Free Splashtop Remote Desktop Makes it Easy to Access PCs From Afar

There was a time when pcAnywhere was the only software available if you needed to take remote control of another computer. Times have changed, however, and several other options-- such as Teamviewer, CrossLoop, and the recently-reviewed Remote Utilities--have points to recommend them. Another company, Splashtop, has developed similar software for Mac for quite some time, and it’s now available for Windows systems as well. Splashtop Remote Desktop is free for non-commercial use.

Splashtop Remote Desktop screenshot
Splashtop Remote Desktop automatically finds networked computers running Splashtop Streamer.
Like most remote control software, Splashtop has two separate components: the Streamer, which you install on computers you want to control, and the Remote Desktop, which you install on your “command center.” Both downloads are less than 10 megabytes each, and vendor Splashtop Inc. offers Splashtop Remote apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Android and webOS devices as well.

One of Splashtop’s best features is visible right from the get-go. After installing the Streamer on your host computers, launch the Splashtop Remote Desktop on your control system. Splashtop will automatically scan your network for available hosts that are running Streamer and let you connect with a single click.

While connected, Splashtop automatically redirects all your keystrokes to the remote computer. This is a thoughtful tweak, because remote control programs that don’t do this by default can be a bit confusing. If your keystrokes aren’t being redirected, when you tap the Windows key your start menu appears, not the remote system’s start menu. I was glad to see that Splashtop nipped that problem in the bud.

Splashtop automatically scales the remote desktop to fit your display, and you can also expand to a full-screen view. Switching between views requires only a single click.

Here’s where I ran into the occasional hiccup: On my host computer, overall performance sometimes took a hit while the Splashtop Remote was connected to one of my host systems running Streamer. When I tabbed out to other applications like Word or Firefox, text didn’t appear as quickly as it should have while I typed and the mouse cursor stuttered while moving. As soon as I disconnected my Splashtop session, things returned to normal. Other times, however, there was no such performance hit and both computers ran silky-smooth.

I also had problems activating the Internet Discovery feature, which is a shame because it’s incredibly useful. Internet Discovery allows you to connect to your home computers running Streamer from anywhere in the world. However, you must have a Google account to sign in to the service and it wasn’t always able to process my credentials. Instead the progress indicator would spin and spin and eventually time out. This happened on three different computers from time to time, though all three were able to connect eventually.

Once Splashtop works out the kinks in its new Windows Remote, it will rank right up there with more mature apps like Teamviewer. If you’re only interested in controlling computers on your home network, however, Splashtop might just be the simplest way there is to set up remote access.

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