At a Glance
- Several remote connection options; no messing with router or firewall settings
- UAC hassles on Vista and Windows 7; complex setup may confuse home users
Access your computers from a distance without reconfiguring your router or firewall.
There are plenty of good reasons to install remote control or
remote access software on your home computer. If you’re travelling,
for example, and there’s something sitting on your home computer
that you absolutely must get your hands on, this kind of program
can make the task virtually headache-free. It’s also a handy way to
tinker with your basement computer when you’re hiding out
upstairs–or doing a little relaxed laptop surfing in the back yard
on a summer day. Remote Utilities sets out to do exactly that, with
some success; its complexity makes it a better fit for power users
than for average home users.
Like other similar programs, Remote Utilities requires the
installation of its server software on the computer(s) you’d like
to be able to access remotely and a viewer that gets installed on
the computer you’ll be making connections from. You can access your
server systems from anywhere in the world, as long as both the
server and viewer have an active Internet connection.
For power users, there’s plenty to like about Remote Utilities.
Several connection modes are offered beyond the full remote desktop
experience. There’s also a file transfer mode, remote device
manager, registry viewer, remote webcam access, and a terminal
mode–which is an excellent way to perform simple command line
tasks from a distance.
Multiple monitors are supported, and there’s a stretch mode
which will automatically scale your remote computer’s display to
make it fit on the viewer. Image quality is very good, too–the
icons on my 20-inch monitor were still readable when viewing my
desktop on a much smaller notebook display using Remote
Connection speeds with Remote Utilities are good, and are on par
with competing programs like TeamViewer and GoToMyPC.
Performance, of course, is dependent on both the speed of your home
Internet connection and also the one over which you’re attempting
remote access. The viewer’s dashboard is also very cool–and
useful–providing thumbnailed views of all your remote servers
which automatically refresh while you have a connection
established. It’s a very handy way to see what you’re doing on
which computer when you have several things on the go at once.
However, some aspects of Remote Utilities may be off-putting to
home users. Its installation is more complicated than that of
TeamViewer. You’ll need to jump through a few additional hoops to
get the Remote Utilities server up and running on your system, and
it’s not always obvious what step you need to take next.
Windows Vista and Windows 7 users should be prepared for UAC
prompts when installing Remote Utilities or making changes to its
settings. While other similar applications have been carefully
designed to offer a UAC-free installation and configuration
process, Remote Utilities prompted me three separate times during
setup and each time I accessed its server settings. There’s also no
server application for Mac or Linux systems, something competing
applications like Teamviewer, ISL, and Remobo can provide.
The settings interface is also a bit clunky, with a solitary
button displayed inside a pop-up window. Rather than offering a
single window with all its settings offered on individual tabs,
Remote Utilities uses a separate window for each item on the
drop-down menu you see above. It’s an unintuitive setup, and one
which isn’t ideal for less-savvy users.
While Remote Utilities does what it sets out to do–providing
remote access to your computers’ desktops–very well, its interface
needs to be re-worked. Right now, a free option like TeamViewer is
a better choice for the average home user. For power users who
crave features like command prompt access and a visual connection
dashboard, Remote Utilities is worth a closer look.