Top Free Remote Access Tools for Windows, Mac

Overall, the three major VNC releases work well with Windows hosts and provide an intuitive platform for remote control. Unfortunately, the lack of printing support keeps TightVNC and UltraVNC from being a first choice for anything but remote control needs. The $30 license for RealVNC is still a good deal, but most Windows users would be served just as well by Remote Desktop.

WinRemotePC 2009 LiteInfoWorld's Free RAS score: Good

WinRemotePC 2009 Lite by WinSoftMagic is a utility that stuffs a lot into a little package. WinRemotePC Lite is another Windows-only program that requires an open port in your firewall. But unlike DESKTRA, it includes the ability to transfer files between host and remote client. WinRemotePC Lite does not provide remote printing capabilities, but does include a couple of unique features.

WinRemotePC is a simple 3MB download for both host and client. It installed without a hitch on my Windows XP Pro systems. As with DESKTRA, Remote Desktop, and VNC, I had to open up a port in to my host. Once the system is running and a client connects, the WinRemotePC Lite host uses only 40MB of RAM and very little CPU time during sessions. The client side also used very few system resources: 40MB when connected.

Remote control of the host PC worked well and was quite responsive. I was able to resize the screen by simply dragging the edges of the client window. I noticed very little latency when opening windows and moving around the host desktop from my remote PC.

Where WinRemotePC Lite gets interesting is in the various plug-ins built into the system. In addition to the remote desktop plug-in, seven others provide drag-and-drop file transfers, a shared clipboard, and a command-line/Telnet console. One plug-in that help desk technicians would find useful is the process explorer. This tool gives the remote-connected user an expanded Task Manager view of the host PC. Registered users can have access to WinSoftMagic's plug-in SDK to add their own plug-ins to the program.

Unfortunately, like most of the remote access programs covered in this review, WinRemotePC 2009 Lite doesn't provide remote printing support. As with the others, if the remote user connected over a VPN to the host, then printing to a shared printer is possible. But there is no native support for redirected printing.

For users who need remote access to their desktops and want to transfer files between the host and client, WinRemotePC 2009 Lite works well. Like the other tools that require port forwarding, it doesn't scale well for multiple users to multiple hosts inside the firewall. Mainly, however, WinRemotePC Lite needs native remote printer support to be a well-rounded alternative to other free utilities.

Read about more great free tools for Windows and Mac users:

* Top free troubleshooting tools for Windows

* More great free troubleshooting tools for Windows

* Top 10 Windows tools for IT pros

* The best free open source software for Windows

* The best free open source software for Mac OS X

* Download InfoWorld's Windows 7 Deep Dive Report

This story, "InfoWorld review: Free remote access tools for Windows and Mac," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in Windows, Mac, and mobile computing at InfoWorld.com.

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