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PC Remote Control: TeamViewer

Name: Teamviewer
Version Reviewed: 4.1.6911
Price: Free for non-commercial use. $700+ for business to enterprise use.
Site: http://teamviewer.com
Good: Free if not being used for profit.
Do not have to install to use.
No router setup required.
No Administrative rights required.
Bad: File transfer is very slow to connect.
No – really, that’s it. Just the file transfer thing.

Teamviewer LogoA little history…

RealVNC, LogMeIn, and my current favourite, TeamViewer.  You’ve heard of them or read about them, but never quite got up the nerve or found the time to try them out.  If you are a true tech or an Evil Genius In Training, then you’ve a need for tools that help you reach out to the computers of the people you are trying to help, if only to avoid the comical but eminently frustrating whos-on-first game of “Now click on the My Computer icon.  No, not my computer – ‘My Computer’… no no no….”

When I say “reach out”, I mean remote control.  Being able to graphically control a computer at a distance has been around for a very long time now – just ask any grizzled old Unix guru about x11 consoles, or one of those poor souls who administrate Windows servers with Citrix.  In the past, being able to do the same thing from one computer to another computer has required quite a bit of router configuration including setting up port forwarding, and installing the server portion of the software on the computer targeted for remote control.  I’ve done this with RealVNC, setting it up so I could remotely support my mother’s computer in Connecticut from Pennsylvania where I currently reside. In the process, I learned a lot about port forwarding, http tunneling, and router setup.

RealVNC worked well, but was prone to that which had me installing and configuring remote access in the first place: User Ingenuity To Destroy.  To wit: Whenever something went wrong with their broadband, my family’s first impulse was to hard-reset the router, as in “reset and loose all my port-forwarding configuration” the router.  You can see what happens next.  I get a call wondering why something-or-other doesn’t work… I try to remote into the computer… I wind up spending twenty minutes explaining to my mother how to http into the router, trying to remember what the router’s default admin password is, how to add the needed configuration… {sigh}

Enter TeamViewer.  This little company created software that goes around the router, allowing you to get into any computer running the software. I’ve heard you can even use this through a corporate firewall.  Yeah – you heard me right.  You can ditch the corporate VPN software and use TeamViewer to get into your computer at work with no fuss.  At least, that’s what I’ve heard.

How to use it…

Teamview is free to use for non-commercial use, meaning if you are going to use it to help you fix your mom’s computer, you are welcome to it, and all you have to do to get it is visit the Teamviewer site.  There are two stages to using teamviewer.  Stage one is to get the person who’s computer you want to look at to download and run the software. This is easier than you think because of Teamviewer’s option to run the software without installing it.  If you go to the download page, you will see that there are two versions – one usually with the moniker “Quick Support”, and the other being the full version.  All you have to do is have the person at the target computer go to teamviewer’s website and download the quick support version.  On the front page, quick support version can be downloaded by clicking on the “Join A Session” button.

Teamviewer Front Page Download OptionsOnce you’ve got your “user” to make it to the teamview webpage and to hit the “Join A Session” button, on IE you can have them hit the run button of the run-save-cancel trio of buttons to come up.  In Firefox, they’ll have to download and run the program.  With that done, your user should see a small window come up with an ID and a Password.  The ID is the identifier of the computer Teamviewer is running on.  The password will change every time you run the quick support module, making sure no one can get into the computer once they have a password for it.   Have the user give you the ID and password, and the complicated part is over.

As the geek in this little exercise, you get to download the full version of the software and use the ID and password to connect to the user.  The really nice thing about Teamviewer is that even the full version does not have to be installed to use it to remote into another computer.  I’ve downloaded it on the computer at my car dealership while getting an oil change to remote into my computer at work and check my mail.  For the full version, you use the “Create A Session” form to enter the ID of the target computer, and then the password when asked.  A few seconds and a little magic later, and you’ll be staring at a window in which the target computer’s desktop will be displayed, fully under your control.

In closing…

A few closing points.  The remote computer is under your control, but the user on the other end is still in control as well, so you can literally get into a fight over mouse control.  Also, if the user’s screen resolution is higher than yours is, the desktop image on your side will be scaled down to allow you to see the whole thing.  This can result in very tiny icons in the image if their resolution is 1680×1050 and yours is 800×600.  I should also mention that there is  a feature for transferring files between the two connected computers, but it’s been very slow when I’ve used it.  I am hoping this will be fixed in version 5.0.

Lastly, Teamviewer does a whole lot more than what has been mentioned here, so my advice is to get it and play around with it.  It is a very useful piece of software and a worthy addition to any geek’s toolkit.

  1. November 23rd, 2009 at 11:36 | #1

    Hi John,

    Have you heard of Mikogo? It’s a desktop sharing app for remote support with features such as remote keyboard/mouse control, speed/quality adjustment and predefine initial viewing direction. And it’s free for both commercial and private use. If you would like, please drop by http://www.mikogo.com for more info. Or feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Thanks!
    Hsiang-Yi Cheng
    The Mikogo Team

  2. May 24th, 2010 at 14:16 | #2

    Thanks for the TeamViewer instructions. I found them very helpful. Maybe a more detail post on installing the full version (not for commercial use).

  3. September 30th, 2013 at 09:36 | #3

    Yeah, TeamViewer is fairly decent and probably better than Mikogo, in my opinion. But I’ve been using RHUB’s appliance b/c it’s more secure and lets me brand my own Webinars. Btw… I dig the site name.

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