[HOW TO] Control a Windows PC over the internet with your phone
Have you ever wished you could operate a friend or relative’s PC remotely, as if you were sitting in front of it? Have you had to perform tech support for a parent over the phone, only to get frustrated that they stubbornly refuse to look at the screen to click on a button that you know for absolute sure is there?
Having full control of those PCs via the internet is how you solve those particular problems, plus it’s a great way of keeping on top of your home PC while you’re out and about. Want to queue up a new download, or turn your machine off to save power? You can do it all from a smartphone app.
When used responsibly, remote desktop control is very handy for setting downloads on your home PC during the day, for starting Steam downloads if you happen to buy a Steam game while at work and you want it to be downloaded when you get home, and even for simple things like accessing a specific document that you haven’t uploaded to cloud storage. As well as for helping you not to pull your hair out when attempting to troubleshoot PC problems by proxy.
And with remote desktop software like TeamViewer, VNC or Chrome Remote Desktop, it’s easy.
You will need:
- A computer connected to the internet
- A smartphone/tablet/another internet-connected PC/Mac from which to control it
- TeamViewer 9 software for your chosen platform
And these are the steps.
From a smartphone/tablet:
Download and install TeamViewer on the computer you wish to control. Ensure the computer is on, connected to the internet and the software is running. It also helps to set it to never sleep.
The interface will show something called Your ID and a password; you’ll need to enter these into the TeamViewer mobile app to gain control of the machine, so note these down somewhere. I often just snap a picture of the credentials with my phone for the sake of convenience.
Download and install the TeamViewer app for your mobile phone/tablet. TeamViewer’s mobile app works on iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and Android, and can be found here, as well as in each platform’s respective marketplaces.
Run the app on your mobile device. Enter the ID you noted down earlier in the TeamViewer ID field, and supply the password. Press Remote Control to continue.
Once the connection has been established, you will see the remote PC’s desktop appear on your phone/tablet. Move the mouse cursor by sliding your finger over your phone/tablet’s touchscreen, click by tapping and right-click by pressing and holding.
Once you’re done, simply click/press on the X seen in the TeamViewer widget that appears on the bottom right side of the screen on the remote access window.
From a PC/Mac
Download TeamViewer 9 and install it on both machines. Make sure to grab the right version for your operating system.
Start Teamviewer on the PC/Mac/Linux box you wish to remotely control. Note the number under Your ID and the password the PC has been allocated – you will need these later. Again, snapping a picture of the credentials with your phone’s camera is easiest.
If you’re on a Windows PC, set Power options to not put your home PC to sleep, ever. Do this by clicking Start, then typing Power Options and selecting it. Click Change Plan Settings, and then set “Turn off the display” and “Put the computer to sleep” to Never.
On the PC/Mac/Linux box you want to use to access the other one, download, install and run TeamViewer. Enter the Partner ID and password for your remote machine, make sure Remote Control is selected and click Connect to partner.
Once the connection has been established, you will have access to the remote system as if you were sitting in front of it. Your mouse and keyboard are the remote machine’s mouse and keyboard, allowing you to do what you need to do as if you were physically sitting in front of it.
The beauty of remote desktop connections is the remote machine can be anywhere in the world, and as long as your internet connection is fast enough, this will work just fine.
Something to keep in mind is that TeamViewer and other remote desktop software is only free to use if you’re not using it for commercial purposes. So basically, if this seems like a great idea that you might want to implement at work, you’ll need to buy a commercial license for the software. To check out TeamViewer’s pricing options, go here.
Dedicated programs like TeamViewer make the remote control process as simple and configuration-free as possible, but other options also exist. For instance…
Chrome Remote Desktop
Google’s Chrome browser has its own remote control plugin called Chrome Remote Desktop that’s completely free as well, and uses Chrome for PC/Mac to PC/Mac or smartphone/tablet to PC/Mac control. Grab the plugin for the desktop version of Chrome here, and the Android app here.
RealVNC is another free remote control program that lets you do remote desktop control, also with its own app for phones and tablets.
Windows Remote Desktop Connection
Windows has a built-in feature called Remote Desktop that does the same thing, and which many of these services are based on. Setting it up and running it is straightforward, although not quite as simple as the commercial options.
- Press the Windows key and R, type MSTSC and press Enter.
- Alternatively, click Start, then type remote desktop and click Remote Desktop Connection when it appears.
This option is a lot more complicated than either VNC, Chrome or TeamViewer, though, as it requires you to set up accounts with remote desktop access, configure your PC and router to allow remote desktop connections and know the IP address or computer name of the remote system, and is really not all that easy or convenient to use if you’re not an IT pro. We’ll explain how to use this in more detail at a later date.