I am getting a lot of questions about LogMeIn since recently writing about the computer utility that provides remote control functions to any Mac or Windows PC. That many questions about a service usually means I need to dive deeper into how I use it, which I’ve done with LogMeIn — and my top five ways to do so are the result.
LogMeIn’s base function is to allow for the control of any computer remotely from any other one. This control is done securely over the web, and that is the primary strength of LogMeIn. You can sit in front of any computer, anywhere in the world, and control the host computer no matter where it is located. The remote computer screen appears on the local computer, and this is all done through the magic of the web browser.
LogMeIn for computers comes in several versions, with LogMeIn Free available at no cost (naturally). The premium versions add various functionalities, from the ability to copy files between computers to full-blown IT support services. The free version provides the sophisticated remote control functions to any computer, and most folks can likely get by with it.
Each computer that you wish to control remotely must have the local LogMeIn utility installed, to handle the secure login and connection. This only has to be done once and it takes few resources running in the background. Once LogMeIn is installed, that computer can be accessed from any computer, anywhere. Here are the top five ways to get the most out of LogMeIn, based in large part on the questions I am receiving about how to use it to maximum effect.
Display settings are key. When you use LogMeIn to control a remote computer, it uses the web browser as a window into the other computer. The computer you are sitting in front of becomes the de facto screen of the other computer, and you see everything you would see were you sitting in front of the other computer. LogMeIn provides a wealth of settings to handle the way the remote computer screen appears locally, but it is simple to get the maximum functionality. There is now a setting in the display drop-down box that automatically adjusts the remote screen resolution to that of the local computer. This is important as the two computers often have different display resolutions, which left on its own can make things difficult to see.
A common scenario for LogMeIn use has the user controlling the desktop system at home from a notebook computer somewhere else. Since most notebook screens run at a lower resolution than desktops with bigger screens, this resolution switching is critical. LogMeIn handles switching the host resolution (desktop in this example) to that of the notebook used to access it. It does this automatically and importantly it switches it back when you log out. That means the desktop screen switches back to a nice hi-res setting, without any user interaction.
Once that setting is made and the host display is switched to the local resolution, LogMeIn allows for a “full-screen” mode. This lets the remote desktop completely take over the local screen, and once that happens it is just like sitting in front of the host system. There are still accessible controls on the edge of the screen should you need to do something on the local system. It is very well implemented and works seamlessly once set properly.
LogMeIn works in any web browser that supports Java; I have used it in Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox without issues. If you are using a Windows PC to access the remote system, I recommend using Internet Explorer. LogMeIn installs an ActiveX control the first time you do so, and this adds a lot of controls to make the session easier. It still works fine in the other browsers, but the ActiveX control makes it more like a native app in Internet Explorer.
Tap into computing horsepower. One of the potential benefits of using LogMeIn is to tap into a more powerful computer than the one you are currently using. Say you have a powerful desktop computer at home, but are using a less powerful netbook on the road. Using LogMeIn you can take over the powerful system and do more intensive tasks than the netbook will allow. I have used this method to do video editing and encoding remotely. These tasks are very compute intensive, and typically completely take over the system on which I perform them. Since I am using the compute power of the remote system, my less powerful local system lets me do this without impacting the local work.
The same reasoning applies to intensive system maintenance functions, such as backing up entire systems or running a complete virus scan. These are often functions scheduled to happen in the middle of the night, but there are times when a manual scan or backup would be useful. Rather than do this when you get home and have that system tied up for an extended period, you can access it remotely via LogMeIn and fire off the maintenance. It doesn’t impact your local system, and the maintenance is all done when you get back home.
Support computers remotely. If you are like me you have the lucky designation among family and friends as the one to call when they have computer problems. You’ve likely spent many phone calls trying to explain to Aunt Sue how to install a new program, or figure out why her email won’t work. With LogMeIn, this situation is much improved. Simply log onto the other computer and install that program. Or you can see for yourself exactly what the problem is, and figure out how to fix it like you would on your own system. That the “email won’t work” quickly becomes a “Gmail is down” can save you an inordinate amount of time on the phone. You can also remotely run the maintenance that all family members seem to forget.
Access work computer from home. These days of Gmail it’s easy to forget that a lot of folks still have no way to access work email from home. Members of the “no BlackBerry” workforce often wish they could check the email at work while out of the office. If the corporate network allows access, you can use LogMeIn to tap into your work PC and get at that email. Or perhaps your work entails using specialized software. You can take over your work computer and run the program. This can be a big benefit when out of the office. Again, the corporate network would have to allow this, but it’s worth a try.
Use your home PC from any public PC. If you do a lot of traveling you’ve no doubt found yourself with some free time but without having your laptop handy. Maybe you’re passing by the hotel business center and realize you’d like to access your PC at home but you left the laptop in the room. No problem, just jump on the public PC in the business center and log into your home machine. You’ll have your complete home computing environment right there where you need it, including the ability to run any of your programs or access any of your files. Since LogMeIn uses a discrete browser session to handle things, when you log off the public system your information is gone. It’s like carrying your big desktop system everywhere you go.
These are by no means the only ways that LogMeIn can be leveraged, but they are the ways I find myself using it most often. The utility I get by accessing one of my computers when needed cannot be overstated. It’s like carrying all of my computers around with me, all the time. Just a lot easier.
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