This is the third article in a series on remotely accessing you computer using VNC (Virtual Network Computer). It’s a real life saver in situations when you need to get to a file or email on your computer at home or the office. In this article I’m going to show you how to find out what your external IP (Internet Protocol) address is. This is the address that you ISP or Internet Service Provider assigns to your modem or computer. All along I’ve been assuming that you’re using a high-speed connection, however everything I’ve talked about applies to any connection to the internet, even dial-up. It’s just that using an application such as VNC on a dial-up connection can be painfully slow.
Let’s start with an explanation of what an IP address is. It’s a series of numbers that uniquely identifies your computer on the internet. It’s helps determine how emails get routed to the proper place as well as opening the correct website in your browser. Fortunately, domain names (www.deconfuser.com) were created in an attempt to make it easier to remember how to find a website. The IP address for www.deconfuser.com is 188.8.131.52. But if you were to type this IP address into your browser you’ll just get the server’s default page since the deconfuser website is hosted in a shared environment. That is to say that there are many websites that also use 184.108.40.206 as their IP address. But all you have to remember is that www.deconfuser.com takes you to 220.127.116.11. Likewise your computer or modem also has it’s own unique IP address known as it’s external IP address. In order to locate your computer from anywhere in the world you’ll need to know what this IP address is. But, the ISP’s will often recycle the IP they’ve given you and reassign you another IP address. So I’ll also show you a way to always know how to reach your computer externally by remembering something as simple as www.deconfuser.com.
In order to find your external IP address visit http://www.consoltec.net/ip_address/ and it will be displayed on the web page for you in red. This is a free service provided by Consoltec. There are many such services out there, but many of them could come along with Spyware and other harmful Malware. Now all this tells you is the external or visible IP address of the machine or network you’re currently on. Using the previous two articles and this external IP address you should now be able to remotely access your computer with VNC.
But if your IP address ever changes or your somewhere and have forgotten what your IP address was, this external IP address service from Consoltec will do you no good. What you need is a domain name that will update to your new external IP address anytime it changes. Fortunately there are many such services out there. There are many that are free as well. One such service that I’ve been using for many years is http://www.dyndns.org. They do offer paid services as well, but for basic dynamic domain names it’s free. In order to get started, just create an account on their system. Choose one of the many domain names available. You could get something like deconfuser.homelinux.net or one of the many from their list of domain names. The system will go ahead and detect your current external IP address and your new domain should now resolve to your current external IP address. Now all you have to remember is your domain address. In order for it to automatically update with your new external IP address any time it changes, you’ll need to download one of their update clients found under “Support”->”Update Clients”. There are clients for Windows, Mac, and Linux. There isn’t enough space here to discuss the setup of all of them but the general procedure is once downloaded and installed configure it to run automatically, enter your dyndns.org username and password, and the domain address you registered with your account. This program will run in the background and anytime your IP address is reset by your ISP, it will detect the new external IP address. It will then log into your dyndns.org account updating the external IP address for your domain name, and all you’ll ever have to remember is your domain address in order to access your computer from anywhere in the world. This completes the series on accessing your computer remotely and I hope that you now have the basics down. While I chose VNC to demonstrate the concept, it will work well with any program that allows remote access. If you like to game you’ll use many of these same techniques to allow your finds to find your server in order to play.