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GoToMyPC 4.0 is better and more secure than ever. For about $20 a month, this Web-based remote-control access service lets you operate a host PC from any browser-equipped desktop computer, as well as from some Pocket PC and Windows CE handhelds. You can transfer files, print remote documents locally, and run any application as though you were sitting at the host PC. The new version also offers one-time passwords that eliminate any chance of an intruder stealing your access. New administrative tools, including an easy-to-navigate management center, make GoToMyPC a wiser choice for businesses over the relatively inexpensive desktop app pcAnywhere. And if you’re a handheld user who wants to reach the data and programs on your primary PC, GoToMyPC is your only choice.

Setting up a new GoToMyPC account is easy. Simply go to the &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Egotomypc%2Ecom” target=”_blank”>GoToMyPC site, type your e-mail address, choose a password, then download the 2MB of software needed to turn your machine into a host PC (sorry, only Windows-based PCs can be hosts). After the software installs, enter a name for the host PC, then create an access code (think password). On our DSL connection, we finished the setup process in less than five minutes.

Activating the host from another computer is no harder than logging on to a Web site. From a computer running any operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux, Sun, Dimoviean or Windows CE) and using a Java-enabled browser (Internet Explorer, Netscape, Opera, or Mozilla), surf to the GoToMyPC site, log in with your username and password, then click a host computer to access. (Usually, only one PC is listed, but corporate users could have several choices.) Although there’s a slight wait each time you access a new GoToMyPC host, as a small Java applet loads on the remote machine, you’ll soon see the host’s desktop as though you were sitting in front of that distant machine. When you log off, the Java app disappears, removing any trace of your remote session from the remote computer.

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The host’s desktop appears within a frame when accessed from any computer equipped with a Java-enabled browser.

To avoid confusion with the remote’s own desktop, the host’s screen is contained within a window that can be resized, dragged to a better spot, or left as is. Anything you do within the host’s frame, however, is the same as being there.

Drop-down menus at the top of the host’s window frame connect to a few of GoToMyPC’s utilities (see the Features section), disconnect from the host, open the Windows Task Manager on the host, or zoom in or out of the host view. You can even expand the host to full window on the remote machine.

Like all remote-control programs, GoToMyPC is only as fast as its slowest connection. If both you and your host PC have broadband connections, everything’s pretty fast. But try to make GoToMyPC zip through host files with a dial-up remote client, and things bog down. During our informal testing on two broadband PCs, the lag time between clicking and seeing the response was between 3 and 9 seconds, depending on what we were doing. For instance, reading e-mail from the host involved minimal lag, but scrolling through a long Word document made us go numb from the 9-second wait.

GoToMyPC offers three levels of service: Personal, Pro, and Corporate. Personal costs $19.95 per month for access to one host only. Personal includes the basic set of GoToMyPC features: secure remote control of a host using AES 128-bit encryption; an easy-to-use, two-pane file-transfer utility to move files between the machines; the capability to cut and paste content between the two machines; and basic collaboration tools such as chat and drawing utensils for marking up the screen.

Move to Pro, however, and GoToMyPC adds some elementary administration features for small businesses that manage up to four remote employees at a time. Pro also includes a Web-based management center where the company’s IT administrator can send sign-up links to users (who use the link to install the software), temporarily suspend users to shift GoToMyPC privileges to another worker for a while, and generate basic usage reports. This version costs $67.80 per month.

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