Desktop sales have been declining for years, with people favoring more portable solutions like laptops. This means people are more likely to take their desktop experience with them than leave a big old machine at home.
However, people often leave their laptops at home, in the office or back in the hotel. Serious work also favors the desktop, and mainly people who use desktop operating systems for work purposes need access to a computer on the go.
Fortunately, remote desktop software has been at the forefront of the mobile revolution. This means you can pull out your phone and tablet and send yourself a presentation you forgot to put in Dropbox before you hit the road.
These are nine of the best mobile remote desktop apps available today. Best news? Most of them won’t cost you a dime.
Chrome Remote Desktop (Free: iOS and Android)
This is possibly the easiest to use remote desktop app we’ve ever had. With Chrome Remote Desktop (iOS & Android) you can remotely access your Windows, Mac, Linux or Chromebook computer.
All you have to do is download the Chrome Remote Desktop App for the desktop platform of your choice, run it, and follow the instructions to set it up. Then run the app from your mobile device.
The app has proven to be quite reliable, and Google has some clever solutions for operating something like Windows 10 from a tablet or smartphone screen. Chrome Remote Desktop is so smooth you’ll find yourself using it without a second thought.
Microsoft Remote Desktop App (Free: iOS and Android)
With Windows being the most popular operating system in the world, you cannot mistake it for a remote desktop application created by the very same people who have made us the comprehensive software backbone of the PC world.
Microsoft mobile apps available on both Android and iOS and this is Many documents to get you all running. That is also its main weakness. Setting up your remote access desktop and apps can be a bit overwhelming compared to the slick setup you get with something like Google’s apps.
However, Windows proficient and tech-savvy users will appreciate the reliability and power of the application. Best of all, from Windows 8+ you can use natural, direct touch mode. This will turn your iOS or Android tablet into a Windows tablet.
TeamViewer for personal use (Free: Windows Mobile, Blackberry, iOS & Android)
TeamViewer is a household name in the world of remote desktop and the company offers enterprise-class telemetry services for a license fee. The good news is that people who want to use the software for personal, non-commercial purposes can do so to free!
The downside is that the software has code that detects commercial use and then blocks you. This is fine with the license terms, but when you get a false positive you need to contact them to unlock everything. It’s rare, but annoying.
However, in terms of technology and features, TeamViewer is hard to beat. It’s backed by premium infrastructure and you can do more than just control the remote desktop. There is a long list of devices that you can access remotely using iOS or Android application. If you own a Windows Mobile or Blackberry device, this may in fact be your only option.
Everyone should try TeamViewer at least once if they are looking for a great remote desktop experience.
Splashtop Personal (Free: iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, Windows Phone)
Just like TeamViewer, the guys from Splashtop decided to make their software free for personal use. However, they will sell you pro features through in-app upgrades.
Unlike TeamViewer, business features can be billed monthly, while TeamViewer only sells annual subscriptions. The software supports a lot of mobile devices and you can choose one from Splashtop’s personal download page to match whatever hardware you’re using.
LogMeIn Pro ($349.99 per year: Android & iOS)
LogMeIn discontinued it for free in 2014, but remains one of the more recognized names in the remote desktop market.
The annual plan for LogMeIn Pro is certainly high for individual users, but also includes a LastPass Premium subscription. You also get a terabyte of cloud storage. The personal level allows only two computers to be registered for access. For most people, this will likely include their home and work computers.
LogMeIn is a professional product that includes a high level of security and specialized features you won’t find in free products. At least not all at once. For example, if the remote control has multiple screens, you can adjust the display accordingly on the device you are using to control it.
You also get better uptime guarantee of service and support with a paid product like this one. So if you need remote access for important reasons, LogMeIn could be the right choice.
VNC Viewer (Free: IOS & Android)
VNC Viewer and its companion VNC Server offer one of the most flexible remote desktop solutions you can get today. All you need to do is install the Server app on the device you want to remote control. Then, install the Viewer app on the device you want to control.
The Server application includes almost every major desktop operating system in use. Obviously Windows and MacOS are supported, but you also get Linux and Raspberry Pi support. Viewer is available on all of the above and adds iOS and Android to the mix.
The software uses end-to-end encryption and password protection on each computer. You must use the remote machine’s credentials to access it. On mobile devices, the touchscreen acts as a trackpad, but Bluetooth keyboards are also supported if you need serious text input.
VNC works like a charm and offers seamless security and pretty good performance even on relatively low bandwidth. Of course, there is a paid version of the technology for more serious users, but most non-system administrators will be quite pleased with what you can get for the same price. are not!
NoMachine (Free: iOS and Android)
NoMachine’s tagline is “NoMachine for Everybody”, true to their basic non-business product. It’s free, secure, and pretty easy to set up. Although it’s a relatively obscure name in remote desktop software, NoMachine has a lot going for it that can help you sell their products.
Their main goal is performance. While most remote desktop software lets you do basic things on a remote desktop, the amount of lag and poor quality streaming is no substitute for actually being there. NoMachine claims to be the fastest, low-latency remote desktop software.
At the same time, they also claim the best streaming quality. Good enough that you can watch HD videos or play video games on the remote machine. Obviously this depends on your bandwidth on both ends of the connection, but if your main ability with other remote desktop software is that it’s too slow and ugly, NoMachine is definitely worth a try.
With products like the iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface blurring the lines between desktop and mobile, one day we may not need remote desktop apps.
However, it is good to know that there are now a wide range of solutions for almost any mobile device and desktop operating system. Usually completely free!
So now you can leave the house with complete confidence that your desktop is just a tap or two away.