While both operating systems have their advantages there is something a little frustrating about the differences between Mac OS X and Windows, something that can often lead to problems. For instance, you might need to access your home Apple Mac computer from a work-based Windows PC, or have a few Macs on your corporate network that may need remote access from time to time for tech support purposes.
Fortunately there are various suitable remote access applications that can be used for these tasks, all of which are available to download from the web, and offer free evaluation periods for corporate use.
In a moment we’ll take a look at the top remote access tools for connecting to a Mac from a PC, but first, let’s take a look at the benefits of remotely connecting to your Mac.
Why You Might Want Remote Access
One thing to note is that while the Windows RDP (remote desktop protocol) is an option for Windows-only networks, this isn’t available to connect to Macs, although an RDP component is provided in Microsoft Office: Mac for connecting from a Mac to a Windows computer.
Therefore, the best resolution is one of these web-based systems that take advantage of your Internet connection and modern browser to display a representation of another computer desktop. Using these services you can connect to another computer and perform tasks ranging from checking email and writing documents to providing software support to your clients and hosting online meetings.
The following services – GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, WebEx and TeamViewer – are all designed to allow remote access to a Mac from a PC, and offer free versions for solo use and paid versions for corporate customers.
One of the most famous names in the remote desktop sector, GoToMyPC is designed to allow fast and secure remote access to a Mac from any web browser. Via www.gotomypc.com you can download a free 30 day trial which acts as a client component for connecting to your Mac from elsewhere. A username and password is also required for your secure connection, and are used when you then revisit the GoToMyPC website from your Windows computer to connect to your Mac, which is done via the Log In option.
GoToMyPC is a popular and easy to use system which requires a fast and stable Internet connection, Windows 2000 or later, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard or later and Safari 3.0.
Offering a suite of products for personal and business use is LogMeIn.com, which again offers a client download which allows your computer to be accessed via the web from another device.
There are many different options available, the IT team-focused LogMeIn Rescue to the browser-independent LogMeIn Ignition, but to get started and see how good the service is, the free (for personal use) LogMeIn Free option is your best choice, and offers a client download for Mac OS X. As with GoToMyPC, LogMeIn requires you to set up an account for secure remote access.
You don’t have to use a PC to access your Mac with LogMeIn – iOS, Android and Windows Mobile portable devices can all be used.
Promoted as a remote support and online collaboration tool, WebEx PCNow offers a free download that will enable you to try out the service and sample its features. These include the ability to dial into a remote computer and provide support, access files and folders, launch programs and print and also access 5 GB of online storage for backups.
All of this is available via your web browser, which can also be used to share files between the two computers. This might prove particularly useful to a computer technician who requires access to error logs, for instance, or to copy a diagnostic tool to the target computer. WebEx PCNow is also optimized to allow access to Mac OS X computers from a Windows PC as well as various mobile devices including an iPhone. Find out more at pcnow.webex.com.
What About pcAnywhere?
Symantec’s popular pcAnywhere is another solution you should consider but note that this is designed for use within a corporate network or across a VPN, rather than being a browser-based service allowing access to computers across the World Wide Web.
To use this option you will need to use the pcAnywhere cross-platform remote option, which features a pcAnywhere Web Remote Mac OS X Host option suitable for Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5 computers (which means you can use on a G4, G5 or Intel Mac).
As long as your Windows PC is running Windows 2000 or later than you will be able to access your Mac from it.
If you have any alternatives to the web-based remote desktop systems listed above, let us know!
Author's own experience.