How to Access Your Computer From Anywhere

Do you ever wish you could have access to your computer files no matter where you are? You can! And Tech Talker shows you how.

Eric Escobar
4-minute read
Episode #27

How to Access Your Computer From Anywhere

Let’s say you spent all weekend working on a big project. Then, come Monday morning, you have to present the project to your boss or teacher, when suddenly, 15 minutes before the presentation, you realize that you left the file you were working on saved on your home computer! Either you’d have to have somebody log on to your computer and email the file to you, or you’d have to go all the way back home just to get to it. Not a good situation.

Or what if you’re an aspiring computer whiz managing your family’s digital network, and are tired of going all the way across town to double click a program for Uncle Ralph? Well, in this episode I hope to make these problems a thing of the past! Because I’m going to teach you how to access your computer from anywhere.

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What are Your Remote Access Options?

In a previous episode called An Introduction to the Cloud, I mentioned Windows Live Mesh which is a file syncing tool, but also has computer sharing capabilities. I use this program quite a bit because it has a whole range of benefits. By far the biggest benefit is that it is made by and for Microsoft. However, if you’re trying to access your computer from a mobile device or from an Apple device, then you’re out of luck.

After a fair bit of research, I began using a program called TeamViewer. This program has many similar benefits as Windows Live Mesh, except that it can be used from your iDevice, Android, or Apple computer. TeamViewer can support just about anything that you have, and what’s even better: It’s completely free for personal use! There are one or two ads on this program essentially asking you to purchase the professional version for business use, but other than that, it’s pretty robust all the way around.

Here’s an example of how I use TeamViewer. Let’s say I’m at school and realize that I completely forgot to email a paper that I had been working on. I can just whip out my phone, open the free TeamViewer app, and work on my computer just as if I were sitting in front of it! Granted, it’s not the easiest thing to navigate on a small screen, but in a pinch, it works great.

Or let’s say you’re a child prodigy when it comes to computers and your grandparents are having a problem opening their email. Well, you’ve probably had a conversation similar to this one over the phone:

“Grandpa, if you want to open your email, you need to double click the icon that looks like a letter on your desktop.”

“No, the desktop is where you can see your background.”

“No, when I say double click, I mean with the mouse.”

“No, click with the left mouse button two times.”

“It didn’t open?”

“What do you mean you accidentally turned the computer off?”

I know, I’ve been there.

I’m sorry to say that trying to diagnose and fix a computer problem over the phone just isn’t practical. Because I couldn’t see exactly what was happening on the screen and control the computer, I kept having these types of circular conversations with Grandpa…until I stumbled across a website called Join.Me. All you have to do is go to the website and have the person on the other end of the phone also go to the same website. Then, they will read you a password that the website will give them, you type the password in on your end, and voila—their desktop will appear on your screen! No accounts to create, no software to install, and best of all—it’s free!

I can’t tell you how many of my relatives I’ve helped using this method. Even better, though, is how easy this is to do. When computers don’t work correctly it can be frustrating, especially when you’re trying to explain something over the phone. This has saved me gallons of gasoline, hundreds of dollars, and countless minutes on my cell phone plan. Money Girl would be proud of the cost benefits gained just by using this one simple program.

Yes, But is it Safe?

Let’s talk about security. I’m sure that for many of you this is a major concern. After all, if you can access your computer from anywhere, then couldn’t anyone else access it as well? Well, that’s something you don’t have to worry about as long as you have a strong password, which you don’t share with anyone else. Your password will act as your vault door, preventing anyone who wants to gain access to your computer. Even if you’re still skeptical, most services like TeamViewer will keep a log of when your computer was accessed and for how long. So if you want to be even more sure that your files haven’t been compromised, you can just check those logs to give you peace of mind.

I mentioned Windows Live Mesh, Join.Me, and TeamViewer because I have personally had great experiences with all these services. But if you want to do some more research on your own, I’d also suggest checking out programs such as VNC, GoToMyPC, and LogMeIn!

Here are you 3 Quick and Dirty Tips for remotely accessing your computer:

  1. If you use multiple computers in different locations, install a program such as TeamViewer to give you access to all of them, as long as they are connected to the internet.

  2. If you need to access someone else’s computer remotely, and don’t want to or can’t install software on their machine, use the free service Join.Me to connect to their computer anytime.

  3. Just to be safe, always use a secure password so that no one else can control your computer!

If you think I missed something while covering this topic or want to talk about your experiences with storing accessing your computer remotely then head on over to the Tech Talker Facebook page! Or send me an email at techtalker@quickanddirtytips.com.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

Child Typing on Computer image courtesy of Shutterstock

About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.