Hands-On: 4 Remote-Desktop Services

GoToMyPC

GoToMyPC provides access to your host computer through a Java application. (A viewer app for the iPad is also available.) There is a 30-day free trial, but you must submit your credit card information; after the free trial, the price is $9.95 per month or $99 annually for one user/one computer.

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How It Works

GoToMyPC requires that Java be installed on both the client and the host computers. When you first start the hosting software, you give your computer a name and password. To remotely access it over the Internet, you use a Web browser on your client computer to log in to your user account on the GoToMyPC site.

The host's system name appears on your user page. Click it, type in the password you chose, and a Java-based viewer window pops open that shows your host computer's desktop.

Settings and Extra Tools

One useful setting in the Java client toolbar lets you scale the size of your window view of the host computer's desktop. An important setting allows you to decrease the number of colors that are displayed by your host's screen. Reducing this level should help to diminish lag because less color data needs to be streamed from the host to your client.

The client-side front end also includes a couple of tools. One lets you transfer files: A panel window on the left side shows the file directory of your host, and a panel on the right shows the file directory of your client. To transfer a file from one directory to another, you click a file to highlight it and drag it to the other panel window, or you click an appropriate button on the file transfer's UI to start the transfer. There's also a basic chatting tool.

Performance

GoToMyPC lets you hear the audio playing from your host computer, so I was able to remotely play MP3s. The sound quality of the playback as it streamed to my client notebook was decent, like a low-bitrate MP3 file.

Navigating through my host computer's desktop, and clicking items, was decently fast. The lag wasn't too bad, although when I clicked on and dragged windows around, things stuttered a bit. Scaling down the range of colors to 256 improved things somewhat.

Bottom Line

The fact that you can hear audio playing on your host streaming to your client computer is a plus; only one other remote-desktop service in this roundup, LogMeIn, offers this feature. However, I didn't like the fact that you have to enter credit card information on the GoToMyPC site to try out this service for free.

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