Teamviewer: Easily control other computers from across the world

Controlling other people’s computers from far away sounds daunting, doesn’t it?  Well it’s not.  Teamviewer is a great–and free–application for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X that makes screensharing a snap (and two numbers).  I needed to help a friend set up an application, and I just couldn’t figure it out over Facebook chat.  I persuaded him to download the app (always make sure you have the other person’s permission before connecting to their screen), and within minutes I had it done for him!

You’ll notice that in the screenshot above, I’m running Firefox… on Ubuntu…. inside Windows!  It is simply a remote connection (from 3 feet away).

The install

On Windows, Teamviewer can either be installed or used as a portable application.  As I didn’t want it to be too complicated I simply had him run it as a portable application.

As long as you agree to the terms and conditions, just click Next and accept said terms and conditions.  Then, the app will open.

Now you can use Teamviewer, as explained below (the section on installing it on Ubuntu)!

The install… on Ubuntu

The Ubuntu install is not one of those “it’s really hard” things. In fact, I’d say it’s about as easy as it is to install any application on Windows, if not anything.  You simply go to their site and click on the download button, just like you would on any Windows computer:

There are of course multiple downloads, but it’s easy to spot the one we’re looking for:  the one for Ubuntu, 32-bit. Just download the file and open it (it’ll open in GDebi Package Installer):

The package will open as soon as it’s done downloading:

You’ll notice that Ubuntu has a universal installer–which is definitely a big step up from Windows, where it could be home-baked, it could be InstallShield, or who knows!  Plus, applications on Linux can be installed from the command line or from the GUI!

Simply click the Install button up in the top right corner–you’ll need admin privileges, so enter your password when prompted.

If you’re a Terminal fan, you can see exactly what it’s doing in Terminal by expanding the Terminal button.

Once it’s done installing, just close the installer.  Go to the Internet section of your menu–since I’m using Netbook Edition for its really cool interface, I’ll just go to the tab about halfway down the screen; but it’s in the Internet tab for most Ubuntu users.

If you’re on Netbook Edition, you can add it to your favorites like I did.

You may be wondering why I said installing applications in Ubuntu was so easy if I had to give a hundred word explanation, but think about it-I just told you how to install most pieces of precompiled software!

The use

TeamViewer has four functions:  the first is to remotely control a computer (called remote support), the second to show other people your current screen (called presentation), the third file transfer, and the last VPN.  Unfortunately the Ubuntu beta only has the last three, and in my tests I couldn’t get the file transfer to work.

Remote Control

The first, and probably most useful, function is remote control.  To use it, you’ll need the ID number and the password from the other person whose screen you want to control. Just enter the ID from one box into the ID box in another….

and click the connect button. You’ll be prompted for the password:

and you’re connected! Now you can do things like control the other person’s computer and even take videos and things using the built in tools! (I was going to take a video of me controlling the other computer, but my Acer laptop overheated–which goes to show it handles dropped connections gracefully.)

You’ll notice in the picture above (also at the top of the article) I’m controlling my Ubuntu box from my Windows box.  (The red text overlay is not from Teamviewer, it’s from the screenshot app.)

Teamviewer supports transmitting Mic audio, recording screens remotely, and changing the remote screen quality for smaller bandwidths.

Presentation

For presenting, I presented my Ubuntu machine onto my Windows machine.  Just go to the main Teamviewer window and enter the ID number of the computer you’re presenting to.  The ID numbers do not change from session to session, so I won’t be sharing the ID # of my Windows machine.  Simply enter the password:

and click on the Log On button.  You’ll notice that on the remote computer it tells you the status of the connection–for instance, it said Awaiting Authentication on the Windows box.

Now if I move the mouse or type something in or the screen otherwise changes on my Ubuntu box, the change is mirrored onto the Windows box.

If you click on something on the presented-to box (here, the Windows box), it’ll make an odd cursor on the presented box (the Ubuntu box) that indicates someone is wondering about an area.  It’s perfect for asking about something over the VOIP capabilities available under the Audio/Video menu.

Final Words

Even with the Linux version in beta, Teamviewer is still a great piece of software that will have a wide range of uses, from helping someone remotely to transferring files to a friend or relative.  It’s great for helping friends with software problems as I mentioned earlier and I see no reason to not have this great piece of software installed.  The only reason I see to not have this is because once you have it, your less technology-savvy friends may be asking you for help more and more.  In fact, I like this software so much I featured it as #3 in my top 10 favorite pieces of software I’ve reviewed on Cogizio.

[Visit Teamviewer's homepage!]

This article was originally written by Locutus on his blog Cogizio.

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39 comments

  1. James Faulkner

    I’d say TeamViewer is superior to all remote support tools… But I actually found a service that I like better than TeamViewer : RHUB. I prefer RHUB because it gives me Web conferencing and remote access / support, all in one secure device. Plus, it was only a one-time cost, as opposed to perpetual monthly fees.

  2. Coraline

    I just started to use TeamViewer. I have a question about the ID and Password.
    If I give my ID and Password to someone and they access my computer, then when they are done and they exit it, can they use that same password to access my account again?
    Or do they have to ask me for the password? (The password changes every time I open TeamViewer.)
    How about when I’m not on my computer or if my computer is not turned on, can they still access my computer?

  3. ebony

    @mike
    You welcome :)
    Always glad to help WHEN I can. SW should not be difficult. It makes my brain hurt. rofl

    @anyone that can help
    Why did my post show up twice?? Does dottech have gremlins. hehehhe

  4. sailor

    I have installed teamviewer, so someone I know very well can help me at times if I need any as he is a computer Guru.
    I have a pre-determed password and ID which the other knows, does that mean he could at any time access my pc without me knowing this, perhaps while I am doing work?
    Thanks.

  5. ebony

    I must concur that this is a great piece of SW. I stumble on it by chance a while ago. I was losing my sanity trying to help my sister (in another state) it was if I was working in the dark.

    I use it all the time to help here learn to dl music, burn cd and even dl SW and install it. I let her drive and I watch and guide her. I used it as recently as last nite.

    So if **I** can use it to guide her, (she is still asking what is the “any key” ROFL.

    I will try one of the other suggestions from above. I like having more than one way to skin a cat. (not literally.)

    I just tried VPN, a little much for me. Was not about all the configurations etc.

    Thanks Locutus :)

  6. ebony

    I must concur that this is a great piece of SW. I stumble on it by chance a while ago. I was losing my sanity trying to help my sister (in another state) it was if I was working in the dark.

    I use it all the time to help here learn to dl music, burn cd and even dl SW and install it. I let her drive and I watch and guide her. I used it as recently as last nite.

    So if **I** can use it to guide her, (she is still asking what is the “any key” ROFL.

    I will try one of the other suggestions from above. I like having more than one way to skin a cat. (not literally.)

    Thanks Locutus :)

  7. mukhi

    i have been using logmein free after trying different remote access software. to me, gotomypc is the best in terms of performance but this is not free.
    i have heard good things about team viewer free, how does it compare to logmein free?

  8. Ryan

    @Kim Graae Munch: TeamViewer has almost no good competitors from the point of usability. Unfortunately, it is of a little avail for non-commercial use.

    Anyway rare software can compete with TeamViewer except

    Ammyy Admin that can really beat TeamViewer from the point of ease of use and security reliabilty which is crucial for successful help desk service.

    Moreover the latter is free for private use, and business license looks much affordable than TeamViewer one.”

  9. RickHues

    @Sanju:
    It’s not possible.
    As for being free: teamviewer is not free for commercial usage.
    I use one tool for business use, cuz it’s free for businesses as well. Not as fast as teamviewer, but we legally use at the helpdesk. Has pretty much the same workflow as teamviewer. It’s skyfex at http://www.skyfex.com.

  10. Chris

    I noticed that Teamviewer also has “pay for” pricing options, so it appears that this product is not TOTALLY free. Can someone provide some information on how the free version differs from the Business version? Is there any add-on functionality in the Business which is not offered in Free? I currently use Techinline (www.techinline.com)  which is priced very reasonably and offers full branding (unlike a number of free options such as LMI Free). Does Teamviewer do the same?

  11. Unicorn02

    The nice thing about Teamviewer is that it uses the same technique as skype to pass through corporate proxies (http/https) and also works through NAT-Routers without configuration. Search for “UDP hole punching” if you want to know more.
    If both parties are connected to the internet directly (through routers e.g.), the teamviewer server only helps to find each other. Then the session is handled between both parties directly (AES 256 encrypted of course). If one of the party is behind a corporate proxy a server of the teamviewer company has to act as a man in the middle to handle the connection. Even then the session is encrypted between both endpoints, so it is not possible to sniff on the traffic of the session. It just routes between the two parties.
     
     

  12. Maria

    Dear Locutus,
    Thank you very much for your detailed explanation and for featuring TeamViewer in your Top 10 favorite pieces of software. It’s great to hear that you like our product.
    If you are looking for  ongoing news about TeamViewer, please subscribe to our feed or follow us on Twitter:@@http://feeds.teamviewer.com/company/newsfeed.aspx@@http://twitter.com/teamviewer
    In case you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.
    Best,
    Maria – TeamViewer

  13. Mr.Dave

    I’ve been using Team Viewer for at least 2 years now, and love it!  I use it in two different ways:
     
    1. Helping neighbors install and debug things on their PCs, easier than walking up or down the hill….  When they call, I’ll tell them to run the Team Viewer program on their PC, ask them to tell me the address and password Team Viewer shows them. I enter those into Team Viewer on my PC, and then I’m able to do everything I need.  I can even reboot their PC, then ask them to restart Team Viewer for me.  They trust me to let me connect to their PCs, and I keep them on the phone so I can answer any questions they might have.  It’s almost as good as being there!
     
    2. I use two PCs and one monitor.  The monitor has a push button to switch inputs, but I find its easier to use Team Viewer to access the 2nd PC instead of reaching out and hitting that button 5 times!  Team Viewer lets me transfer files between the two systems without needing to set up folder shares. All very easy to get used to. It’s not good when you need perfect screen quality on the “viewed” system because screen updates run much more slowly.
     
    If you pay for the commercial version you also get tools to manage user lists, so if you had 30 clients you would only need to click the button to start the connection (I think you’ll still need a new password for each time you connect, not sure!). Also, if you install it, rather than run the portable version, there’s an option to load it when windows starts. If you do this on all the machines you connect with, it should give you a much faster connection. I’m quite happy starting it only when needed, the speed is good!
     

  14. The Living Spirit

    I’d just like to remind people of what should be very obvious advice – when allowing people to see your screen or control your computer using Teamviewer, make sure you know who’s accessing you and that you trust them completely; and sever the connection instantly if you suspect the person in control may be trying to access sensitive and/or confidential information.

    I am staff for an online game currently in beta, and we recently had a guy get his account stolen using Teamviewer because the person accessing the computer found details of the player’s username and password that the player had carelessly stored, and stole them. So I know what I’m talking about. Always take precautions, no matter what you believe of the user.

  15. Unified

    TeamViewer is a great application. I have been using this for the last 2+years. Being an IT expert and while running my business I have found this tool is a great help for my client (mainly), family & friends. TightVNC and other VNC software needs to setup and port forwarding is also required for proper functionality.

  16. djshome

    Dae – In answer to your questions,

    (1) Yes, you can use Teamviewer for presentations (just store the presentation on the remote computer and run Powerpoint or some actually-useful presentation software) OR grant limited access to your computer and run the presentation from there (see the answer to question-3).
    (2) Voice? If you mean presentation sounds, you can run the presentation app remotely, you can run Teamviewer with Skype or other apps (e.g., audio, intercom, etc.). If you mean voice control, you CAN control Teamviewer with voice, but you’ll need to run macros to make it “friendly”.
    (3) Teamviewer gives priority to local controls… SO, someone moving the mouse at the remote PC will interrupt remote control. On the other hand, you can GIVE control of your computer to a remote device (I believe, even to just specific programs) and then interrupt the remote control as needed.

    Hope that helps. On a negative note, I’ve only used Teamviewer a few times. On a positive note, I used it to help my mother; so I discovered many of the annoying… er… “pleasantly distracting” aspects of the program.
    DJ

  17. Old Elmer Fudd

    Thanks for the write up, Locutus!
    I’ve been using Teamviewer for about a year to work on four off-site machines around the country. It has been easier to connect to these machines on an as-needed basis than any other software I’ve tried. Considering the price of the Enterprise version, the freeware is a gift!
    All the installs have been on windows boxes, so I appreciate knowing the Linux beta works.
     
    @Kim Graae Munch: I used UltraVNC (TightVNC) before I found Teamviewer. I hope you take a good look at this one.
     
    -best
     

  18. Kim Graae Munch

    I use UltraVNC which is a professional (and free)  mature program with many possibilities.
    I have it on all my computers and have used it professionally to interact with customers computers.
    /Kim