How To Access Your Work Computer From Home (Or Anywhere, Really!)

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How many times have you been trying to work from home and you realized you left that one crucial file on your office computer? Or, you really don’t want to spend $2,000 on a high-powered laptop so you can run your fancy software? Or, most likely, it is simply impossible to access your accounting data away from the office network?  

No matter what the reason, an increasing number of office workers find the need to access their office desktop from remote locations like home, business trips, or vacation.

It’s Easier Than You Think To Get Into Your Work Computer From Home

Luckily, there are options available for you to work from home without having to buy (or beg your boss for) a new work laptop.

Here are the three that we like best:

LogMeIn

LogMeIn has been the go to service for remotely connecting to another computer. A few years ago, they dropped their free service resulting in many geeks crying the blues.

Nonetheless, their Pro service offering is still one of the best. It doesn’t require a lot of computer savvy to setup. You simply create an account and download the software on your target computer. Next you can log into your account on your laptop or home computer and presto, you can remotely control your office PC.

LogMeIn has many nifty features such as:

  • Cloud File Storage
  • File Transfer
  • Remote Printing
  • Password Management with LastPass

My favorite feature is the remote printing. Some software, such as accounting applications, are difficult to print paperwork with if you do not have this feature. Other files, such as Word Docs, you can simply copy to your laptop and print.

The price is $249.99/year for 2 computers seems high, which comes to slightly more than $20/month.

GoToMyPC

GoToMyPC is a service created by Citrix. They are widely recognized in the server world for their virtualization software and more recently for their remote support software called GoToSupport and not to mention the meeting software, GoToMeeting.

GoToMyPC is very similar to LogMeIn and features file transfer and remote printing. They do not, however, offer cloud file storage or password manager.

The setup for GoToMyPC is simple and straightforward: just make an account, install the software and away you go.

The price for 1 computer is $20/month.

Both GoToMyPC and LogMeIn offer a free trial period, mobile apps, plans for more computers or larger teams, and support — just in case you can’t get things to work correctly.

Remote Desktop Connection

Did you know there’s a free service that may be included with Windows?

Yes, there is!

In fact, this is my favorite remote access software. You can print remotely, copy files and use multiple monitors. I still believe the speed and functionality outweighs the configuration headache. I must warn you that things get a bit tech-y here and if any of it seems to be over your head, it might be wise to call for some help.

  1. You must have Windows Pro! This feature is not included with Windows Home (or simply Windows as it is now referred to). Now there are a few ways around this: here and here.
  2. You must have a password on your computer. This goes for all versions of Windows Pro that you are trying to setup. And no don’t use “password” for your password. Depending on how you set this up you will be opening your computer to the hostile world of hackers and they WILL find you and attempt to connect to your computer. If this bothers you, or you have no idea what you might need to do to keep the bad guys out, then I would suggest you refer to the first 2 options. Security is baked into GoToMyPC and LogMeIn. For Remote Desktop you need to setup your own security.
  3. If you don’t have permission or the know-how to do port forwarding on your internet router, this may not be for you.

If you are still with me, then here are a few helps on how to do remote access on a tight budget.

  • Enable Remote Desktop on your computer:
  • Type “remote settings” in your start menu.
  • Change the Remote Desktop setting to “Allow remote connections…” And then click OK.
  • Test from another computer on the same network. Simply go to another computer and go to the “Remote Desktop Connection” app and put the target computer’s name in the “Server” box and click connect. If all goes well it should ask you for the user name and password. Make sure you enter the target computer’s info not the local computer. Your next view should be your target computer’s desktop
  • Log into your router or internet modem and forward port 3389 to your computer. If you need help with your specific equipment go to http://setuprouter.com/ and find you router.

A Few Warnings:

  1. Test well before leaving on a trip and then wondering why it doesn’t work.
  2. If you have capable equipment, setup a VPN…perhaps a topic for another post. This will secure your connection and require an additional set of hoops for the bad guys to go through before they can access your computer.
  3. Setup a No-IP or DynDNS dynamic DNS name. If you are like most cheapskates, you don’t have a static IP. This will allow you to make an address such as myofficepc.noip.org to which you can point your computer at and remotely connect.
  4. If a VPN is not an option hopefully you can change the default port on your router. Some routers allow for port translation in their firewall rules. What this does is allow you to hide your true identity from the bad guys. The hackers all know to look for 3389 to remotely connect to a computer but they don’t have the time to search all 65,535 ports to find the right one. So, what you can do is configure your router to listen on port 9936 (or whatever you choose) and then translate it to 3389. The only catch is that you need to add the port to your server address when you connect, like this: “mycomputer.noip.org:9936”.

Chrome Remote Desktop

Here is another freebie. However, I have found it to be slow and cumbersome.

You need to install it in the Chrome browser through here.

So, What Do I Recommend for Working Remotely?

If you can setup Remote Desktop securely, it is by far the fastest and best experience. If that is simply not an option then LogMeIn or GoToMyPC are the next best. I would recommend trying each one and see which one you like the best before buying. They each have their quirks and nuances.

Happy working from home!

~written from home.

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