Cyberclinic: Can I use a PC when I'm not in front of it?

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The Independent Tech

The ability to control a computer from another room used to be a trick that only IT departments seemed to know how to perform. Remote desktop software allows them quickly to log on and attack a problem themselves rather than holler instructions down the phone to a hapless and often clueless employee. But software that allows us to operate them remotely has become an incredibly useful day-to-day tool. Apple recognised this fairly recently; its remote desktop software used to cost a pretty penny, but the current version of Mac OS X has a built-in facility called "Screen Sharing" which allows you to control other Macs on your local network from your own screen, along with a paid-for utility that does the same across the internet.

PC users, meanwhile, have a number of options, such as RealVNC and Symantec's pcAnywhere. But LogMeIn allows you to control your PC from any machine with a web browser and an internet connection – and it works on PCs and Macs. Just download and install a free piece of software on the computers you might need to use, add them to your account on www.logmein.com , and you're ready to roll.

Other readers of our blog have already picked up on LogMeIn. "I use it to access my home machine on my work breaks," commented Emma Bailey. "One of these days I'll talk my mum through installing it so I can help her remotely when something goes wrong." While the neater tricks such as being able to copy files between local and remote machines are only available in the paid-for version, it's still a fantastic toy – although it can be slightly disconcerting when the person who you're testing it with logs on to your machine when you're not expecting it and uses the disembodied cursor to leave rude messages on your screen, as just happened to me. Now, I must change that password...

Diagnosis required

Email any technology gripes to cyberclinic@independent.co.uk, or join the discussions on the blog at www.independent.co.uk/cyberclinic. Currently under discussion: What happens if you let your website's domain name expire?

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