Wednesday, January 23, 2013

WotW: Access and Control Your Computer from Anywhere

First-world problem: You get to a public computer or find yourself at a friend's computer and realize you didn't bring that file with you. Oh, and you forgot your thumb drive too. Sounds really lame when put that way, but it's a problem we've all faced.

I've discussed many cloud-based solutions before, but today I'm going to share one of my favorite pieces of software that I've used for a couple years now to make sure I never forget a file.

It's called TeamViewer. It's a powerful piece of software that allows you to remotely control your computer, and/or transfer files between computers. So, if you find yourself without a file, no worries. Simply remotely control your home computer and transfer over the file you need to whatever computer you're on.

While it's designed for business meetings and IT tech support teams, TeamViewer offers a free version to the public with nearly all the same features. The only catch with the free version is you can't use it for commercial use.

To get started, visit and download a copy of their free install. You can get it for Windows, Macs, Linux and Mobile devices. All for free.

Once the software is installed, it will ask you to create an account. While this is not required, I highly recommend you do so because it will create a list of all the computers you've registered under your account, allowing you to easily remote control and transfer files between the computers.

To make TeamViewer really effective, you should install TeamViewer on each computer, giving each computer a name that you can easily identify. You'll notice in the image above that I have three computers currently powered on and five that are offline.

Now, for the good stuff. Let's say you just want to do a simple file transfer. Open TeamViewer (it hides in the bottom-right corner of your taskbar in Windows). Sign in to your account. You will see your computers listed to the right. Right-click on the computer you want to transfer files between and select File Transfer.

A new window appears with two columns. The left column is the files on the computer you're on (local computer). The right column is the files on the computer you're transferring files between (remote computer).

Let's say I want to transfer files from the remote computer (not your current computer) to your current computer (the local computer). You would go to the right column and navigate to the file you want. Click once on that file and press the Receive button above the column. The file will be transferred to wherever you designated on your computer (the left column). The same works the other way around (transferring from your computer to a remote computer), except you press the Send button instead. Always remember which column represents which computer and where you're transferring files from and to.

Besides file sharing, you also have the option of remotely controlling another computer. Why would this be useful? Let's say your mom is pretty computer illiterate and she has done something wrong and needs help. If you had TeamViewer installed on her computer, you could remotely control her computer, see what's going on and try to fix it. Or, maybe you want to show someone something on your remote computer without transferring a file over. There are a number of possibilities.

To remote control a computer, go to your TeamViewer computers panel and double-click on the computer you want to remote control. A new window will appear and inside it will be your other computer.

From here, you will feel like you're on that computer, because you are remotely controlling it. The graphics are a bit poorer, but that's by design to keep the streaming remote control session going.

One thing to remember about TeamViewer is to make sure you've installed it on all your computers and that you've registered it under your TeamViewer account. Also, the remote computer must be turned on in order for you to remotely control or do a file transfer. If you're on a public computer without TeamViewer installed, you can visit, login and remotely control from within your browser (though this is slower).

This has gotten me out of a jam in so many situations. I love the remote control feature, which is so nice. The other day my wife was out of town and had taken my laptop with her. I needed a file on that computer. I loaded TeamViewer on my home desktop, remotely controlled the laptop she had, found the file I was looking for and transferred it over. The whole process took less than a minute and we were hundreds of miles apart.

Give it a try. It's one free piece of software every computer should have.

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