Comprehensive feature set. Multi-level security. Elegantly designed viewing window. Multi-monitor support. Combines remote access and online meetings in one app. Free version for non-commercial use.
Expensive. Some options are difficult to find. Security features can be annoying.
- Bottom Line
TeamViewer combines remote access and shared meeting features in a single secure app, and it hides most of its complexity under an elegant interface. It's our top pick for remote access software for enterprise and corporate use.
TeamViewer is a full-featured, enterprise-capable remote access and shared-meeting app that runs under all desktop and mobile platforms, including Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and even Chrome OS and BlackBerry OS. It also offers a simpler free account for non-commercial use, and its interface is the most stylish and up to date of all the remote access software we've tested. Granted, this isn't the app you want to install on machines used by friends and family members who beg you for support. Rather, it's best suited for corporate use. TeamViewer is exceptionally well designed, with security-conscious professional users in mind, and it shares our Editors' Choice with the more family-friendly GoToMyPC.
Remote Access Software Explained
Remote access software lets you run a computer located across the room or across the country just like you were sitting in front of its keyboard and screen. You connect to the remote machine using the app, and then everything you type and every move you make with the mouse gets sent to the remote machine until you click your mouse outside the remote access window on your local desktop. This gives you access to your own desktop at home or at the office while you're traveling with your laptop. With competitors like GoToMyPC and LogMeIn, you can also send out a simple one-time email invitation to take over your machine, which is handy for when you need support on your local machine and want a more technically savvy friend or family member to provide it remotely. TeamViewer doesn't provide a friendly email-invitation, however, in keeping with its more business-centric focus.
Most remote access software lets you perform other tricks, such as copying files back and forth between the local machine you're really sitting in front of and the remote one, or copying text or graphics to the clipboard on one machine and pasting it on the other, or even opening a chat window so you can talk with whomever is sitting in front of the remote machine. Some apps also let you make video recordings of what happens on the remote screen, or use the remote screen like a whiteboard, drawing lines and arrows that are visible only while you have the whiteboard feature switched on.
You can sign up for a free TeamViewer friends-and-family account that you can use as long as you want, with no fixed limit on the number of machines or users. TeamViewer says it uses an algorithm to detect commercial use of the free version and pops up a non-binding reminder to buy a subscription. Subscription-based plans start with a Business plan (reviewed here), priced at a whopping $50 per month for a single user, who can install the software on three devices and connect to an unlimited number of customers or clients. VNC Connect, in contrast, costs $40 per year, though for only one remote computer.
If you have more than one user, you will need to choose TeamViewer's Premium plan, for $105 per month, which licenses up to 50 users. Even then you have to pay an extra fee to have more than one user contrlling a separate remote session at a time. A Corporate plan, at $165 per month, supports up to 200 licensed users, with three users (or up to nine more, for a fee) able to control individual sessions at the same time. For more users and finer-grained management, an Enterprise plan is priced according to specific needs, but you need to contact the company for details of this offering.
How It Works
The TeamViewer app lets you start either a remote-control session or an online meeting. You can send out an invitation from a menu, but the default email message that the program sends is merely an instruction to the recipient to download the TeamViewer app. You'll have to explain over the phone or via some other separate message how to make the connection, and typically this involves sending along a nine-digit ID and an alphanumeric password that the remote user will need. However, the same menu lets you simplify things for yourself by setting up your machine for unattended access, so that you can connect to it on the road from any device that you've registered with TeamViewer.
When you connect to a remote machine with the TeamViewer app, its desktop appears in a window with an elegantly designed toolbar. This includes quick links to tools that advanced users are likely to need on remote machines, such as a command prompt, the Device Manager, and commonly-used Control Panel panes like System and Programs and Features. A Communicate menu has links that let you make conference calls, open chat windows, or share videos.
The service's multi-monitor support enables display multiple displays on a remote system either one by one or together on a single screen. Numerous file-transfer features include a standard dual-pane file manager for sending files between the local and remote machines and a convenient File Box that lets you drop one or more files into a small window, making the files available on both machines. You don't, however, get drag-and-drop functionality between viewer and desktop, as you do with GoToMyPC and LogMeIn when running those apps under Windows.
When the TeamViewer app is running, the title bar of all your applications displays a double-arrow icon next to the standard Minimize, Maximize, and Close buttons. If you click this button (which you can hide by changing an option in the TeamViewer app) you can "present" this one application during an online meeting. You can also dig deep into an options menu during a meeting to select one or more application windows to share.
TeamViewer's security is quite thorough, with additional setup steps not required by rival apps—and some users may find the additional steps burdensome. Before you can start using the TeamViewer app on a new machine, or before you tell the app that you want to access your machine remotely when no one is sitting at the keyboard, you have to type in your email address and TeamViewer account password. The app then sends you an email asking you to click on a link that adds the machine to your list of "trusted devices." After you've added the machine to your trusted devices, you have to return to the app and type in your email address and account password again in order to complete the operation. Other secure options include using a VPN to make the connection, in addition to the default 256-bit encryption used in remote sessions and meetings.
All the Bases Covered
When I use TeamViewer, I get the sense that the programmers have thought of every possible option and variation that any user might want, which is impressive. It can also seem overwhelming when you're searching for the feature you need. It took me a long time to dig down to the account-activation menu, for example. It's likely, however, that a corporate IT department would typically deal with such issues. TeamViewer's security features sometimes seem excessive for someone used to, say, GoToMyPC. A good example is the need to enter your account ID and password twice when registering a remote device—once to send the request to register, a second time to make the registration. But I'd rather have more security than less any day, and enterprises will doubtless appreciate this attention to safety.
TeamViewer is a powerful and flexible remote access app, with many elegantly designed features—and a few that can be complex to navigate. Its subscriptions are expensive, too, but for corporate multi-platform use, it hits all the right notes. It earns an Editors' Choice for business-class remote access, and it's a sturdy, corporate-oriented alternative to GoToMyPC, our Editors' Choice for more casual use.
Edward Mendelson has been a contributing editor at PC Magazine since 1988, and writes extensively on Windows and Mac software, especially about office, internet, and utility applications. More »
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