Best Free Remote Access Software

 
Introduction

Remote Access Software (RAS) allows a user to remotely administer another computer through a GUI (Graphical User Interface).

RAS software usually falls into three categories:

  • Attended (someone must be present on the remote machine)
  • Unattended
  • Self-hosted RPC proxy servers (middleware for accessing firewall-protected networks).

In this review, we are interested in the first and second categories.

There are also two different kinds of packages:

  • Those that are downloaded and run without requiring any installation
  • And the other, which is installed and either uninstalls at the end of the session or remains for future sessions.  

Unattended sessions would of course need to have the installed version to allow for connecting at any time in the future. I will explain the pros and cons of each type of session and the two categories.

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Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

 
Discussion

Let's first talk about the two different categories, attended and unattended.  Attended is of course when there is a person sitting at the computer that you want to access. This is most likely a one-time session or when helping someone fix a problem where you will not be allowed to access it without the other person being present. This type of access is usually quicker to establish, but also comes with fewer capabilities when compared to a fully installed software that runs as a service.

Typically the process for establishing an attended session is simple. You ask the other person to download a small application which runs in their user session and has access to everything the user has rights to. From here the situation varies, but usually requires that you and the other person exchange a small pass code - either auto-generated or set by you. Once they initiate the session you are connected and able to request control of their mouse and keyboard. If the software is simply run and not installed there are typically some limitations like not handling multiple monitors or losing connection and having to start the process over again because it doesn't have an auto-reconnect feature.  

If the software installs then typically it falls under the unattended category. There are more capabilities with an unattended solution but the trade-off is that the user needs to have authority on their computer to install software. Installed software also leaves behind a footprint, although there are some that ask the other person, upon completion of the session, whether they would like to uninstall the software.

 

TeamViewer TeamViewer. is very reliable, allows both attended and unattended control and has great features. There is a portable version of the viewer if you want to use an application or they also have a web-based control site that requires no installation to remotely control computers. The web-based version uses HTML and Flash, so it is usable even if the browser or firewall doesn't allow Java or ActiveX. TeamViewer is a commercial product and is only free  for personal use. Any commercial use is prohibited by the TeamViewer use policy.

 

 

MikogoThe next solution in this category is Mikogo. Mikogo is not the fastest nor is it the most reliable, but it offers the most features of any of the solutions in this article. It is a full-featured solution comparable to the commercial Citrix GotoMeeting product with features such as presenter switching, remote control, white board sharing, file sharing and session recording.

 

To sum everything up, you may need different tools to accommodate different situations. In my years of experience helping people solve computer issues remotely I use the best tool for the job. When speaking with a person that has no understanding of their computer and no idea of whether they are allowed or capable of installing software I use an attended, non-installing type of tool. Other times I might choose to get the person to install an unattended tool. Let the situation dictate the best tool but always have both available. 

Finally, there are many other products in this category, with a variety of features which may be worth listing here, so please watch this space over the next few months. I am currently embarking on a review of other products and versions in this category, including: Gbridge, Deskstra, VNC suite, Supremo, Crossloop, AMMYY, MingleView, RemoteUtilities, LiteManager Free, Radmin Server and Viewer, I'm InTouch, Splashtop Remote, True Remote and Anyplace Control.

 

Related Products and Links

You might want to check this out too:

 
Quick Selection Guide

TeamViewer
5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Quick download and great reliability as well as loaded with the features you would most likely need while accessing a computer remotely.
Leaves a reminder window on the host and local computer about using the product - for personal use only. This product is only for personal use and using it for commercial purposes violates the use policy.
http://www.teamviewer.com
9.0.26297
5.54 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Free for private use only
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android, iOS
Mikogo
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Free for personal use. It also has the most features of any free solution including: screen sharing; remote control; switch presenters; session recording; file transfer; specific application sharing only; and up to 10 computers joined simultaneously to the session.
Sometimes disconnects if you have a less than perfect connection. Not the fastest screen updating of these solutions.
http://www.mikogo.com
5.0.131129
11 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Free for private use only
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows XP, Windows 2003, Windows Vista, Windows 2008, Windows 7 and Windows 8

 
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Comments

by VAM on 11. February 2014 - 12:18  (114398)

Like many on here I used teh free version of LogMeIn for many years and now find myself looking for another provider. Can anyone make a suitable recommendation please? My requirements are:

1 Simple remote access of my home pc, from my laptop and/or ipad when I'm away from home
2 Unattended access of my home pc
3 Just need simple access to my documents etc on my home pc. Don't need options to print to local printer, file share etc
4 Speed and smooth operation is important. I don't want to wait several seconds for a responce after clicking mouse
5 Free
6 Easy set up

There seems to be so much on the market and as I'm not the most IT literate, any help would be appreciated.

by janetstiffler on 27. January 2014 - 15:06  (114011)

Hi, How can I get TeamViewer to access my work PC without someone being at my office to tell me the Partner ID number? I have tried a bunch of times to access my office from home and can't figure out how to do it. Thanks so much for your help!! Janet

by mrb186 on 28. January 2014 - 1:57  (114020)

I'm pretty sure that you have to specify 'un-attended control' when you first install the program on the target computer. Do you recall seeing that choice?

by JeffL on 28. January 2014 - 20:22  (114037)

I just installed TeamViewer, and it does have an un-attended option.
There is an extensive tutorial video that shows how to set it up for both attended and un-attended operation here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3dyNcXZVlM

by MidnightCowboy on 27. January 2014 - 18:56  (114014)

We are unable to provide individual support here in the comments sections. Please post your request here in our forum. MC - Site Manager.
http://www.techsupportalert.com/freeware-forum/freeware-installation-and...

by JeffL on 28. January 2014 - 20:16  (114001)

I only used LogMeIn to schedule programming on a VCR type application, on a dedicated home theater PC, from remote locations.

I need a replacement that will start up when Windows starts, and not require a new password to be entered, or given to the controlling computer. Also preferably, controlled from a web based screen without having to install a program.

Any suggestions?

UPDATE: Went with TeamViewer in unattended mode.

by mrb186 on 26. January 2014 - 23:18  (114000)

TeamViewer allows for un-attended remote control.

by BigFriendlyDave on 21. January 2014 - 9:45  (113819)

Just received an email from Logmein

"As of January 21, 2014, LogMeIn Free is no longer available. To continue using remote access, you will need to purchase an account subscription of LogMeIn Pro."

I'm a little bit disappointed by that

by janetstiffler on 26. January 2014 - 17:43  (113995)

Hi, I have been using Log Me In for the last 7 years - the Free Version. I need a program where no one has to be at the remote computer. Any suggestions?

I own my own company and need to log in remotely on a regular basis. Thanks so much!

by BrollyLSSJ on 26. January 2014 - 18:44  (113996)

For me, RemotePC (only 1 computer free) and Remote Utilities (10 computers free) work with my company firewalls. Both have a Windows client (Viewer). Remote Utilities seem to be faster though, but RemotePC also has file transfer and other stuff. Both have an iPhone app (android also, if I am not wrong). RemotePC works with the browser also (java only, not sure what version though).

by BrollyLSSJ on 29. January 2014 - 20:52  (114067)

Remote Utilities also has sound capture, session recording (to watch, what was clicked or to record a video to support someone) and file transfer. Feature-wise I would say both are fine. Maybe Remote Utilities has some more options like power control, remote task manager, remote execute and Inventory manager. Installation-wise remotePC has somewhat more security. You need to login with email and password and enter a self decision pass-phrase on every computer login. It lists your computers like LogMeIn. On Remote Utilities Viewer you need to add the computers on your own.

The iOS app from Remote Utilities lacks Cntrl + Alt + Del Keys and special keys. Just posted in their forum my requests. On that case RemotePC is better.

But still the speed is way too slow with remotePC. It takes some Seconds for a click on start menu, while Remote Utilities is more or less instantly available. The Browser integration from RemotePC was not working here (my Java is probably to new).

by Pentagon on 22. January 2014 - 15:42  (113885)

Yeah,
Just like a drug dealer!

They get you hooked/used to their product for free, and then decide that they're going to charge for it. I think they'll lose a lot of business. I understand that they couldn't do it for free forever, but they could have made it a paid version for commercial and continued the free for the private individual. That would have been fair, rather than pi**ing everybody off like this.

My logmein dashboard said I had free until year 2020. Therefore, have they lied??

I am so upset with them as are everyone I know. And just like me, they'll vote with their feet by going elsewhere too.

Bye-bye logmein and raspberries to you.

by Marko Minelli on 26. January 2014 - 15:34  (113993)

Don't be so upset. There is plenty of alternative free solutions. What about teamviewer? Yes, itsn't free for commercial use but still.
You may also want to try free for business Aeroadmin http://www.aeroadmin.com which is a quite a good app requiruing no installation and registration. Seems to a be sort of teamviewer on its very beginning.

Crossloop as well, anyplace-control..

by BrollyLSSJ on 22. January 2014 - 15:17  (113879)

I also saw that yesterday. As I used it on my work computer, I need a new alternative. TeamViewer did not work (and I do not want to use it), CrossLoop does not work also. InPcRemote does also not work. Now I am in contact with the creators from PcRemote ( https://www.remotepc.net/download.htm ), as they offer a free version for 1 computer, to get the information if I can also use it on my work computer. That would be enough for me as I can connect with VNC to my private computers. If they allow that, maybe that is an alternative to LogMeIn (except if LogMeIn is cheap, but I doubt that).

For non proxy stuff, maybe Chrome Remote Desktop (Browser Extension for google Chrome) is an alternative. CroosLoop also seems to work. Maybe InPcRemote is also usable, haven't tested it yet.

by Anupam on 23. January 2014 - 10:30  (113922)

Why don't TeamViewer and CrossLoop work for you?

by BrollyLSSJ on 26. January 2014 - 12:58  (113991)

They won't work, because it's a corporate network. More or less everything is blocked. LogMeIn was the only thing, which worked so far. RemotePC can be used for work computer also (the one free license) and it works for me. They also have an iPhone app. Yesterday I found other alternatives, which maybe can also be tested. AeroAdmin ( http://www.aeroadmin.com/en/index.html ) is like TeamViewer's initial release (just an app you start and give the codes to the admin, which should connect) and is also free for business use. Another software is Remote Utilities ( http://www.remoteutilities.com ), which is free for up to 10 computers even on business use ( http://www.remoteutilities.com/about/news/236/ ). They also got a iPhone app. Both (RemotePC & Remote Utilities) got a Windows Viewer Client (You had to pay for the LogMeIn counterpart). So far I like these 3 tools. RemotePC seems to be somewhat slower as it seems, but has even Video and Sound recording, file transfer and many other stuff.

by rseiler on 23. January 2014 - 17:43  (113893)

Yes, the Chrome Remote Desktop extension looks like a leading contender (totally free, headless, no port issues). I noticed a number of positive comments about it here yesterday, but I haven't tried it yet. The Google account thing might be an issue to navigate.
http://www.reddit.com/r/sysadmin/comments/1vr0v0/fyi_logmein_are_complet...

I found a nice, sortable master list of these programs here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_remote_desktop_software

Update: Remote Utilities just came out with a version of its Team Viewer-like program that's free for up to 10 computers even for business use!
http://www.remoteutilities.com/about/news/236

by rseiler on 21. January 2014 - 19:15  (113842)

Neither is a free version of join.me, as far as I can see. Not sure when that happened.

Sure, Teamviewer is great, but its free uses are quite contained. Friends and family gratis support only, no financial gain directly or indirectly. Logmein Free could even be used (legally) by businesses.

by MidnightCowboy on 21. January 2014 - 19:37  (113844)

Thank you for the above information. Both products have now been removed from the review. join.me was from the same vendor as LogMeIn so it's no surprise this service has gone commercial too. MC - Site Manager.

by JD_Hupp on 22. January 2014 - 16:15  (113891)

Join.me is still a "freemium" product according to the 1/21 post at http://blog.logmein.com/it-management/logmein-changes

For those interested in making some business use of remote control, it's worth noting that AMMYY and Supremo - both among the more-mentioned as Logmein Free replacements - are NOT licensed for free business use.

I have found no constraint against business use of Crossloop, but I have not tested it to see how it stacks up. It uses a proprietary package in conjunction with TightVNC, probably to secure it and to add a solution that does not involve configuring the firewall.

by rseiler on 21. January 2014 - 19:46  (113845)

I think the trick now is finding a product that allows simple setup (i.e. no tortured sessions trying to get people 1,000 miles away to forward the right ports when they may not even know what a router is), automatic connection (no user intervention once setup), and that is free for more than just personal use.

I immediately thought of something like TightVNC, but it has the port problem. I'm not sure yet if there are any VNC varieties that have conquered this.

Remote Assistance in Windows requires user intervention.

Remote Desktop (host) isn't available across all versions of Windows.

by MidnightCowboy on 21. January 2014 - 19:50  (113846)

Good points. Hopefully when a new editor volunteers to take over this category review some research will turn up a few new alternatives. MC - Site Manager.

by Sanzharold on 5. August 2013 - 18:03  (109921)

I´ve tested many apps and teamviwer and ammyy are the best.

by Lowe Gear on 5. August 2013 - 22:49  (109923)

Agree, Teamviewer is up there with the best. It is my personal preference.

Ammyy also works well, but unfortunately has been linked to scam artists (see below) which has given it a bad rap. Despite this, it is technically a good product.

http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/protect/forum/protect_defender-protec...

by mrb186 on 30. April 2013 - 16:36  (107401)

Take a look at Crossloop. Not sure how Logmein works, but with Crossloop, the other party has to give you an access code before you connect. Its been a real lifesaver for friends and relatives that have PC problems!

by mishmatta on 30. April 2013 - 12:57  (107394)

I've been using LogMeIn Free for YEARS and have been 100% satisfied, until.... They're doing away with the free account soon (or restricting it to 10 computers).

I'm in need of a solution where I can have the ability to remotely connect to at least 20-30 computers (not at the same time). Its going to be a pain to switch because I need to log onto all of these computers to install the new software. :/

Can anyone recommend one over the other based on my criteria needed?

by mrb186 on 21. January 2013 - 20:07  (104714)

Whoa! Been using Crossloop for a lot of years and pretty happy with it. Why is it missing from this comparison?

by AJNorth on 19. December 2012 - 16:09  (103766)

TeamViewer has been updated to v8.0.16642, 5.57 MB (2012.12.19).

by Mrwizard (not verified) on 22. November 2012 - 15:42  (102737)

Tried Supremo, mentioned previously, seems to work great, beats the others hands down since it is stand alone, no registration required etc. Works like VNC but FREE. Thanks for the heads up Anupam

by Anupam on 22. November 2012 - 17:06  (102741)

Glad you liked it, and thanks for the feedback. I didn't try it myself, but just posted it here, since I saw it somewhere. Good to know it works well.

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