Connecting to a PC from an iPad

Today I am taking a look at connecting to a remote PC from the iPad.

It seems like cheating. The whole point of the 30 Days With the iPad series is to determine whether or not the iPad can stand alone as a replacement for my PC, so connecting to the PC from the iPad should be a moot point. Nevertheless, today I am going to take a look at using a remote desktop app to connect to my PC.

Why would it be necessary? Good question. I thought about it, and it occurs to me that for many years I had a desktop PC, and a notebook. The desktop PC was my primary computer, but when I needed to leave my desk for a meeting, or go on vacation, the notebook would go along with me. Eventually, I decided that the setup seemed redundant and unnecessary for me and consolidated to just using the notebook both at my desk and on the go.

Some people may wish to use the iPad in a similar capacity, though. In other words--not necessarily as a complete replacement for a more traditional computer, but as a replacement or proxy when roaming or on vacation. In those cases, it might come in handy to be able to connect remotely to the PC to access the files it contains, and the resources it is connected to.

Another possible justification could be a need for a specific tool--possibly a custom or proprietary application that only works with Windows. The iPad could still be used as the primary computing device, but a PC can be set up at the office that users can connect to remotely when they need access to that one tool. It's not the most elegant solution, but it works.

Normally, this would be the part where I would list out the options available, then explore each of them, and come to some conclusion about which app I like the best. My PCWorld peer Robert Strohmeyer recently did all of the dirty work already, though, so I am just going to take his word for it and jump straight to checking out LogMeIn Ignition. Feel free to check out Control Your PC From Your iPad With Remote Desktop Apps for more about the other apps and why Robert selected LogMeIn Ignition as the best option.

LogMeIn Ignition is quite pricey by iOS app standards at US$29.99. It pulls double-duty as an iPad and iPhone app, so I at least get to maximize my investment to some extent. If I was at a client meeting and forgot a crucial presentation or contract back on my PC, though, I would quickly consider it $30 well spent to be able to connect and get what I need.

After downloading the app, I created a LogMeIn account, and installed the LogMeIn Free client software on my PC. With LogMeIn running and connected on the PC, I went to the iPad app to check it out.

I entered my LogMeIn account credentials. There is an option to save them so you don't have to enter them each time, but I am paranoid and prefer not to save credentials. Once logged in, the app displays the computers associated with my LogMeIn account, and which are currently online and available.

There are two ways to connect to the PC--either as a remote desktop, or just to access the files. In either case, you have to enter a username and password for the PC you are connecting to. These credentials can be saved as well, but I'll just type them in each time.

I'm not sure if it's a function of the LogMeIn Ignition app, the iPad 2, my PC, or my Wi-Fi network, but it took quite a while to think about it before finally connecting to my PC. Once connected, the app displays a cheat sheet explaining the multitouch gestures used by the app so I can understand how to interact with and navigate the remote PC using the iPad display. It is actually a fairly clever collection of gestures, including a three finger swipe that lets you switch between multiple monitors.

Logging into the file management tool displays a list of all of the available drives--local, removable, and network--connected to the remote PC. It also lists My Desktop and My Documents. It is not as zippy or comprehensive as the Files Connect app, but the Files Connect app only works when the iPad and PC are sharing the same network, so it won't do any good if I am across the country and need a file.

The LogMeIn Ignition app lets me open, copy, move, rename, delete, or email any file from the PC. The app lets you view open files, or you can tap the Open In button at the upper right to open the file in some other app where you can do more with it.

The capabilities of LogMeIn Ignition are impressive. The app lets you transfer files and folders between remote PCs, store files from the remote PC locally on the iPad, and even keep the local files updated with any changes that have been made on the remote PC. The app can also wake remote PCs that are sleeping, and it can print to AirPrint compatible printers.

Like I said, it seems like cheating. But, I can see installing the LogMeIn Free software on my wife's PC, and my kids' PCs, and being able to remotely configure or troubleshoot them if need be. Putting that in a more professional context, an IT admin could use a tool like LogMeIn Ignition to set up remote desktop connections with critical servers, enabling them to easily connect with those systems remotely from the iPad.

Read the last "30 Days" series: 30 Days With Ubuntu Linux

Day 17: The Wonder That Is AirPlay

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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