Free Remote Control Software for Your PC

For years the grand daddy of remote control software for PC’s was PC Anywhere. PC Anywhere started out its life as a product to be used via a modem. It started as a DOS program and grew up to be a full fledged Windows based software package. It’s good stuff but a bit pricey. Another option is “Go to my PC” but it carries a monthly fee.

Along came the Open Source Project where software is written by programmers in their spare time and distributed freely along with their source code so that they can be approved upon by other programmers and evolve much like software did in the early days of computers. This concept has lead to some wonderful software programs that are free to use for anyone. One of the best of these is VNC. VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing. It allows remote control of any PC via an IP network or the Internet. VNC has grown up to now be called “UltraVNC.” It is wonderful software and it’s free. You can download it hereâÂ?¦ www.ultravnc.com. On the right hand side of the page, look for UltraVNC Setup. The current version is 1.0.1 so as of this writing you will want to click on UltraVNC 1.0.1 setup.

Download and install the package to your PC. It contains two modules, the VNC Viewer and the VNC Server. If you want to allow your PC to be controlled by someone or yourself remotely, you’ll want to allow the VNC Server to install. Look for check boxes during the install routine that allow it to be “installed as a service.” Installing the Server component as a service allows it to run all the time even if the machine is logged off. This prevents the “dark side of the moon” effect of logging off via VNC remotely and then not being able to get back in to log in. During install you will be asked to create a password for the Server component. Make sure you use a moderately complex password since it is allowing full control of your PC as if the person was sitting in front of it.

To access a PC that has VNC Server installed, you’ll use the VNC Viewer. You’ll need to know the IP address of the machine running the VNC Server that you want to attach to and its VNC password.

VNC has a lot of features including a very good file transfer function so you can pass files back and forth between you and the host PC. All of its features can be accessed by right clicking on the title bar of the VNC Viewer.

The most recent versions of Windows XP by default will prevent a person using VNC Viewer to attach and remotely control it. This is for security reasons. It is prevented by the Windows XP firewall. So if you intend to allow your PC to be remotely controlled by a VNC Viewer client, you’ll have to put an exception in your Windows XP firewall.

Here’s how to do thatâÂ?¦

In XP, click on the START button and then CONTROL PANEL.

You’ll want to select CLASSIC VIEW in the upper left to display all the control panel icons if you haven’t already done so previously.

Locate the NETWORK CONNECTIONS icon and double click it.

You will see all your network connections there. It’s quite possible you only have one.

Locate the one you are currently using. It is most likely labeled LOCAL AREA CONNECTION.

Right click the LOCAL AREA CONNECTION icon and then left click on PROPERTIES.

Select the ADVANCED tab. You should see WINDOWS FIREWALL.

Click on the SETTINGS button, then the EXCEPTIONS tab.

Click on ADD PORT.

You will need to enter a name and an Internet port to allow. Name it VNC and type in 5900 for the port. Make sure TCP is selected and click OK.

This puts a “hole” in your firewall to allow a VNC Viewer to connect to you.

If your PC is on a home network using a router you will have to read its instructions on how to forward port 5900 through your router to your PC as well. Much like the Windows firewall, your home router acts as a firewall. In you routers configuration page look for the term PORT FORWARDING. You’ll want to tell it to forward port 5900 to the local PC that has VNC viewer installed. With VNC Server running on your PC you can simply hover your mouse over the icon down by the clock that looks like a peering eye. This will tell you the local IP address of your machine. In your router, tell it to forward port 5900 to this address. Then go to www.whatismyip.com and record your EXTERNAL IP address. If you are away from your PC and accessing the Internet from somewhere and you want to connect to your PC you can download the VNC Viewer, put in the address reported by www.whatismyip.com, enter your secret password and you’ll have total control of your home PC. What’s happening here is that you are telling VNC Viewer to attach to your home router through the Internet and the router knows that when a call for port 5900 comes in to pass it to the LOCAL IP address of the PC running VNC Server.

It’s a bit tricky to setup but UltraVNC is very good and best of all, it’s free.

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