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How to control a computer remotely

How to control a computer remotely
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Knowing how to control a computer remotely can help you out of a sticky situation. Computers are wonderful things, whether it’s for getting your daily work done, connecting with friends, or playing games. In fact, we’ve come to rely on them for much of our interaction with the outside world in recent years.

Connecting to one of the best home computers or the best laptops remotely may not be something you need to do all that often, but it’s a handy thing to know how to do – whether it’s looking for a file someone sent, or because there’s a document you didn’t manage to upload to the cloud yet.

• Read more: Laptops vs home computers

Here’s everything you need to know about how to control a computer remotely.

How to control a computer remotely

The concept of remotely accessing a computer means you’re logging into one device from another, often through the same network but sometimes from an external source.

The advantages, then, are pretty straightforward; you can copy files from one computer to another, maybe prepare a lengthy download, or simply stream home movies you have on one PC to another in your home.

Before we begin…

We’re going to be focusing on Windows remote access that’s set up through the OS settings here, but there are a wealth of third-party options available for both PC and Mac.

Options like Zoho Assist are relatively easy to use and can let you access your PC or Mac from anywhere. Third-party options are also much better at communicating between a Mac and a PC or vice-versa without needing to jump through many hoops.

For gamers, there are options like Nvidia’s GeForce Now, which let you remotely login to a high-powered gaming PC to play the latest and greatest games – although it’s a little different because you’re logging into Nvidia’s own hardware. 

Finally, we alluded to the cloud earlier but it’s something to consider. Google Drive, Dropbox, and iCloud Drive all put your files in the cloud, so you can access them remotely from a web browser or your mobile devices.

How to control a PC remotely

On your Windows PC, the process is the same for Windows 10 and 11. For both, you’ll need to have Windows 10 Pro or Windows 11 Pro – meaning your current setup may not have access to system-level remote desktop options.

To find out, head to Settings, System, and then About. Your Windows 10 and 11  Edition can be found on this page.

If you do have Windows 10 Pro or Windows 11 Pro, then the good news is that it’s very easy to remote desktop.

Step 1
Press Start, then Settings, then System.

Step 2
Head to Remote Desktop, Enable Remote Desktop, and make a note of the login info on the page.

Step 3
If you’re logging in via a PC on the same network, use the search button on the task bar to search ‘Remote Desktop Connection’, and then find the PC’s name.
If you’re logging in from an external device or network, use Microsoft’s Remote Desktop app (a free download on all platforms) to access the PC.

How to control a computer remotely

(Image credit: Getty)

How to control a Mac remotely

Apple allows remote access in macOS, but you’ll need to set it up. Thankfully, the process isn’t too tricky.

Step 1
Click the Apple logo in the top left of your screen, then select System Preferences.

Step 2
Head into Sharing, and then Remote Management. Tick the box next to it if it isn’t activated already. Tick all of the options that apply to what you want to do with the remotely accessed Mac.

Step 3
Here, you’ll want to note the login info provided. It should be something like “computername.home”. The computer name will be listed at the top of the Remote Login window (for example, MacBook Pro would be “macbook-pro”).

Step 4
You’ll also need to know the IP address of the Mac. The easiest way to find this is to use a service such as whatismyIPaddress.com.

Step 5
Navigate to Terminal, a macOS application, on the Mac you want to access your current one from. You can find it by bringing up Spotlight search with “Command + Space” on your keyboard, or head into your Application folder followed by utilities.

Step 6
Entering “ssh yourname@computername.home” command into Terminal on another Mac will let you login, so long as you follow up with a password and hit return.

If you’re using a DNS service, you’ll have a string of numbers instead of your computer name, but the process is still the same.

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Lloyd is a long-time contributor to Top Ten Reviews, and an expert in all things Apple and in computer and gaming tech. You'll find him regularly testing the latest iPhone or iPad, and you can also find him writing about video games all over the internet. He also has an interest in virtual reality, which he has written about extensively.