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Lifehacker: The Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, and Better, Third Edition by Gina Trapani, Adam Pash

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Hack 74: Remotely Control Your Home Computer

Level Advanced

Platform Windows, Mac OS X

Cost Free

Ever been at a friend’s house and wanted to show off a photo you left saved on your home computer? Want to check from the office that your daughter’s doing homework and not instant messaging with friends at home? Need to grab a file on your home hard drive when you’re miles away? With a relatively old protocol called VNC and some free software, you can remotely control your home computer from anywhere.

In this hack, you set up a VNC server on your home computer, which can enable you to connect to your desktop and drive it from any Internet-connected computer.

warning As mentioned earlier, running a server and opening a port on your home computer to the Internet is a risky undertaking. Make sure your computer has all the latest security patches, has been checked for spyware and viruses, and that you’re using strong passwords. The VNC protocol is not inherently secure. This hack assumes that you’re comfortable with basic networking concepts. In case this fine print has scared you off, LogMeIn (http://logmein.com) is a web-based application that also provides remote desktop control, which may be a better option for some folks. VNC is preferable because it’s free, it doesn’t require third-party intervention, and it works across operating systems.

The VNC protocol remotely controls another computer over a network. Think of it as a window into your home computer’s desktop from any other computer ...

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