Control your Windows 7 PC remotely through the iPad with Desktop Connect app

Control your Windows 7 PC remotely through the iPad with Desktop Connect app

Summary: Some people think the idea of controlling another computer through an iPad is a ridiculous idea—why wouldn't you just get a laptop and then it's not even an issue.  I can see the argument that using the Apple tablet to spend an extensive amount of time dealing with a remote computer's interface would be challenging, but I can think of a few reasons you'd want the capability.

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Special Report: Apple iPad Some people think the idea of controlling another computer through an iPad is a ridiculous idea—why wouldn't you just get a laptop and then it's not even an issue.  I can see the argument that using the Apple tablet to spend an extensive amount of time dealing with a remote computer's interface would be challenging, but I can think of a few reasons you'd want the capability. You might forget to email yourself a document on your desktop hard drive that you want to read or work on using the iPad, or you might want to play a PC-only game that doesn't rely on split-second fragging (hypothetically speaking, of course).

There are a few apps that make it possible to connect to a Mac or a Windows- or Linux-based PC, falling into two camps. Some are able to use Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), such as Professional versions of Windows 7, while others need to use Virtual Network Computing (VNC). My fellow ZDNet blogger Jason Perlow has discussed one RDP solution here, but since my primary computer runs Windows 7 Home Premium, I needed to go the VNC route.

I had heard about Desktop Connect on a few other sites, and paid the $11.99 "introductory" price to download it to my iPad. It uses RDP natively, but can also work with VNC servers. I haven't tried it on our iMac yet, but the documentation the app delivers is a lot more extensive for Apple computers than Windows systems. For Windows PCs, it only tells you that you need to download a VNC server, saying that TightVNC had been tested and works with Desktop Connect. So I dutifully downloaded TightVNC on my PC, ran it, and then ran Desktop Connect on the iPad. It's clear enough that you need to add a new host, but you then are presented with fields asking for a Computer Name and Authentication. What it should tell you is that you need the PC's IP address and the password that you create when you set up TightVNC. Sure, most people who will want to download these types of programs are tech-savvy enough to figure it out, but how hard would it be to provide some contextual help or write a paragraph or two for the instructions documentation?

Once you fill in the correct info, make sure the VNC server is running, and press the big green on-screen arrow,  you should see your desktop screen. You can run programs like Photoshop or Microsoft Word (see screens below), or even surf the Web for those few sites (cough, cough) that still use Flash. There are some icons at the top of the screen that let you access the virtual keyboard to type on your PC, use some virtual Function keys, or choose whether your finger tap controls the mouse's left or right button. I found using the touchscreen a bit trying to maneuver, as I often moved whatever window I wanted to view trying to get the app's pointer in position to click on something.

I also encountered some dropped connections and balky screen refreshes, neither of which came as a surprise but were still mildly annoying. On the whole, though, the app delivered what I had hoped: the ability to access the computer tethered to a desk wherever in the house I went with my iPad. Will pricier competitors work better than Desktop Connect? I don't know and I'm not in such great need that I'm going to pay to find out. I may at some point try a cheaper app if there are any that elicit raves. But if you see a need to access one of your computers via the iPad, it's good to know that that need can be met satisfactorily.

Topics: CXO, Hardware, iPad, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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18 comments
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  • play game? LMAO

    lets get real for a change, mmkay?
    crislevin
    • Great for MMOs

      Game use example (World of Warcraft): I used logmein to get back to my
      home computer to check auctions/mail/ respec for that evenings raid,
      get supplies/potions, and fly over to the entrance of the dungeon. Mainly
      did it from work computer, but the Logmein Ignition app for iPhone
      always came through in a pinch.

      (offtopic: I have since quit that horribly awesome time suck of a game
      after over 150 days /played).
      Gritztastic
  • Really searching for a purpose

    I think everyone is really searching for a purpose for the iPad. After all Netbooks have been out a while now and they still can do more then a iPad. In fact I would rather carry a netbook around then a iPad. I would never use one at home because I would much rather have a laptop on my Lap then hold up a iPad or worse get neck strain from using the iPad on my lap. This has to be the worse Egronomical design yet from Apple.
    jscott418-22447200638980614791982928182376
    • The many millions using iPads daily already found numerous purposes.

      My two laptops and my netbook have all been gathering dust on a shelf since I bought my first iPad. I can do far more with my iPad than I ever could with my netbook. The iPad is infinitely more responsive than a netbook and far more portable. Using a netbook to run desktop apps was like swimming in quick sand. The OS and applications on the iPad are FAST. Also, in order to get 6 hours of use out of my netbook, I had to add a fat, heavy extra life battery. I get 8-10 hours out of my iPad out of the box. The iPad is thinner, lighter, and the screen is larger. I can't fathom ever going back to using a fat, sluggish, inferior, heavy netbook. I carry the iPad everywhere. I never did that with my netbook. Maybe you're searching for a purpose, but the rest of us have found hundreds.

      You sound like the people who thought automobiles were a passing fad. Some reacted that way to the telephone and the desktop computer, too. Apple already sells more iPads than all desktop computers combined and the tablet market is just getting started. Windows tablets should only increase the total tablets sold. This is not a fad. It's the future. More efficient apps running on more efficient tablets makes netbooks an endangered species.
      BillDem
  • LogMeIn

    Way easier with LogMeIn.
    Colorado_AL
    • Agree

      Logmein Ignition (haven't used on iPad, but use frequently on iPhone) is
      fantastic - the drag screen feature (vs drag mouse) is surprisingly
      accurate, connections are quick, and it seems to work just as well for PCs
      as Macs (note: haven't tried any of the 'Pro features' I just use in
      conjunction with Dropbox and Evernote if I need to move text between
      clip boards).
      Gritztastic
  • RE: Control your Windows 7 PC remotely through the iPad with Desktop Connect app

    is there a good wyse50 emulator for the iPad yet?
    ronp@...
  • RE: Control your Windows 7 PC remotely through the iPad with Desktop Connect app

    I have been testing the functionality of this, although I'm taking it a step further and using it remotely, having opened up that lovely little hole in my firewall to do it.
    It works reasonably well. On the other hand, using logmein does allow me to connect to the same machine without having the open port of my firewall, and is the obvious answer in a corporate or small business environment where the IT guy is going to laugh at your request to open a port on the firewall.

    Talking about using RDP inside your personal network, it is certainly better than using logmein, because logmein uses a remote server as the connector between host and client.

    I am a serious IT guy, and have RDS running on a server that allows me to to remote control multiple machines via a browser. This DOES NOT work on my iPad, because it needs an activeX control, which of ourse won't run in Safari.

    My home network consists of three servers running Hyper-V and VMWare, with about 20 virtual machines. (I know, I know, but I'm mimicing the environments of several clients to test certain things.)

    Unless I VPN to my network first, I can't access more than one RDP machine simultaneously. This is more a limitation of the iPad than the RDP client, but it's causing me to give serious consideration to returning my iPad and buying a Lenovo 10" tablet netbook.
    ehyates
  • A Better Solution: JUMP DESKTOP

    This is as close to a perfect Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) client as you'll see on the iPad. It only costs $9.99, as opposed to LogMeIn, which is $29.99.

    Jump is a unified iPhone/iPod/iPad application, so one purchase works on all devices.

    You can store all of your desktop connections right in the app, or you can optionally use a Google account to unify storage of the profiles.

    Unlike most other apps, Jump does not require a single other thing to get started. No server software running, just a straight-shot connection to RDP.

    Combined with the iPad's built-in support for VPN makes it even more powerful, as you don't need to expose your RDP port through the firewall. Just VPN into your network and then open a local network RDP connection. Ideal!
    Speednet
    • Jump Desktop not better than Logmein

      You fail to understand that Jump won't bypass a firewall. It may leverage RDP, but logmein relies on a server component to enable connections around the firewall through a remote website. Logmein is not mentioned in the original article, but was brought up in replies.

      Jump is an RDP client, logmein is a remote control client. They are similar, but are not the same. Each has it's uses.

      And just suppose you don't have a VPN...

      Now Jump versus Desktop Connect? similar price, similar function, but I would ask whether Jump can do VNC AND RDP.
      ehyates
      • Yes it is better

        The last thing I need is ANOTHER application that needs to run on everything I want to connect to. And with Windows 7, everyone has a VPN who wants one. It's built-in.
        Speednet
      • Jump Desktop

        I'm the developer for Jump Desktop and I want to clarify something here:

        What you said above is incorrect - Jump Desktop can bypass firewalls and works well without any router configuration, just like LogMeIn. Jump Desktop has a server side component that helps users manage their RDP connections. Unlike LogMeIn - where the software download is mandatory - Jump Desktop's connection management software is completely optional (and free). Desktop Connect does not have this type of functionality - infact - most RDP clients require you to configure your router and firewall settings - which is error prone even for the best of us.

        If you want to know more, visit http://www.jumpdesktop.com or, open up a support ticket at http://support.jumpdesktop.com .
        jumpdesktop
  • This will help make the iPad useful

    Fantastic, using this I could connect to my media pc and cue up things to watch on my TV remotly. for Demo's it would be perfect remote into a presentation PC.
    In a board room you could control your presentations via an iPad and do interactive things on the screen in large meetings allowing you to pass the iPad round for others to try.
    Connecting into Virtual servers to check up on how there going and do simple maintenance. being light easy to carry, with apparent longish battery life it becomes a VERY powerful tool.
    PS not an apple fan, but with features like this I could become one :( Unless of course unless apple somehow put a stop to this.....
    a.ross.nz
  • RE: Control your Windows 7 PC remotely through the iPad with Desktop Connect app

    I'm the developer for Jump Desktop and I want to clarify a something here:

    What you said above is incorrect - Jump Desktop can bypass firewalls and works well without any router configuration, just like LogMeIn. Jump Desktop has a server side component that helps users manage their RDP connections. Unlike LogMeIn - where the software download is mandatory - Jump Desktop's connection management software is completely optional (and free). Desktop Connect does not have this type of functionality - infact - most RDP clients require you to configure your router and firewall settings - which is error prone even for the best of us.

    If you want to know more, visit http://www.jumpdesktop.com or, open up a support ticket at http://support.jumpdesktop.com .
    jumpdesktop
    • RE: Control your Windows 7 PC remotely through the iPad with Desktop Connect app

      does jump desktop support inputting chinese character through ipad keyboard to remote PC ? thansk.
      kosan945
  • RE: Control your Windows 7 PC remotely through the iPad with Desktop Connect app

    In my opinion, iPad's future is especially secure with the use of the device as a business tool, such as with the 2X Client for iOS (http://www.2x.com/virtualdesktop/ios)...it's a free download and lets you use Windows apps from your iPad, giving you application publishing and RDP Remote Desktop capabilities for free, in contrast to the Citrix Receiver and Wyse PocketCloud. Definitely worth a look.
    jimmytran
  • RE: Control your Windows 7 PC remotely through the iPad with Desktop Connect app

    For teachers this may be a way to control presentations through another computer. I also wonder will Ipad run presentation software.
    frmcmanus@...
  • Remote Support App

    Yeah, desktop connect is decent app but I still prefer using RHUB`s servers b/c it provides me a combo of remote support + web conferencing; all in one setup. It is easy to use as well.
    allanroger