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How to control your PC with your Android phone

Alex Garnett | April 10, 2013
PCs and Android go together like Garfunkel and Oates, so seal the deal with these free remote control solutions.

Admit it: You once owned a crazy multifunction remote. It had a black-and-white touchscreen and was supposed to let you control every entertainment device in your house from the comfort of your couch. That was the promise, at least. All it really did was force everything into the wrong aspect ratio and switch the clock on your microwave to Greenwich mean time.

Well, good news: The world is now a better place. Your PC is now the most powerful entertainment device in your home, so it's time to ditch your outdated remote control in favor of your smartphone.

When you have open platforms on both sides of the equation--your Android phone and your PC, rather than "some Panasonic remote" and "some DVD/HDTV combo thing"--it becomes easy as pie to rig up a super-powerful remote-control solution. A smartphone super-remote isn't just for people who have home theater PCs, either. With a little networking know-how, you can use your Android phone to wake up a dormant PC when you're away from home so you can start a torrent, stream media to your phone, or just poke around your PC while you're out and about.

Whether you want a media remote, a remote desktop client, or a way to stream media from your PC to your phone, this guide will teach you how to get set up with a secure, usable connection on the desktop side and connect with the best apps on the Android side.

Make sure your PC is ready for business

A quick word: These instructions assume that your phone and computer are connecting to the same router, and that you've assigned a static IP for your computer on the network so that it gets assigned the same local IP address (192.168.x.x) every time it's turned on. (Remember that bit of necessary networking know-how I was talking about?)

Every router is different, so it's impossible to provide specific advice for this step. However, the basic process goes something like this:

1. Look up the hard-wired MAC address for the connection you're using (wired or wireless) on the machine you're using. On Windows, you can get this info by opening a command prompt and typing ipconfig -all. On a Linux or Mac OS machine, open Terminal and type ifconfig -a. Scroll down to find your router's IP configuration info--the MAC address will usually be listed as a Physical Address entry that looks like this: a2:b9:34:54:cc:10.


To find a computer's MAC address, look for the Physical Address entry after running 'ipconfig - all' from the command prompt.

2. Go to your router's configuration page by opening a browser and typing 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1 into the address bar. If that doesn't work, consult this list of common router addresses or check the manufacturer's website. Poke your way around the router configuration page until you find the static IP settings, then input the machine's MAC address, its name, and the IP address you want it to have henceforth (192.168.1.100 is usually a safe choice). With that out of the way, we're ready to go.

 

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