Hands-On: 4 Remote-Desktop Services

TeamViewer

The unusual thing about this remote-desktop service is that you can use the same program to either host a computer or to connect to one.

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How It Works

You can set TeamViewer to make the computer that it's running on act as the host, or use it as a client front-end program to connect to a host. Like GoToMyPC and LogMeIn, TeamViewer lets you access your host computer through your user account on the service's site. The Web version runs on Flash. There are also free apps for the iOS (iPad, iPhone) and Android platforms.

When you run TeamViewer, it generates a unique series of numbers and designates it as the computer's ID; it also generates a set of numbers and letters as its password. To remotely connect to this computer, you log in to your account on the TeamViewer site and enter this ID and password. Or, if you'd rather use TeamViewer's client, start up the application, go to client mode, and enter the ID and password assigned to your host computer.

The bad news: TeamViewer doesn't have any audio capabilities through either the Web browser or its client.

Settings and Extra Tools

Whether you use TeamViewer as a client front end or connect via a Web browser, there are presets to scale back the number of colors transmitted by the host's screen in order to cut back on lag.

TeamViewer also includes a file-transfer tool with an interface similar to those of GoToMyPC's and LogMeIn's. The file-transfer feature is totally free to use.

A chat feature is available when you use either TeamViewer's client or a Web browser to access your host. Like LogMeIn's and GoToMyPC's chat tools, this lets people sitting at the host and client computers message each other in real time.

Performance

The Web-access version of TeamViewer was more responsive than LogMeIn's Web equivalent. The lag in response from clicking items on the host computer's desktop wasn't nearly as great.

Using the client application to connect to and control my host was, of course, much faster. Its performance was similar to using LogMeIn's standalone front-end Ignition but has the benefit of being free.

Bottom Line

Considering price, TeamViewer is an attractive deal over GoToMyPC and LogMeIn, since the company lets you use both its service and standalone client software indefinitely for free. This remote-desktop service also has the advantage of supporting the greatest number of operating systems, including three Linux distributions and two mobile platforms. Its biggest drawback is that it doesn't offer audio from your host computer.

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