LogMeIn and the joy of painless remote connection

Like many TR readers, I often find myself called upon to aid friends and family members with their technical problems. I’m usually happy to oblige. My liberal arts education has given me few other useful skills, and besides, when I am done troubleshooting, I sometimes get pizza.

Providing phone-based support is tricky, though. There’s nothing quite like trying to troubleshoot over the phone to make you wish you were in a dark alley somewhere, taking a vicious beating. That would be less painful. If I want to help out a friend without spending the time and effort it would take to write my own OS from scratch, I really need some form of remote control software.

Windows XP and later editions include Remote Assistance, a rudimentary remote control application. This software, while useful in a pinch, requires that the connection be initiated by the person you are trying to help. Depending on their level of technical know-how, this process can actually be somewhat tedious.

Professional versions of XP, Vista, and Win7 let systems host a Remote Desktop connection. In terms of offering tech support, though, it should be noted that your mother who uses the Internet primarily to check movie times is unlikely to be using more expensive or business-centric editions of Windows. Another caveat with Remote Desktop is that you must know the IP address of the host system. In my experience, both Remote Assistance and Remote Desktop can be blocked if routers aren’t configured to accommodate them. If you thought talking your grandmother through updating her virus definitions was frustrating, wait until you have to ask her to enable port forwarding on her router so you can connect remotely.

Remote control software is helpful if I want to check in on my own PC, too. When I’m at a friend’s house or away from home for an extended period of time, being able to access my own PC from anywhere is great—whether I need to grab a file I forgot to put on my encrypted thumb drive or perhaps to fire up uTorrent to start downloading all the Linux ISOs and public-domain music that have made The Pirate Bay so popular.

I have found LogMeIn to be an indispensable, free alternative to other remote desktop access software. A small LogMeIn applet needs to be installed on each computer that you wish to connect to, but in my experience, this initial inconvenience is very quickly outweighed by the easy remote access that follows. The software is compatible with versions of Windows dating back to WinME; though if someone you know is still using ME, they have a serious problem that cannot be solved by any amount of remote troubleshooting. A slap in the face might be a good start. LogMeIn also has a Mac version compatible with OS X 10.4 onwards.

Both free and various pay versions of the software are available. I am incredibly cheap savvy when it comes to spending my own money, so I inevitably opt for freebies when they’re available. In choosing to pay nothing for LogMeIn, I sacrifice remote sound, remote printing, and other, more esoteric features. In spite of those omissions, the free version is still a perfect fit for basic use. The sign-up process is quick and painless, and anyone handy enough to be counted on for computer help—or geeky enough to need remote access to his own PC—should have no trouble grasping it. Unsurprisingly, the website makes a strong effort to steer you toward one of the fee-based tiers. However, if you persist in selecting the free version, the site automatically offers a two-week trial of the pro version—not a terrible idea, since no credit card number is required, and the trial automatically reverts to the free version after expiring.

Once logged into your LogMeIn account, you are greeted with the following screen, which lists of all the machines tied into your account, as well as various places to change your account settings:

The My Computers screen lets users select the PC they wish to control. The prominent green “Remote Control” button is only visible beside the computers that are currently online.

Once you have clicked that button and entered the User Name and Password for the remote PC, you are logged in and ready to take control. At this point, any number of options can be tweaked.

The toolbar that appears when “Options” is clicked provides quick and easy access to screen resolution, color quality, and other settings you might want to dial down if you’re working with a slow connection. I have tested this software over some relatively pokey Internet connections and still never experienced sluggishness.

If you click “Preferences” in the left-hand column, LogMeIn gives you an opportunity to lock down the security settings further.

I found the “Personal Password” setting to be of particular interest. With it enabled and a password entered, the next time I connected to the PC I was greeted with this screen:

Presumably, the pull-down menus serve to defeat keyloggers that might be installed at nefarious Internet cafés. Password protection could also serve as a temporary stop-gap should you walk away from an unlocked PC without logging out of your LogMeIn account. A knowledgeable interloper could probably disable the personal password prompt, but this should definitely help stymie casual snooping. In any case, it’s nice to see LogMeIn offer effective yet relatively unobtrusive safeguards like this one.

LogMeIn addresses all of the major concerns I have with the various versions of Remote Assistance and Remote Desktop packages offered with Windows. Regardless of the network of routers, switches, and firewalls between me and a host PC, LogMeIn has always connected flawlessly. It also eliminates the need to know your IP address, something that makes a spur-of-the-moment remote connection to your home PC much more feasible. In addition, there’s no question that the broad OS support is a boon to anyone dealing with dated or home versions of Windows or helping out a Mac user.

All in all, I think LogMeIn is a great solution for remote access, provided you are willing and able to do the initial setup of the host software on each PC. Microsoft does offer some serviceable tools in this area, but the router issues and Remote Desktop hosting limitations have caused me to convert to LogMeIn.

Comments closed
    • LoneWolf15
    • 9 years ago

    I’ve used LogMeIn Free for a couple of years now. Makes supporting about 1-2 dozen friends and family so much easier.

    In my case, once I have it installed, I switch it off in the system tray, and just tell them to switch it on when they call me. When I’m done, I tell them to switch it off again.

    • indeego
    • 9 years ago

    All these suffer from future possible MITM and possibly DDOS/worm attacks. You should use them sparingly, with user training, and ALWAYS with the user activating them, never as a service/always on.

    Having said that I use Teamviewer for the family support queue, and haven’t been disappointedg{<.<}g

    • agawtrip
    • 9 years ago

    im using logmein too plus hamachi

    i didnt know about windows live messenger can do remote access. nice tip
    i’ll give it a try

    • rsaeire
    • 9 years ago

    I used to use LogMeIn until I found UltraVNC. It runs smoother than LogMeIn and uses less CPU resources when playing back video; something I find extremely helpful as I use my laptop to control my HTPC via UltraVNC.

      • LoneWolf15
      • 9 years ago

      UltraVNC has firewall requirements. LogMeIn does not, making it better for helping others with troubleshooting, especially those with limited computer-savvy.

      For doing what you’re doing, I just have DynDNS in my router, and a port-forward for Remote Desktop. Then I don’t even need UltraVNC.

    • Bensam123
    • 9 years ago

    windows + R > msra. Guide them through it, done.

    Although this would be nice for particularly tricky routers or when the users mess up permissions. Most of the time it isn’t that bad though.

    • eitje
    • 9 years ago

    I’ll put in a vote for Microsoft’s SharedView product. Given that all of my family uses Windows, and most have hotmail accounts, it works out great for me.

    • wiak
    • 9 years ago

    TeamViewer is alot faster performance wise compared to Logmein 😉

    • sonneillon
    • 9 years ago

    I guess I am rather lucky as almost all of the guys in my family are techies so I rarely get calls to help out from family with PC problems and most of my friends are techies so I rarely having them calling me for help.

    Now the female friends of mine who call me for help I have no problem making late night stops by there place to fix their problems 😉

    • PenGun
    • 9 years ago

    In the *nix world we use ssh for pretty near everything remote. Screen and ssh do it all.

      • LoneWolf15
      • 9 years ago

      Great, because all my relatives including Gramma use Linux!

      </sarcasm>

    • provoko
    • 9 years ago

    ooooo looks great, i’ll give it a try =)

    • Aranarth
    • 9 years ago

    Teamviewer (www.teamviewer.com) does everything that logmein does and it is free for personal use.

    I use the paid version at work to access client machines.

    I use the free version at home if i need to access my work machine or family members machine.

    For remote support they a quick support version that does not install anything on the clients machine (just a couple registry entries) and if the quick support is not running you cannot get in so the user is secure.

      • Thrashdog
      • 9 years ago

      Seconded for TeamViewer. We also use the paid version at work, and it’s been a great improvement over VNC (our old remote support system, until we figured out what a gaping security hole it is) and Mikogo (our stop-gap after we dumped VNC).

        • Metalianman
        • 9 years ago

        I’ve been using team viewer for a few good years now. I’ve been living far away from home (home = Greece, living = UK) and friends and family always seem to have some kind of problem with their computers that they want some help with it. I have found TeamViewer to be brilliant at work, although I’m quite fearful of the fact that it bypasses any firewall I have put against it and once it’s open the only thing that is there in terms of security is a password. No matter how hard the password may be, it’s still something that it can be hacked, non-the-less, for more than 4 years now I had no problem with it at all, only good things to say about it.

        The free version is very quick, has quite a lot of features and I really think that I should try the pro version just out of curiosity!!!

          • TheBob!
          • 9 years ago

          Yeah but does it have an iPhone app like logmein?

          I’m kidding I use remote desktop for most things and looked at logmein, but the $30 iPhone app turned me off.

    • albundy
    • 9 years ago

    been using them since they started over half a decade ago. hopefully they will straiten out all those patent lawsuits, otherwise I have to go back to VNC if they ever implode.

    • tanker27
    • 9 years ago

    I love LogMeIn from my iPad and phone. Its sweet, even works over 3G, albeit a little slow.

    I have 3 personal machines on my account and my parents machine for support.

    • axioms
    • 9 years ago

    I use team viewer. Guaranteed to find a route. Just install the app on both PC’s, put in your 4 digit code and your up and helping mom within minutes.

    • hapyman
    • 9 years ago

    Wait… I thought you couldn’t have more than one PC on the free version. Or have they changed that recently? If not that is amazing because in the past I have always had to have the people I was helping register and open their own account and then share their password with me. Too many steps.

    • Shinare
    • 9 years ago

    As the family “techie” of a family stretched out over these united states, this is extremely useful for the everyday hassles of “how do I…” or “whats this…” but the hardware problems or “my screen is blue with a bunch of writing on it” still require a visit of course.

    • boing
    • 9 years ago

    l[

    • Welch
    • 9 years ago

    Your just now finding out about Logmein!!!!!!? I’ve been using it for work over the last 2 years and fell in love with this software. I haven’t bought Logmein Ignition for my phone just yet, waiting on 2.1 to be released for the Backflip and I’m not sure how the latency is on the network here in Fairbanks. But since the rest of the software has been free, i’d be willing to be $30 for Ignition.

    Before using this I was all about UltraVNC, which has its uses too… but for simple setup and all…… LogMeIn rocks. I’m not sure if VNC has a wake on lan feature, but LogMeIn does!

    • TravelMug
    • 9 years ago

    Using the free version for a few years now. Saved me a lot of trouble trying to make my mum navigate through anything in Windows. I just login and do whatever I want now.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 9 years ago

    I love the free LogMeIn product. I had the 30-day “premium” trial and I never used any of the premium features. Just being able to log into a home PC from work is amazing.

    • highlandr
    • 9 years ago

    Anybody ever used showmypc.com? I see that they have a simple dowloadable program for remote troubleshooting.

    I use Logmein at home and at our church, but it isn’t easy to initiate a logmein session if they haven’t already installed it. Showmypc seems like a better option for the next step after phone troubleshooting.

    • bdwilcox
    • 9 years ago

    I use free Crossloop. Anyone else?

    • StuG
    • 9 years ago

    I use this product all the time since I’m not always with different family members to help them.

    • herothezero
    • 9 years ago

    I have about 450+ clients on the Pro version in my corporate environment, and it’s just awesome.

    That said, I use the free version for family, and it’s a joy.

    • Ryhadar
    • 9 years ago

    Here’s another trick:

    Download and install Windows Live messenger, and setup two accounts (i.e. client1234 and host1234). Make these two accounts buddies.

    When someone needs help:

    Have whomever is having an issue install Windows Live messenger. Tell them to sign in under one of the accounts. When they’re online, send them an instant message. Instruct them to select “Request Remote Assistance” from the Actions menu (on the newest version of Live messenger, instruct them to press Alt on your IM window then look for the actions drop down). Accept their request and windows live messenger handles the rest.

    This doesn’t help so much with working on your own computer, but if your helping somebody else it’s pretty easy to do — for them and for you. Especially for XP users as Windows Messenger is already installed.

      • rhysl
      • 9 years ago

      But you need ports open on your/their router anyway for this to work ?.. Which by default they arent!

        • Ryhadar
        • 9 years ago

        I haven’t needed anyone to open up ports yet.

        Edit: I have had to mess with firewall settings, but that’s a given with pretty much any program that connects to the Internet.

        • Flying Fox
        • 9 years ago

        A lot of routers ship with uPnP enabled by default, which can be very useful for that purpose.

        That said, if both sides have WLM already, the process is as simple as LogMeIn, hence RA is still my preferred method.

      • GTVic
      • 9 years ago

      I set that up on my parent’s computer with autostart and auto-login and it still took my dad 15 minutes to log in (somehow he’s always logged out despite my best efforts) and then request remote assistance. For the computer challenged this method is very difficult, not to mention the issues when they are running XP and you have Windows 7 and the versions of IE/WLM don’t match.

        • Ryhadar
        • 9 years ago

        That’s strange, I’ve never had those difficulties. I’ve used this on computers with different versions of IE, WLM, and Windows. However, I definitely have not tried IE 6 so I’ll have to take a closer look at that. Thanks for the tip.

        • Flying Fox
        • 9 years ago

        I have tried XP helping XP, XP helping Vista, 7 helping XP, and 7 helping 7 with no problems. The version of IE should not matter since Remote Assistance is more about hooking into the Remote Desktop guts.

        On one machine that I do regular help (usually for patch Tuesday, I like going through the list first before blindly installing the updates), Live Messenger also seems to refuse to log in automatically. This seems to have something to do with the ADSL connection not wanting to autoconnect and WLM tries to connect before a valid internet connection is available (it should retry after a connection is made but for some reason it does not). The best compromise is to save the username and password so for WLM it is one click login.

      • Meadows
      • 9 years ago

      WLM is NOT installed, whether it’s XP, Vista or W7. Nice try, though.

        • Ryhadar
        • 9 years ago

        XP (SP2 and up) comes with Windows Messenger — different clients, sure, but you’re just splitting hairs — and has the same “Request Assistance” option. I never said 7 came with it.

        You’re right about Vista though. It’s been awhile and I guess I’m just remembering the download link.

    • FroBozz_Inc
    • 9 years ago

    I wish the iOS client didn’t cost $30

      • Corrado
      • 9 years ago

      Me too. I bought it anyways and it’s worth every penny. I leave my laptop at home when I’m on call and just bring my iPad now. Ive been getting 5-7 mbit down and 1.5mbit up with my iPhone 4. Now that it’s jail broken and using mywi it’s great.

    • Convert
    • 9 years ago

    Meh, I prefer RWW/RDWEB :p

    • StashTheVampede
    • 9 years ago

    LoginMeIn is really the only thing you can use when you need to remote home to a Mac. Mac’s only remote setup is VNC and it just plain stinks.

    As such, my 24/7 Mini now runs Windows so I can use RDP to get home.

    • Sargent Duck
    • 9 years ago

    Been using LogMeIn now for a couple of years. Great program, so easy to use and it “just works”. Highly recommended as well.

    • ShadowTiger
    • 9 years ago

    This sounds great… the next best thing compared to a free tool that teaches people how to fix their own damn computer problems…

      • TaBoVilla
      • 9 years ago

      or a tool that tells people you are computer illiterate, with auto-replies like:

      “hey mark, my wireless connection is not working properly…”
      tool auto-reply:
      “did you let it cook for 20 minutes on medium?”

    • demani
    • 9 years ago

    I also second the recommendation. I’ve used a number of different clients, and they all have their issues, but when I set up a machine for a family member I always set this up. And having all of the machines collected in one account is incredibly helpful- no searching for passwords, IPs, etc- it just works.

    • rhysl
    • 9 years ago

    A+ Product , I use it many times for my Dad who is 80+ and my brother , and also remoting to work pc which has come in very handy when on call or emergencys.

    Highly recommend.

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