Remote Access to Your PC From Anywhere

There’s going to come a time when you’re going to be at work, on vacation, or at a friend’s or relatives’ house in which you find yourself wishing you were at your computer. Perhaps you left that important spreadsheet on your computer at home, that you need for this afternoon’s meeting. What you really want is a way to remotely access your computer from where ever you happen to be. Think about the possibilities, the cool factor, the shear simplicity that remote access to your PC provides. No more carrying around files on a pen drive, cd, or the dreaded floppy disk. No more having multiple copies of files scattered about on different machines and different drives. No more wondering which of these multiple copies is the latest and greatest with your most recent changes. No more shuffling files to gmail, yahoo, or msn in an attempt to move them from one place to another. And finally there’ll be no more emailing yourself a file. Nope those days are over. You want remote access to your PC from anywhere in the world.

There’s many different ways to achieve remote access, with a variety of different programs. Each have their own challenges and security issues. Some offer more features than others and some are more difficult to use than others. I’m going to explain, one method of remote access to your PC, with a program called TightVNC. It can be downloaded for free at http://www.tightvnc.com. The VNC part of TightVNC stands for Virtual Network Computing. Basically it allows you to remotely access your PC as if you were sitting right in front of it. Complete with wallpaper, icons, programs, and anything else you have installed on your computer at home. If you have high speed internet and a personal router there can be some issues with your firewall, which we’ll cover next week, that can prevent this from working right out of the box. For the most part it’s a snap to set up. If you are behind a firewall(and shame on you if you’re not), you may wish to test this from another machine on your local network.

Once you have TightVNC downloaded and installed, go to Start->TightVNC->Launch TightVNC Server. The first time, it will ask you a few questions about the setup. Here’s you’ll want to check “Accept socket connections”, change the password and confirm it, and leave “Display or port numbers to use:” at “auto”. All other settings are fine at the default setting. At this point just click “OK”. You should now see a little white box in your system try(where your clock is) that contains a large black “V”. This tells you that TightVNC sever is running and listening for connections. If you hold you mouse over that icon it will display you IP address. You’ll need this in order to remote into you system later, so make a note of it. Mine happens to be 192.168.0.102. Now all we have to do is install TightVNC (really just the viewer part) on another machine. Launch it by going to Start->TightVNC->TightVNCViewer. Now just type in the IP(192.168.0.102) from above and click enter. You should now see your desktop of your “Remote” machine on the client(the machine you’re sitting at) in front of you.

A couple of things to be aware of. If you feel the desire to test the server by logging into it with a client on the same machine, resists the urge. It’s not damaging, but it’ll look like things do when you hold a mirror up to mirror. Another neat trick is that if you don’t want to install the viewer, or it just isn’t an option, you can remote into your machine using your favorite browser. Open any web browser with javascript enabled at http://your_ip_address:5800 in my case http://192/168.0.102:5800. Now in either case you should have your fully working desktop right in front of you as if you were sitting at your desk. Enjoy.