I routinely use my local coffee shop as a temporary office--and judging by the number of other laptop users I see there, I'm not alone.

Invariably I end up needing something on my home PC--a file, an e-mail stored in Outlook, a Web link I bookmarked, or whatever. If only I could access that system from afar!

I can. In fact, there are many solutions that afford remote access to other PCs, but I've yet to find one I like better than oldie-but-goodie LogMeIn Free.

All you do is download and install the small LogMeIn utility (which is available for both Windows and Mac), set up your account and password, then leave your PC running when you leave the house.

To connect from afar, just open up a browser (on any Internet-connected PC), head to the LogMeIn Web site, and sign into your account. Click the big green Remote Control button, enter your password, and in a few seconds you'll see your home PC's desktop right inside your browser. (The first time you do this, you'll need to install a browser plug-in, which is quick and painless.)

You can now interact with your home PC just as if you were sitting at it. (I recommend maximizing the LogMeIn window within your browser so you can enjoy a full-screen interface, which is much easier on the eyes.) Keep in mind that everything will seem a bit slower than usual, which is simply a by-product of remote access. Also, graphics may look a little splotchy, as LogMeIn intentionally reduces Windows' color depth to improve performance.

If you do maximize the LogMeIn window, you'll need to move your mouse cursor to the top of the screen (near the center) to access its toolbar.

I can't tell you how many times LogMeIn has come to my rescue. I'm also a fan of the LogMeIn Ignition app for iPhone, which provides the same incredible remote access right on my handset. (Alas, it's a little pricey at $29.99.) Confession: I'll sometimes fire up the app to remotely shut down my downstairs PC, just so I don't have to run the stairs.

Is there a remote-control utility you like better than LogMeIn? If so, talk it up in the comments!

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