Remote access to grandparents' computer
December 25, 2006 10:20 AM   Subscribe

A few months ago my grandparents bought a computer. To help them fix problems without us driving all the way out to their house every time something comes up, I'd like to install something that would allow us to view their screen and control their mouse and keyboard from home. Both systems involved would be running Windows XP Home Edition, and we both have broadband connections. What is the best, preferably free, way to do this?
posted by punishinglemur to Computers & Internet (33 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
There are many programs that do this. TightVNC is one example. It's very easy to use.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 10:32 AM on December 25, 2006


3rding TightVNC it works like a champ.
posted by bigmusic at 10:37 AM on December 25, 2006


UltraVNC's encryption plugin is tricky to configure but works swimmingly once it's running.

Trouble is, many issues will likely involve network connectivity and you'll be back to the physical visits.

A more elaborate solution would involve a live-CD of some sort, which would start networking and let you log in, and you could then boot the computer's hard drive OS in a VMware session. :)
posted by Myself at 10:38 AM on December 25, 2006


This can be done on MSN messenger - they send a remote assistance request to you. I do it with a tech support team in Munich who look after some of my software at work.
posted by kenchie at 10:43 AM on December 25, 2006


Isn't remote desktop connection built in to xphome?
posted by chrissyboy at 10:43 AM on December 25, 2006


CoPilot. Not free, but probably the least hassle to get working.
posted by cillit bang at 10:47 AM on December 25, 2006


Isn't remote desktop connection built in to xphome?

I think the remote desktop client that comes with XP home only lets you connect to a computer running XP Pro. But, I may be wrong.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 10:51 AM on December 25, 2006


Remote assistance is built in, but it can be a challenge getting them to send an invite. My mum age 80+ has finally learned how to do this with only a little coaching each time.
posted by Listener at 10:51 AM on December 25, 2006


I'm going to piggyback on this question...

It it possible to remotely access a Mac from a WinXP computer?
posted by phatkitten at 11:05 AM on December 25, 2006


I am a huge fan of LogMeIn.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:08 AM on December 25, 2006


Remote assistance is built in, but it can be a challenge getting them to send an invite.

This is why you want to use TightVNC. Have it come up on startup, poke a hole in their firewall for the VNC port. Then use afraid.org or a similar service to give their machine a domain name (you'll need an app to update the DNS entry as their presumably dynamic IP address changes).
posted by phrontist at 11:12 AM on December 25, 2006


Ooooh. Hamachi is a better idea!
posted by phrontist at 11:13 AM on December 25, 2006


I've been logging in to work from home for years using RealVNC - it's very simple to install and use. Just remember to add it to Windows Firewall exceptions (for some reason you need to browse to the .exe rather than add it from the list).
posted by forallmankind at 11:14 AM on December 25, 2006


Logme in. Seconded.

Invisible + Free.
posted by filmgeek at 11:26 AM on December 25, 2006


a third for LogMeIn. I've used it on my PC w/o a problem.
posted by andythebean at 11:41 AM on December 25, 2006


Fourth for LogMeIn. Simple install, and no ports to configure make it a winner for my sister and parents. Oh. And free.
posted by zackola at 12:45 PM on December 25, 2006


GoToMyPC isn't free but it does let you access from any computer with an internet connection, which means if you are on a Mac/Linux/etc you can still control the computer.

They also tout their security, but I don't really know about that.
posted by eric-neg at 1:06 PM on December 25, 2006


Fifth for LogMeIn. Free for simple use, for-pay options available. I'm a netadmin by trade and I use the free option. It offers what I need.
posted by kc0dxh at 1:18 PM on December 25, 2006


My recommendation would be to use CrossLoop. It is based on VNC but it is more secure than out-of-the-box VNC.
posted by dgeiser13 at 1:43 PM on December 25, 2006


Another one for LogMeIn. I use it to take care of both my mom and dad's computers as well as several friends. Works great.
posted by rsclark at 2:06 PM on December 25, 2006


My vote is for TightVNC. Not only is it free but comes with a mini web-server (plus java app) so you can control their machine that way.

Bind it to port 80 and you can even do support at work without having to install anything and the work firewall stopping you.

To get your parents IP address, teach them to hold the mouse over the system tray icon and read out the numbers that are displayed. After a couple of times it'll be second nature to them.

Best of all, TightVNC is optimised for slow internet connections - until recently both myself and my parents have been on 56k modems and it still works well (albeit slightly slowly).
posted by mr_silver at 2:09 PM on December 25, 2006


LogMeIn -- free access to 5 pc's (you can delete old ones to add new ones).
posted by SirStan at 3:37 PM on December 25, 2006


Jumping on the Himatchi VNC combo suggestions. Easy and secure.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:39 PM on December 25, 2006


phatkitten wrote: It it possible to remotely access a Mac from a WinXP computer?

VNC is 100% cross platform. If you set up a VNC server running on a Mac, you can access it with a PC, another Mac, or even a Unix box. The same goes for setting up the server on Windows.

In my opinion even if other systems are faster or easier to set up, there is no reason to choose anything other than VNC. Its portability makes up for any of its other failings.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:05 PM on December 25, 2006


i think you can install remote desktop seperately into a desktop running windows xp home

remote desktop has to be the most hassle-free and fastest tool for the job

link below:
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/tools/rdclientdl.mspx
posted by radsqd at 9:01 PM on December 25, 2006


Instructions for the TightVNC/NoIP solution that I use for this exact purpose can be found in this previous thread.
posted by chrisamiller at 9:04 PM on December 25, 2006


Thirding Hamachi + TightVNC. Works well.
posted by markcholden at 11:17 PM on December 25, 2006


Lifehacker had a nice feature of UltraVNC Single click--it doesn't require that any ports are open on your grandparents' computer, and they can do it in, well, a single click.
posted by deansfurniture5 at 8:51 AM on December 26, 2006


Sixth Logmein, presuming the host is Windows, of course. It even has a FireFox plugin, so you don't have to use IE to log on to their computer.

Unless it's changed recently, there isn't actually any limit on the number of hosts you can have on your account for free. I have an account with about a hundred at no charge. (I don't need printing or file transfer, so there's no reason to spend the money)

Why bother with firewall configuration or any of that other crap? Anybody can install LogMeIn on their computer with no instruction or only telephone instruction.
posted by wierdo at 4:06 PM on December 26, 2006


Yet another vote for LogMeIn with a list of reasons...

-Absolutely NO configuration or maintenance needed. Your IP and theirs could both change without causing any problems.

-LogMeIn can send a remote ctrl-alt-del signal to the other PC. AFAIK, no other client can do this.

-Transparent to them, just a simple tray icon.

-Nothing for them to do. My business used to use GoToMeeting to provide remote support, but LogMeIn is way easier since the remote user doesn't have to do anything (and it saves you $50/month).

-XP Home has a Remote Desktop viewer, but cannot host a session. Plus, they wouldn't be able to see what you were doing to the PC (bad for trust issues as well as user training).

-LogMeIn allows you to support an unlimited number of PCs'. The 5-at-a-time rule no longer applies. I personally manage 20 with my free account.

I'm sure it's obvious by now, I'm quite the LogMeIn fanboy, and very experienced with using it to support PC's in 3 states and 2 countries. I guarantee that nothing will be more hassle-free and headache-free for what you want to do.
posted by mysterious1der at 6:45 PM on December 26, 2006


I, too, cast a vote for VNC (I've been using Tight, but Ultra is looking pretty cool); as someone notes, unlike RDP, it permits them to see what you're doing.

Sometimes that's a feature...
posted by baylink at 9:17 PM on December 26, 2006


LogMeIn can send a remote ctrl-alt-del signal to the other PC. AFAIK, no other client can do this.

FWIW, TightVNC does this.
posted by chrisamiller at 1:03 AM on December 27, 2006


LogMeIn can send a remote ctrl-alt-del signal to the other PC. AFAIK, no other client can do this.

FWIW, TightVNC does this.

FWIW so does just about any other remote desktop software these days (including GoToMyPC which I use)
posted by eric-neg at 2:04 PM on December 28, 2006


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