PCs

Take control of any Windows PC on the Internet with CrossLoop

Whether it is for troubleshooting or collaboration, sometimes you just need to see what is on a user's screen to really know what is going on. The free software utility CrossLoop makes connecting any two personal computers as easy as typing a phone number and clicking Connect.

For more images of CrossLoop in action, check out the TechRepublic image gallery.

Under certain circumstances, connecting two personal computers over the Internet can get more complicated than many are willing to accept. Tools like Microsoft's Remote Assistance can be intimidating to the novice user and frustrating for the experienced user trying to gain access. Adding hurdles such as firewalls and routers to the mix means that many just give up on the whole idea of remote assistance.

Similar complaints are often heard about collaboration software. While the concept of two-heads-are-better-than-one is applicable to many situations in the business world, getting those two heads together presents challenges beyond just the personalities involved. There are several collaboration applications available; some are expensive and some are part of the operating system, but very few are as easy to implement as they should be.

However, one tool I have come across seems to have found the answer with a simple interface and an ease of operation that will make many other vendors of such software envious. CrossLoop connects any two personal computers running Windows with a deceptively simple interface that is essentially a box with an access number and a connect button. CrossLoop works through firewalls and routers without any additional configuration and encrypts all of the information flowing back and forth between the machines. The simplicity of setting up CrossLoop and getting two computers connected is remarkable when compared to the hoops most of us have to jump through to get the same result with other applications.

CrossLoop

The CrossLoop software can be downloaded from the TechRepublic Software Library. The 1.6-MB installation file is an executable file, so starting the installation process is as simple as double-clicking. Figure A shows you the first page of the installation wizard.

Figure A

CrossLoop installation wizard

Running CrossLoop is somewhat anticlimactic. As you can see in Figure B, the interface for CrossLoop embraces the minimalist design mantra.

Figure B

CrossLoop's opening screen is a minimalist's dream, but looks are deceiving.

While the user interface for CrossLoop is simple, what is happening behind the scenes is not. The CrossLoop developers have seamlessly cobbled together several technologies to make the connection between two PCs secure and functional. The remote control of the connected personal computers is made possible by the free GPL-licensed TightVNC, which is a derivative of Virtual Network Computing (VNC).

By using TightVNC, CrossLoop ensures that data on both ends of the connection is 128-bit encrypted before it is sent to the other side. The encryption codes are generated by the 12-digit access code the software provides at the start of each session. Each new session gets a new 12-digit code, which adds another layer of protection from prying eyes.

However, even with all that going on behind the scenes, the requirements for running CrossLoop are relatively modest. According to the CrossLoop Web site, the general requirements are:

  • Windows 98 or later
  • Pentium 500 MHz +
  • 128 MB RAM or greater
  • 2 MB hard drive space
  • Broadband Internet Connection: DSL, cable, T1

A session example

To see how CrossLoop works, lets look at a session in action. Using my desktop production machine as host (Figure C) and a tablet PC from the TRLabs as the client wishing to join the session (Figure D), I set up a typical CrossLoop connection.

Figure C

The host machine

Figure D

The client machine looking to join

The host machine communicates the 12-digit access number to the client through e-mail, instant message, telephone, yelling down the hall, etc. The joining user types the access number into the empty box. Both host and client click the connect buttons and bingo, the PCs are connected (Figure D).

Figure D

A connection is established

Bottom line

The ability to connect two personal computers running Windows to each other over the Internet easily and securely is not a pie-in-the-sky idea. It is often the only efficient way to communicate a particular idea or troubleshoot a particular problem. Applications that make such connections possible have been available for some time, but they can be frustrating and unwieldy to configure and administer. CrossLoop has distilled the connection of two PCs to a simple one-button interface that works as well as any application currently on the market, only without all the hassle. If you want to connect two PCs across the Internet securely, I cannot think of a more efficient or satisfying application than CrossLoop.

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

138 comments
atsh711
atsh711

I tried loading CrossLoop on a new computer after downloading Windows 8.1.  I kept getting a message that Microsoft would get back to me with a solution to my unsuccessful download.  Has anyone come across this?  I was never able to download CrossLoop.

fyrman24
fyrman24

does it work in safemode also?(with networking of course)

Braintiller
Braintiller

Sounds good. I am a marketing person and I use remote assistance software often. So far I used numerous applications. Currently I am working with RHUB?s (http://www.rhubcom.com) multi-capable remote PC assistance in my office. It is unified with four real-time collaboration technologies ? web conferencing, remote support, remote access, and webinar - in a single product. It's really simple to setup and easy to use. Now, I am planning to try crossloop too. Thanks for the information.

aleguiroar
aleguiroar

In keeping with what I have read from the above it is really difficult to believe that it can be better than TeamViewer (www.teamviewer.com)

sefc
sefc

I have been looking for something like this, to help out my 84 year old stepdad, who is always asking me for help. I will check it out.

viclewis2005
viclewis2005

Can CrossLoop be setup to 3 or 4 independent computers and accessing only one computer at a time?

tvaughn60
tvaughn60

Crossloop is awesome! I have had wonderful experiences working with customers using crossloop. I was just using it yesterday with a customer and it made life a whole lot easier.

fore_thought
fore_thought

First thing...I'll admit I havent tried this product yet, but one of the best things about LogMeIn is that it is free (although they want you to upgrade to get added features) and that you can start the session from anywhere and at any time without needing someone to start the host on the opposing client.

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

The Computer Name you wish to connect to over the Web. If a Name is going to be used then a DNS entry must exist - who has a DNS entry for their home PC that they know about (as it no doubt changes all the time)? Otherwise it is IP Address, but the IP address may not be a real address due to NAT by ISP's. How does this part work or do you need a static IP / DNS entry?

Donzilla
Donzilla

I cannot say enough good things about this software project. I was trying to develop my own internal software with a global server and reverse-ssh'ing, but this is so much simpler and easy to use.

paul_soares
paul_soares

Yes, but someone needs to be at the remote computer to start Crossloop. Crossloop is not an "always on" remote solution. It's designed to work like this: Joe needs help with his computer so he calls his friend Bob on the phone. Bob tells Joe to run Crossloop, click the Host tab, and then asks for the Access Code. Bob starts up Crossloop on his own PC (and enters the Access Code in the Join tab. Bob tells Joe to click the Connect button and he does the same on his end. Joe's Crossloop tells him that Bob is trying to access his computer and prompts him to "Allow" or "Deny". Joe clicks Allow. Bob is now connected to Joe's PC and he can take control of it. When they're done, Bob (or Joe) clicks the Disconnect button and the session is ended.

Mrinal.Desai
Mrinal.Desai

It means a lot to us and unfortunately you can not see that :) Watch out for our new version - v1.1 - coming soon.

joew
joew

Yes, LogMeIn permits unattended remote access, whereas CrossLoop currently does not, but it depends on the situation whether that is a really benefit or not. In a customer support situation, a customer may be reluctant to leave a permanent backdoor open that permits unattended access 24/7. CrossLoop restricts access to when the person being helped is watching and that can give peace of mind to that user.

DoubleJava
DoubleJava

Crosslink is free too. In addition, while LogMeIn does have a free version, they have several other "advanced" versions that are not free...or cheap for that matter. I do agree with your point that LogMeIn has the capability of establishing a session without assistance from the remote user, but you state that one of the BEST things about LogMeIn is that it is free...well Crosslink is free too.

john.walczak
john.walczak

Do any of the products mentioned allow you to transfer files form PC to PC?

joew
joew

Imagine if only people who understand how cell phones, computers and VCRs internally work could use those appliances... There would be never be a mass market. When we designed CrossLoop, it was first of all meant to be easy to use, so that as many people as possible could benefit from it. I don't need to know the IP address of my friend's computer to send him email, to call him on Skype or to chat with him via an instant messenger. For that I have his email address, his Skype ID or his messenger ID. Likewise with CrossLoop - the host generates a unique random ID and the guest enters that on his computer. When both ends talk to the CrossLoop server, our software can take care of all of the rest, without the user even having to know what an IP address is or what DNS stands for. And no, CrossLoop neither requires a DNS entry for the external IP address of your computer nor a static IP. Basically any broadband connection will work.

Mrinal.Desai
Mrinal.Desai

Just download and install the software on the two PCs you want to connect. Share the randomly generated access code and hit connect on both PCs (within 2 minutes) Our technology is all about making it very simple for non-technical people like me to use it.

Mrinal.Desai
Mrinal.Desai

... but one person to get help (or collaborate) on demand. The Access Code generated and shared between the two PCs (the two users need to hit 'connect within 2 minutes) helps our servers to do a rendezvous. We use our proprietary technology so one does not have to forward ports, configure firewalls etc. Once that connection is established, we back out and the session is peer to peer. Rarely, but if that does not happen, we use our servers as a backup for the session. Both type of sessions are encrypted. Does that answer your question? [Disclaimer: I am not a technical guy]

Marty the Borg
Marty the Borg

In a typical Small Business setup, the user will likely have only one address facing the outside world, and that would be the address of their firewall. Internally, they will use one of the private IP subnets like 192.168.XXX.XXX On the other end, Mr. Consultant has a DSL connection at his home office. His IP address is served up via DHCP, so it may or may not be the same one every day. He has a router at his home, so he can share his Internet connection with several computers, and he uses a 10.0.0.XXX subnet. How do you tell CrossLoop where both ends are?

gary
gary

www.whatismyipaddress.com Get them to email the code and the address on that page to you.

secure
secure

I have been using Single click VNC to occasionally support my customers. It is less flexible than Crossloop, as the executable you send to the remote PC needs to know the IP address to connect back to. It's more complicated to setup initially, but once it's done it's even easier then Crossloop for my (very non technical)customers to use. see http://www.uvnc.com/addons/singleclick.html

casschie
casschie

I definitely wouldn't want any pgm running on my computer that would give another party random access to it! Neither would any of my "clients" (friends and relatives). So to me it's a + for CrossLoop. Cas

terry
terry

I transfer files by using FireFTP plugin on FireFox on all systems I support. I upload a needed file to webspace I have, using FireFTP, and go to the remote machine and use FireFTP to download it. No Problem. And typical files I need are on my webspace...

Mrinal.Desai
Mrinal.Desai

.... but I would recommend that you stay close to our blog. We just might delight you.

gary
gary

RADMIN (www.radmin.com) - Not free but it does a hell of a lot including transfering files. Not much help for helping out clueless mates but good for corporate environments.

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

Suggests that a server or application somewhere is generating sessions and linking up the two ends of the connection. I can see how that would work however I dont like the 3rd party aspect - is the case?

rwilkers
rwilkers

Ah - i c. When you launch the client it registers with a 'directory' server and the clients are able to locate each other via the codes. That central server keeps tracks of the addresses.

Mrinal.Desai
Mrinal.Desai

Our underlying technology takes care of both the PCs through our VIP technology. Yo dont need to tell it anything - download, install and connect between two people. See my other responses to see how we enable the connection. Thanks

rwilkers
rwilkers

"Marty", I'm not supporting this product as I agree with the user who said it's likely repackaged VNC and won't work in environments where port-blocking rules prevent VNC traffic. I will respond to you with this: Based upon my experience - on the initiating side (Consultant), the NAT router will add information to the outgoing packets that identify the internal IP of his client system that initiated the CrossLoop/VNC connection. When response traffic comes back to the client those packets will contain that same header information so that the router is able to identify the internal client. It doesn't matter if the IP changes (via DHCP expiration) because each new session initiated by the consultant's system will get NAT from the router. The difficulty is in getting to the (target system) behind the other firewall. Unless that system is exposed to the wild in some way (DMZ, port-forwarding, outward-facing DNS, etc.), the application from the consultant cannot uniquely identify the target. If one of those options is used, then the only remaining inhibitor would be port- or protocol-blocking rules on the target's firewall.

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

Looks to be all that this is. The setup seems to work exactly the same way as VNC with the same problems. All they seem to have done is modifed the interface, removed features and rebranded it. Note the sudden - 'Thanks' post from Jack247 after the thread was started...Marketing. As Jack247 has not replied as stated we are none the wiser.

rb4711
rb4711

currently, I use teamviewer.com remote support tool. It has a 15 minute time limit per support session. Does this product have a time limit. It's important because I support about 10 customers desktop pc's and not having the time limite would be great. Furthermore, I would like to stay in the free cost area as much as possible. Thanks.

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

the address returned was the firewalls IP address...what now then?

mowings
mowings

UltraVNC SC (Single Click) does not require the end user to know anything about IP addresses or configure a darn thing. Setup the executable to point to the tech's IP address and give it a friendly name like "Bob" or "Denise". If you don't have static IPs, all you have to do use a dynamic DNS provider. The tech should be able to configure their firewall and then use the DNS name instead of an IP when configuring the executable. After getting the executable and firewall configured, the last step is setting up the viewer on the tech's PC. If you've got a bunch of techs with only one IP, you'll have to add a switch on the command line to tell it on which port is must listen but that's the worst of it. Since the only thing the user needs to do is be able to double-click twice (once for the executable and once to select the technician), I think this is even easier. Encryption is optional but highly recommended. I use it to support my family members mostly but now the company for which I work uses it, too. Don't get me wrong - I like Crossloop. But the less you have to rely on the user, the better. My mother-in-law has failing eyesight and my nephew is dyslexic. I would hate to have to rely on either for an accurate reading of the access code when an alternative requires two double-clicks and an active internet connection.

joew
joew

VNC is fine, but more than 85% of CrossLoop users can't use VNC as is, even if they knew how to install it, because they are using a NAT router. VNC only works if you have a direct IP and port to connect to. Most computers these days sit behind a firewall or broadband router with NAT (Network Address Translation), and most of the rest *should* be behind a router for security reasons, even though they aren't. Sure, in such cases if you are an IT professional you can set up port forwarding on your router or install VPN software such as Hamachi, but thats's not something you can ask many of your customers or your mother to do. CrossLoop actually uses VNC as a viewer plugin, but takes care of all the router and firewall issues, making VNC functionality available to completely non-technical users.

michael.hayes
michael.hayes

I have not tried CrossLoop yet but do use LogMeIn on a daily basis. There is no random access, each instance of LogMeIn is directly associated to an account with a dual authentication process. You can not browse for hosts..... I suppose it depends on what you want the remote access for, in my business I need to be able to access computers after hours without interfering with the end user. LogMeIn also posts a translucent banner on the host when being remote controlled.

s31064
s31064

There's an easy fix, and one that will save you grief in the long run. Get rid of any Symantec products. Symantec is one of the worst companies out there. When they bought out Peter Norton, Norton Utilities went downhill. Remember Central Point's PCTools? Much better than NU. They took away from Symantec's market share so Symantec bought them and crushed the product. Live testing in our own labs showed Symantec AV placed a distant fourth (the real surprise in those tests was that Sophos beat out everyone for first). Ever try to uninstall the free trial of NAV that comes with so many new PCs? The average user simply can't do it. Ghost was a great product. Along came Symantec and most of the corporate world has since switched to Acronis. I simply can't wait to see what atrocities they inflict on Backup Exec.

ttosun
ttosun

Another good program especially good for domain in environments is DameWare. This will work by using RDP to any machine as well but is especially useful in Active Directory domains. Very powerful program.

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

Symantec AV is a nightmare. Never recommend using it where possible.

scotts
scotts

But Symantec AV has a fit if you are running Radmin... It tries to kill it and remove it. I had it do that even with the exclusion.

Mrinal.Desai
Mrinal.Desai

...is generated by the client each time you run it. When that is shared by the 'HOST' with the person 'JOIN'ing and both click 'connect', a rendezvous is done through a server. Once the two PCs in the session are recognized as the trusted ones wanting to connect and have permission (by sharing of the code by the 'HOST' with the 'JOIN'er), the connection is established and the server back out for a p2p session.

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

I can see that the solution is well thought out and for most will do the job. Personally I do not like a 3rd party having involvement in my sessions, even tracking the IP's. That is just a personal preference on my behalf.

Mrinal.Desai
Mrinal.Desai

....even though I didnt explain it technically. Our central server does the rendezvous and once that is done, it backs out completely since the connection then is p2p. This also enables us to scale easily. In case of failure to establish a p2p session, our servers do a relay and the entire session then is through our servers. That relatively is a slower experience. We are continuously working to ensure all are p2p because of that and it makes it more expensive for us :)

Mrinal.Desai
Mrinal.Desai

Wow - you guys are very unforgiving :). In California so apologies to you all. This is scary so I am calling for tech help from my team :) I am not competent enough to answer some of these questions

TheAntiGates
TheAntiGates

I couldn't agree less. The product is free and does seem to fill a niche, so I don't see any problem with it. And Jack's post doesn't seem any more agenda-driven than yours. I wouldn't exactly characterize posting 'Thanks' three days later as being "sudden." I recommend decaf. ;-)

Mrinal.Desai
Mrinal.Desai

We plan to release new premium features over time. The Product, AS IS, will - yes - ALWAYS be free.

Mrinal.Desai
Mrinal.Desai

....limit on CrossLoop and as is, will always be free. We plan to have a Pro version out that will allow businesses to customize their brand.

Mrinal.Desai
Mrinal.Desai

....with CrossLoop, Gary, since you really dont need to think of NAT, IP, DNS etc etc :) We have noticed that some AV softwares do not like us and we need to do better in communicating that on our site. You can see also see what other bloggers are saying at http://del.icio.us/crossloop Thanks

gary
gary

Because it depends on the firewall. Stateful or not and NAT or not? Also, If you run something like Windows defender then the app will be killed unless allowed explicitally. I'm going to do some playing with it and write up a blog article :-)

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

says it does not matter about the NAT Site Q&A.... I have a firewall installed - Do I need to configure the router? Absolutely not - Crossloop does not require configuration of the router. Just click on download and install the software. Click on the CrossLoop Icon and you are ready to connect with anyone securely. - but it clearly does matter! UNLESS - it uses the VNC Nat Helper Application The connection is established with a helper service (NH, i.e. NAT helper) located in the Internet. The helper service only aids during initiation of the connection, the actual VNC connection goes directly from NSC to NVC (NAT Server Connector and NAT Viewer Connector). If it does it should say so - this involves a connection to a third party on establishing a connection. I have also noted the lack of reply from Jack247!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

gary
gary

If its the firewalls ip address then the user is not on the internet - probably behind nat or something similar - So this solution will not work - This solution is aimed more at 'road warriors' and home users rather than corporate.

tcurtispc2
tcurtispc2

Crossloop, Webex, GoToMyPC, Teamviewer, PCHelpViewer, etc... All of the software that (seems)to transverse the firewall or NAT is just using an external "repeater". An internet available server that takes the incoming invitation and sets it to listen for an acceptor (if you will). Then it manages the conversation between the two. Having said that, a sharp technician can replicate this scenario with VNC and with the right VNC build, you can even prepackage an exe for the non-technical user to run (even embed your company logo if you want). Short version, there is no free lunch out there, eventually, the holder of the repeater server will charge you something. Don't you think?