access. Browser-based remotes are easy, because you can access your host computer through pretty much any 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 desktop programs that use a separate 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 remote computer at home to access a host PC at work). Either way, make sure you're using a computer that you trust.