Remote desktop tools aren’t new but with organizations becoming increasingly international and teams becoming more mobile they’re fast becoming essential.
A search for remote desktop software reveals a myriad of options. It can be overwhelming navigating past rogue tools, confusing interfaces, and buggy services.
We’ve trawled the market to bring you the best remote desktop tools currently out there – even better our recommendations are either 100% free or have a free trial available.
We provide a lot of details on each of the tools below, but in case you are short of time, here is our list of the best free remote desktop tools:
- SolarWinds Dameware (FREE TRIAL) Two options for business with a 14-day free trial.
- Atera (FREE TRIAL) A remote monitoring and management suite for MSPs that includes Splashtop.
- SolarWinds MSP Take Control (FREE TRIAL) A compact remote control system that includes chat, VoIP, and queuing to serve multiple users.
- Zoho Assist (FREE TRIAL) Cloud-based support package that includes remote access and remote desktop utilities.
- ManageEngine Remote Access Plus (FREE TRIAL) A choice of cloud-based service or on-premises software for Windows. This remote access utility can interact with clients running Windows, Linux, and Mac OS.
- TeamViewer A widely-used paid remote desktop system that is free to use for private individuals.
- Chrome Remote Desktop A straightforward, easy to access remote desktop system that runs through a Google Chrome browser.
- RemotePC A paid remote desktop system that has a free version for personal use.
- Microsoft Remote Desktop Free utility provided by Microsoft that enables remote desktop access to devices running Windows.
- RealVNC VNC Connect Cloud-based service that is free for home use and allows access to Linux machines as well as PCs and Macs.
- TightVNC Remote control software that is free for businesses as well as individuals.
- TigerVNC An open-source project giving free remote desktop utilities for both private and business use.
- Remmina Completely from for individuals and businesses – this is an open-source project.
- Splashtop Free for private use and paid for businesses. Paying users can access a seven-day free trial.
- NoMachine Free for everyone, but with enhanced versions for business.
- Remote Utilities for Windows A paid remote desktop system that has a free version.
If you just need a remote desktop system for leisure, you probably don’t want to pay out much money for the luxury. Well, we can help because we have a list of ten remote desktop programs that are free to use.
Small companies and startups with little cash to spare will also benefit from the information contained in this article because many of the free remote desktop programs we list here are free to use for businesses as well. Big businesses with large budgets would probably feel more comfortable with mainstream paid applications that come with full software support. However, even in this category, we have found some examples that you can get for free on a trial.
Using remote desktop software
A remote desktop tool has two components. One is a console, which is the window on your own computer that you control the program through and get a view onto the remote computer. The other element of the system is an agent program, which has to be resident on the remote computer.
Ordinarily, the agent is a background process and isn’t noticeable by the user of the remote computer. The requirement to install a program on the viewed computer means that the owner of that device has to give permission to get the remote desktop agent installed and to run it.
There are programs that allow a hacker to view a computer’s contents remotely and take control of it without the owner’s permission. Those systems are called “remote access Trojans.” We aren’t covering those hacker programs, which are abbreviated to “RATs,” in this review.
Some remote desktop systems operate from the Cloud. In these configurations, the console program is accessed online. However, an agent program still needs to be installed on the remote computer that is being accessed or controlled.
Remote desktop software for businesses
Many of the free remote desktop systems on the market are the home versions of professional access software. In most cases, the producers of remote desktop tools expect business users to pay for the software.
If you are looking for free software for your company, then your options are limited. Of the systems in our list, only the following gives you free access:
- Chrome Remote Desktop
- RemotePC (limited)
- Microsoft Remote Desktop
A few more of the services on our list offer free trials to business users:
- SolarWinds Dameware (FREE TRIAL)
- Atera (FREE TRIAL)
- RemotePC (extended)
- RealVNC VNC Connect
- SolarWinds MSP Take Control (FREE TRIAL)
- ManageEngine Remote Access Plus (FREE TRIAL)
Pay particular attention to the descriptions of these products in the reviews below.
This list of remote desktop software is a mixture of utilities for business and personal user and for a range of the operating system. There is one attribute common to all – they are free to use.
Dameware is a professional support system, so it probably wouldn’t interest home users. However, it is undoubtedly the most competent business remote desktop system for support teams on the market, which is why it gets the number one slot in this review.
Dameware is a remote support platform that is charged by subscription. However, SolarWinds does offer a 14-day free trial of each of its Dameware products, so you can use this service for free, if only for two weeks.
You can access Dameware as an online service, which is charged by subscription or as on-premises software, which you buy with a one-time payment. The online version is called Dameware Remote Everywhere and the on-premises system is called Dameware Remote Support.
Dameware Remote Support installs on Windows and Windows Server; Dameware Remote Everywhere isn’t operating system dependent because the console is accessed through a browser.
Both systems can access devices running Windows, Mac OS, and Linux and both are made available through mobile apps. With Dameware Remote Everywhere, you pay a subscription per technician, but the service allows each operative to access up to 500 remote devices. The on-premises software of Dameware Remote Support doesn’t have any remote device limitations. However, the licensing of this software is similar to the online version because it is priced per technician.
This software is specifically aimed at IT support departments and managed services providers. Try out a 14-day free trial of Dameware Remote Everywhere.
Atera is a support package for managed service providers (MSPs). The service includes all of the utilities that an MSP’s technicians need to manage a remote network and also has a module that assists the managers of the MSP to run the business.
The technician support section of Atera is called a “remote monitoring and management” (RMM) system. It includes remote access software and also automated remote administration scripts for maintaining the client’s system. Another utility in the package is a Help Desk system, which includes a portal for access by the user community and a dashboard for use by technicians when they are working on a ticket.
The Help Desk dashboard gives access to a remote desktop system, which is actually Splashtop, which you read about above. The interface includes a chat system so that the technician can guide and advise the user as he explores the remote endpoint and produces a solution for the problem raised on the support ticket.
Atera is a cloud-based service and is accessed through any standard web browser. The service can also be accessed through a special app that is available for free for mobile devices. The platform is charged for on a monthly or yearly subscription per technician. You can get a 30-day free trial and test the Atera system before you sign up for a subscription.
SolarWinds MSP Take Control is suitable for use by support technicians working for an MSP, or for a company’s IT department. This is a particularly interesting service for independent, freelance support technicians because it includes all of the tools needed to communicate with a user that needs help. It even includes a service queueing system.
The service is delivered from the cloud and is charged for by subscription with a rate per technician per month. That means that the entire system is available to independent technicians as well as teams working for MSPs and large organizations.
The remote access software optionally shows the technician’s actions on the user’s screen. It is also possible to access the operating system without going through the desktop of the remote device.
The Take Control system is available at two levels, with the higher level being called Take Control Plus. The higher level is particularly useful for supervised technicians because it includes session monitoring and technician performance reporting functions. Take Control Plus also includes a user survey to evaluate the competence of each technician.
The service can be paid for by month or by year. The annual payment plan works out cheaper. However, be aware that you have to pay for the service period in advance. SolarWinds offers it for a 14-day free trial.
Zoho produces a wide range of business software and the company also owns ManageEngine, which is a leading supplier of IT infrastructure management software. Zoho Assist is a cloud-based package of remote access services that is ideal for help desk and MSP technicians. The remote desktop in the utility is brandable, so you can put your company’s logo on all of the screens.
The remote connection can only be made with the customer’s consent. All communications are protected by 256-bit AES encryption.
The Zoho Assist package includes a live chat system and an integrated file transfer utility. The technician can open up multiple sessions on the same remote computer, enabling user-visible actions in one window and operating system actions in another. It is also possible for the technician to show the customer his own screen in the interests of giving a system tour or usage instructions without having to grant that prospective buyer an account.
Apart from the remote desktop utility, Zoho Assist includes full remote access features that include automation for bulk research and updates across endpoints. Zoho offers a free trial of the Assist package.
Remote Access Plus is a suite of tools that facilitate remote access of client computers and includes a remote desktop module. The utility is available as a cloud-based service, hosted on the ManageEngine servers, or it can be installed on Windows and Windows Server on-premises.
The tool facilitates access to client computers that have the corresponding agent software installed on them. This agent can be installed on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS. The requirement for an agent requires a level of permission to be given by the owner of the remoter computer.
Once the agent is active, the technician using the controller console is able to perform a range of maintenance tasks on the remote computer both manually and through script-driven automation.
The remote desktop facility is augmented by a chat facility that offers text, voice, and video chat between the technician and the user of the remote device. As well as accessing computers for exploration, technicians can turn the computer on or off remotely.
Remote Access Plus is available in three editions and one of these is free. The Free version is limited to the control of ten client computers. The remote shutdown and Wake-on-LAN features are only available with the higher of the two paid plans, called Standard and Professional. You can get ManageEngine Remote Access Plus on a 30-day free trial.
TeamViewer is an industry leader. This remote desktop system has been installed more than two billion times, which shows its popularity. We put this remote desktop system near the top of our list because it is a very comprehensive commercial product that allows free use by private individuals. However, if you need a remote desktop program for business use, you will have to pay.
As the name suggests, TeamViewer is aimed at team collaboration and has a number of group communication features that make this more than just a remote desktop tool. These include video conferencing utilities and demonstration broadcasting.
The connection system relies on two-factor authentication to enhance security and all transmissions are protected by 256-bit AES encryption.
The controller software can be accessed from Android mobile devices. You will be able to access remote devices running Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Android, and iOS. The system also includes a secure file transfer facility and script execution capabilities in the console.
You can use a Google Chrome browser as a remote desktop viewer. A remote support version can be used by businesses and it absolutely free to use.
You need a Google account in order to use the system, but if you have a Gmail address, then that’s already taken care of. The device that is being accessed needs a program installed on it. This is the agent program. Once that is running you can allow access to anyone by giving them a PIN. The viewer is browser-based and accesses any device over the internet.
The system will work on any operating system that can open Google Chrome and there are also apps for Android and iOS devices. Communications over the internet are protected by HTTPS, which is the same security system that protects credit card information when you buy things on the web.
RemotePC is a paid product, but it has a free edition. The free version only allows you to access one device and only gives you one user account. However, if you only need a remote desktop program for home use, then that should be enough. There is nothing in the description of this service that prevents you from using the Free edition for business. So, especially if you are a small business owner, you might be able to get away with just using this service without paying.
The three paid plans allow access to multiple computers. The lowest of these plans gives one account access to 10 computers and the highest plan allows an unlimited number of accounts to get access to up to 100 computers. There is an offer of a 30-day free trial for the two higher plans.
The console is browser-based and the remote computer needs to have an agent installed and running on it. You can access the console from any operating system that has a browser and the agent can be installed on Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS devices.
Microsoft produces a remote desktop system that is free to use and grants access to computers running the Windows Professional, Windows Enterprise, or Windows Server operating systems. You can access a remote computer from a mobile device as long as that device is running Windows Mobile. It is also possible to use an Xbox One as either the remote device or the accessor.
You can access up to ten devices with one Microsoft account through this program. It doesn’t matter where in the world those devices are because the remote desktop system communicates over the internet. A big advantage of this system is its easy integration into the operating system of your computer. There is no user profile restriction on the use of this software, so businesses can use it for free.
“VNC” is an industry term that stands for “virtual network computing”. The abbreviation is used in the names of quite a few remote desktop systems, including RealVNC. The company offers a range of communication software and its remote desktop tool, which it terms “screen sharing software,” is called VNC Connect. There are two components to VNC Connect: VNC Viewer, which is the software for the console, and VNC Server, which is the agent that needs to run on the remote computer.
You don’t just get to look at the screen of a remote computer with this package, you can also take control and use the device as though you were sitting at it. This is a great choice if you want to leave all of your expensive software at home on your best computer while accessing everything from a tablet or laptop on the move.
This is also a good option for software support technicians who can get remote access to a computer that is experiencing errors, investigate its behavior, and fix software problems, even reinstalling the program and running scripts.
VNC Connect is only free for home use; businesses have to pay for it. The paid version is available in two editions, called Professional and Enterprise. You can get a 30-day free trial for either of these plans.
TightVNC is completely free to use for everyone – even businesses. The developers of the remote desktop all offer an SDK, which enables other software developers to integrate the remote desktop utility into their own systems.
One drawback with TightVNC is that it is only available to facilitate access to computers running Windows. The TightVNC system console also can only be installed on Windows. A companion program, called Ripple, can be installed on Android and iOS devices to enable them to act as viewers of remote desktops. Again, the Ripple app is free to use.
Although there isn’t a version for Macs or Linux computers, this is an open-source project, so if you have programming abilities, you are allowed to download the program code and adapt it for your operating system.
TigerVNC is an open-source system, so if there is something about it that you don’t like, you are free to download the code and change it yourself. As the code for this system is accessible, it is available for free for anyone to use, including businesses.
This software is a fork of the TightVNC code. TightVNC’s evolution through to its fourth version stalled and some of the enthusiasts that contributed to its development marched off and formed their own product, which they felt they could advance quicker.
Both the agent and console elements of TigerVNC can be installed on Windows, Mac OS, the Fedora, Arch, RHEL, OpenSUSE and SUSE LE distros of Linux and FreeBSD Unix. Connection security is provided by the Transport Layer Security (TLS) system, which underpins the secure HTTPS system that protects web pages in browsers.
Remmina is an open-source project. Individuals and businesses are allowed to use this remote desktop system for free. There are services on this list that are only available for Windows. Remmina evens the score a little because it is only available for Unix, Linux, Raspberry Pi, and Mac OS. Although you can’t run the console on Windows, the service can contact and control computers with any operating system, including Windows.
The communications options of Remmina deploy a range of protocols, so you can choose between VNC, RDP, XDMCP, or the secure SSH system to reach the remote computer. The console has a tabbed interface, so you can open connections to many remote computers at once. As it is an open-source system, you can also download the code and adapt it to your own requirements.
Splashtop is a paid remote desktop system that individuals can use for free. The service requires the installation of two programs. The Splashtop Personal app should be installed on the computer that you want to use as a console. The Splashtop Streamer is installed on the remote computer that you want to access.
The Splashtop Personal app will run on Windows, Windows Mobile, Mac OS, Android, iOS, and Amazon Fire. Although most of those products are free to use, there is a charge for the iOS version, which runs on iPads and iPhones. The Splashtop Streamer is available for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. So, even though you can access a remote computer with this system if your own computer has Linux, you can connect to your Linux computer from your phone, laptop, PC, or Mac.
Businesses have to pay for Splashtop. It is charged on a subscription basis, per technician per month. You can get a seven-day free trial of the Business Access plan.
NoMachine is an impressive and flexible remote desktop system that will run on Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Raspberry Pi, Android, and iOS. NoMachine is “free for everybody.” However, there is a paid Enterprise edition for businesses. If you don’t need the extras in the Enterprise edition, there is nothing to stop you from using the free version for your business.
Remote Utilities for Windows sounds like a Microsoft enhancement. However, this remote desktop tool is the product of an independent company, which is also called Remote Utilities.
The tool has two elements: the Viewer, which is the console program and the Host, which is the agent program that runs on the remote computer that you want to access. This software is free – up to a point.
You can download the Host as many times as you like and you never have to pay. The Viewer is free as well if you use it to contact up to 10 devices. After that, you have to pay. That free allowance is available to both individuals and businesses.
The Viewer is available for Windows, iOS, and Android and the Host is can be installed on computers running Windows.
This article describes the best free remote access software apps available. Check out the ones that will enable you to contact your computer from anywhere with internet access.