Can I Get Files From My Home Computer Remotely?

Our geek explores the possibilities

Remote Access

Peter Hoey

Ah, that sinking feeling: You've just left for a business trip when you realize you've forgotten the PowerPoint presentation on your PC at home. No matter: With the right tools in hand, you'll be able to retrieve your file regardless of where you are.

Both Mac OS X and Windows have built-in Remote Desktop features that allow you to log into your home computer from any other system and access its files as though you were sitting in front of it. This could potentially allow others to get onto your computer, though, so be sure to enable your operating system's extra security features or use additional security applications before trying it. Alternatively, you can use software like UltraVNC (free, uvnc.com) to create a secure connection for file transfers between a remote PC and your desktop. Pay services like WebEx PCNow ($10 a month, (pcnow.webex.com) also are secure and offer additional features such as the ability to invite a guest to view your computer screen simultaneously.

There are hardware solutions as well. If you happen to already have a network-attached hard drive (a drive with a built-in Ethernet port), you can set up secure access to the files stored on it via any Web browser. Or use a flash drive that automatically backs up data to a Web-based storage account, like SanDisk's Cruzer Titanium Plus ($50 for 4GB), which comes with six months of free online storage. But whichever method you choose, you'll never feel far from home.