It’s one thing to remotely control a computer on your LAN (in which case VNC or Remote Desktop Connection takes care of that with ease), but another when you want to do the same over the Internet. It’s true that if you really wanted to, you could set up your own VPN tunnel for secure remote VNC connectivity, however most people would prefer simpler solutions. I’ve picked a few that are on the simpler side – all of which are free or at least have a limited-use free option.

1. LogMeIn

Supported platforms: Win, Mac, iOS

LMI has both free and paid options. The free option is good enough for most people, but if you want to transfer files between local and remote, you’ll need the paid version. LMI has been around for a quite a long time and has a good solid history of reliable remote connectivity service.

2. TeamViewer

Supported platforms: Win, Mac, Linux, iOS

Free for all non-commercial purposes. Has cool features like VoIP, webcam goodies and more in addition to all the stuff you’d expect from a quality remote control solution.

3. CrossLoop

Supported platforms: Win, Mac

A simple screen sharer utility with emphasis on being easy-to-use. Paid options available if you need more features.

4. Ammyy Admin

Supported platforms: Win

This is another simple sharer emphasizing no-install/no-config type of use. Has the advantage of working in both newer and older Windows, from all the way back to Windows 2000 up to 64-bit Windows 7.

5. Microsoft SharedView

Supported platforms: Win

SharedView requires the use of a Windows Live ID (such as a Hotmail email address), but its single largest advantage is that you can share a single session with up to 15 people at once. This is more of a conferencing utility rather than remote control, but it’s a good utility regardless.

Dishonorable Mention: Windows Remote Assistance

Supported platforms: Win

I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention this because it is free and does work, but the reason I label it as a dishonorable mention is because it can be a very trying experience to get working. And to be blunt honest I don’t recommend remotely connecting a computer this way just because of the potential hassle involved.

WRA is something that’s been around since Windows XP. In later versions of Windows, Microsoft introduced the "Easy Connect" option because even they knew how much of a pain it is just to connect two remote Win-PCs together.

WRA is not Remote Desktop Connection; it is a standalone service in Windows. Since "Easy Connect" is only available on computers with Windows 7, chances are you won’t be able to use it because you probably want XP-to-XP or 7-to-XP remote connectivity.

You can access WRA via "Help & Support" from the Start menu in XP. Vista and 7 have it available in a search by typing "remote" and you’ll see it.

There are two ways of using WRA. The first is by use of Windows Live Hotmail accounts where both you and the person you want to connect to use Windows Live Messenger; the second by you manually creating an "Invitation file", sending it via email to the recipient, having that recipient launch it, go through a rather annoying authentication process, and then get to business.

Connectivity over WRA is slow and tedious even if both parties have good, fast Internet connections.

In other words, don’t use WRA unless you have no other choice. You’re better off using one of the above options instead.