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I'm not sure if I've worded this question well.

I have family members, friends and clients scattered all over the world who rely on me for technical advice. Directing them over email or the telephone feels a little like I have had my eyes cut out and my hands chopped off and I don't speak the same language.

I would like to be able to view and control their desktops remotely with minimal effort on their part (lets assume they're all as capable with computers as a common cold), without exposing them to any serious security hazards. Some of my clients travel frequently, and often only find that things stop working when they are working at locations outside their offices, so having forwarded ports is not something I can rely on.

Some of the computers run Windows, some OS X and some Linux. I need to at least be able to control the OS X and Windows ones. Some kind of way to manage a list of the connections would be helpful too. It would be incredibly useful if I could do it from my iPhone, but I realise I'm probably pushing it. My computer is a mac running snow leopard.

Is there a straightforward way to do this? I'm not opposed to installing things on their machines, but the less nitty-gritty config stuff they have to do the better.

I would prefer a solution that makes use of freeware as I'm pretty skint.

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Possible duplicate: superuser.com/questions/60798/… –  Michael Kohne Aug 26 '10 at 4:57
    
Not really, this is about managing a lot of remote computers with different operating systems. Also, following the trail of "possible duplicate" answers leads to a lot of stuff that is non-free, and I mentioned in the question I'm interested in freeware, though perhaps this was not prominent enough. –  Shabbyrobe Aug 26 '10 at 5:07

3 Answers 3

TeamViewer has been recommended a few times on the Ubuntu forums. It's free for non-commercial use and supports Windows, Mac and Linux at both ends of the connection, and they even have a free iphone app for you!

As nhinkle pointed out, there is a simplified support version called TeamViewer Quick Support, which even your non-technical user will be able to install with minimal hand-holding.

There is also Logmein, which I've used for this purpose, and it works very well, but the free version supports fewer platforms than TeamViewer.

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What's the catch with TeamViewer? How is it free? –  Shabbyrobe Nov 30 '10 at 1:04
    
It's free only for non-commercial use. You have to pay for commercial use, so presumably they make their money with commercial customers. From your question, it sounds like your use would be non-commercial, so there is no catch at all for you - it's just free. –  Colin Pickard Nov 30 '10 at 11:14

In addition to TeamViewer as suggested above, LogMeIn is a great free service which runs on Windows and OSX. They have a free version which works just fine for most use, and a Pro version with extra features that aren't really necessary for most users. Logmein does require installation, though it's fairly easy to set up.

A unique feature of TeamViewer which makes it ideal for your situation is the ability to have somebody run it without having it preinstalled on their machine. If you download the "TeamViewer Quick Support" option on their downloads page and run it on your computer, it will automatically generate a link which you give to the person you're supporting. They download a file at the link which they run, giving you control. No installation needed - they just click the link. You may want to look into this.

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I have never used TeamViewer before so I don't know about that product, but I do use LogMeIn free version all the time for my computers and my families computers. It does support both OS X and Windows. The free version only lets you control the desktop which is fine for most uses. The paid version has a lot more features like file transfer and file sharing. LogMeIn also has an iPhone app, but it is not free. I think it's $30.

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