InfoWorld review: Free remote access tools for Windows and Mac

The best free tools combine firewall friendliness with easy remote access and an amazing array of handy features

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LogMeIn Free Edition

InfoWorld's Fee RAS score: Good

LogMeIn Free Edition is a simple-to-use, firewall-friendly remote access tool that comes close to being everything a remote user would need. The free edition provides safe and secure remote access to both Mac and Windows PCs via all popular browsers. However, due to the lack of remote printing, remote sound, and file transfer, most business users will want to consider another offering or pony up the $69.95 annual subscription cost of the Pro2 version.

LogMeIn uses www.logmein.com as a bridge between your remote and host computers. You start by creating an account on LogMeIn.com and installing the host software on your computer. The host agent installed with no difficulty on my Windows XP Pro system and consumed only about 8MB of RAM when idle, although it did jump to around 44MB when a remote user connected.

To take over the host computer, simply log into your account at logmein.com with your Web browser and select your host PC from the list of available computers. Because the host agent connects to the LogMeIn Website, no changes to the firewall are required.

LogMeIn works with Internet Explorer 7 or later, Firefox 3.0 or later, Google Chrome 2.0 or later, and Safari 3.0 or later. Browser support comes via an ActiveX control, Firefox plug-in, Java, or Flash. Host computers must be Windows 2000 (32-bit only) and newer (both 32-bit and 64-bit) or Mac OS X 10.4.6 (Tiger) or newer. Client support ranges from Windows NT 4 to Windows 7 (all editions) and Mac OS X 10.4 and newer.

I tested LogMeIn using all three Windows browsers and found the color depth and overall performance to be on par with one another. The Web connection to the host is secured using 256-bit AES SSL encryption.

The free version of LogMeIn is limited to the most basic use cases. It provides easy, straightforward access to a host and any resource on the domain, but printing and file transfers are out. If remote access to PCs and Macs is the only requirement, then LogMeIn Free edition is perfect. But for more demanding users, LogMeIn offers the $69.95-per-year subscription.

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