Setting up Free Remote Access using VNC
There are many fantastic remote access solutions available these days like TeamViewer or LogMeIn but most of them come with a very high price tag. If you’re looking for remote access on a budget then VNC is an excellent free alternative that is also relatively quick and easy to setup. In this article I will talk you through configuring VNC as a free remote access tool, lets begin.
1 Download the software
The first step is o download the VNC software from their website (https://www.realvnc.com/download/vnc/). The main download button is for the server component which you will need to install on the computer you would like to control.
In addition to this you will also need to download the VNC Viewer (https://www.realvnc.com/download/viewer/) onto the PC that you will be using for remote access. Remember to select the correct operating system and the correct binary type for your computer (32bit or 64bit).
2 Install the Server Component
Follow the wizard to install the VNC software onto the server/PC you wish to remote access. You may untick “VNC Viewer” in the component list as you will not need this on the server. You may also be prompted to “Add an exception to the firewall”, make sure to keep this ticked as you will need to allow VNC traffic through your firewall.
Once you’ve completed the install VNC will prompt your for a license key. We’ll need one of these so select the option “Obtain a license key” and click the link to visit the VNC website. You will want to choose the “Free” option from the available licenses and on the next page ensure that you tick “Free license only, without enterprise features”. Finally, complete the form with your details and you will be given a license key which you can copy/paste back into the setup wizard.
With licensing done you will now have to complete the last few bits of setup. Tick to acknowledge that unencrypted sessions are fine (the free version doesn’t provide encryption) and enter in the password you want to use for accessing the machine. Remember to write this down as you will need it when connecting to the computer.
You have now successfully installed VNC and you should receive a screen where it gives you some connection information. This isn’t particularly useful to us because this information will be about your internal network and won’t actually help you connect from outside the office so the next step is to configure your router…
3 Configuring your Router and PC to accept external connections
Once you have installed VNC you should have the VNC window open on the screen (it will have a green bar at the top saying “Ready for Connection”). If you don’t see this then look in your taskbar for the VNC icon and double click it – the window should appear.
Click the button “more..” and choose “information centre” then click the tab “diagnostics”. Under this tab you will see an option that says “Test Internet Connection”. Click this and VNC will check to see whether the PC is visible to the outside world. Chances are if you’ve just installed VNC then this test will fail and you will be given a message to help you troubleshoot the problem.
In order to allow remote users to connect to the PC you will have to:
- Ensure that port 5900 is allowed through the Firewall on your PC. If you use the Windows firewall then the setup should have automatically added an exception rule but if you use another firewall (perhaps included with your virus scanner software) then you will need to manually add a rule here to allow inbound traffic from port 5900 (TCP).
- You will have to forward port 5900 (TCP) on your broadband router to the computer where you installed VNC. All broadband routers are different so I’m afraid we can’t provide the precise steps to follow but if you Google the phrase “Forward Port <Your Router Make/Model>” then you should be able to find a guide to help you.
- Ensure that any other firewalls on your network between your router and your PC are configured to allow port 5900 (and to forward the port if necessary). For example if you have a broadband router connected to an office router which in turn connects to a firewall server then you will have to configure all three to allow port 5900 and forward it to the correct place.
Once you’re done go back to VNC and run the “Test Internet Connection” utility again. If you’ve configured everything correctly then you should receive a message saying the test completed successfully.
4 Install the VNC Viewer on your remote PC
The next stage is to install the VNC viewer onto your remote PC (i.e. the one you will use remotely to access the server PC). The setup process here is relatively simply so just follow the steps in the wizard and when you’re done ensure that port 5900 (TCP) is open on your firewall. As with the server if you have other firewalls in between you and the internet you may need to open up ports on here too.
5 Finding your PC from outside the network
VNC is now installed and is accessible from the internet but how do you go about finding your computer when you’re sitting in a hotel room in Doncaster? There are a few options here so I’ll start with the easiest ones first:
If your business pays for a “fixed IP Address” from your broadband supplier then this can be used to access your computer from anywhere. The fixed IP will look something like this (“126.96.36.199”) and you simply need to enter the number into the VNC viewer to connect. If you’re unsure about whether you have a fixed IP or not then give your broadband provider a call and they will be able to tell you.
If you host your own email or website on the premises then chances are you already have a domain name assigned to your business which we can use for VNC. This will be something like “mail.mycompany.com” or “www.mycompany.com”. Simply enter the address into the VNC viewer to connect.
If you have neither of the above then dynamic DNS can come to the rescue. Simply sign-up to a dynamic DNS service like no-ip (http://www.noip.com/) and install their small utility to your server PC (i.e. the one on the business premises). Once installed you will be able to assign a domain address to the computer which you will be able to use with VNC, for example: “mycomputer.no-ip.org”. So long as the utility is running and the computer is connected to the internet then this address will always allow you to connect to it.
Once your done simply enter the address above into VNC viewer, hit connect and type your password from step 2. Congratulations you can now remote access your PC in the office, for free!
If you need help with remote access or want to talk to us about alternative remote access solutions for your business then don’t hesitate to contact us