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A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, allows users to remotely access a particular computer.

My brother and I are separated by several states, we both have a broadband connection and would like to share files with each other. I would really like to do something like map a network drive to his computer but have no idea how to do it, if it is even possible. I am also behind a NAT router.

Corporations do this all the time. It's called a "VPN" or virtual private network, and it allows anyone on the internet, with the right user name and password, of course, to connect to a local network as if they were right on it.

I've toyed with setting one up myself, but have yet to actually done so. There are a couple of ways to go...

The approach I expect to try first myself is to use a router that provides VPN functionality. For example, you might replace your NAT router with one that also supports VPNs, and then after some configuration your brother should be able to connect to your network.

The specifics of how that gets configured is the magic part that I'm not yet familiar with.

Having used them as a client in the past, the experience works something like this: the client (your brother, in this example) would simply create a dial-up connection that uses the internet instead of a modem, and "dials" your IP address, logs in, and gets connected through your VPN router or software. While he's connected to your VPN, he can see whatever drives you care to share. He might not be able to see the rest of the internet, though.

"... you might replace your NAT router with one that also supports VPNs, and then after some configuration your brother should be able to connect to your network."

If you're running Windows XP on both ends (and XP Pro on at least one), you can also look into Remote Desktop. The current Remote Desktop Client will allow the drive(s) to be mapped to the client machine. The downside here is that Remote Desktop will take over the console of the server while you're connected.

And finally, various remote access packages provide VPN or VPN-like functionality. Packages to investigate include GoToMyPC, pcAnywhere, and RealVNC.

Practically Networked is also a good general resource, though perhaps a bit difficult to navigate.

Article C2321 - April 3, 2005 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

April 5, 2005 6:17 AM

I have used PC Anywhere for such hookups with great results. One of my clients needed to access their office computer while on vacation several states away and did so every day with ease. While PC Anywhere does take over the console, it lets users on both ends work on the same program at the same time. Like collaborative working.

Lon F Jarrell Jr
April 11, 2005 5:56 AM

There is also a free program > Log Me In

June 9, 2005 1:23 AM

I'm using beinsync ( which takes a whole different approach to remote access. It has both a free version and a Pro version for $5 a month.

Steven Allsopp
September 10, 2005 5:16 AM

me and my friends have set up a home network between 4 computers for internet access using a switch. is there any way possible of sharing the hard drives on the computers through the switch? or would a router need to be involved?

September 10, 2005 9:16 AM

A switch would work nicely. You'll need to enable file sharing on the various computers involved.

December 14, 2005 10:59 PM

dear friends
please help me for finding way,
i want to view my office from home, i have installed camera in office and configured with dvr card, if i try to view from local network i can see camera but not possible from home pc, i have internet both place where office has local cable connectin and home has dial up connection

December 25, 2005 11:24 AM

hey buddy need ur help
how can i connect my pc with my friends pc we both ave broadband connections with diffrent subnets n ip given by our isp's

mehul mevawalla
February 2, 2006 5:08 AM

hi i have recd an static ip address & want to access my office server from my home on a laptop. how shall i be able to retrieve / access the server hard disk from my home. how to go about the installation of the static ip & do i require any software for downloading / accessing the office server ?

February 11, 2006 5:08 PM


Is there a way to connect a portable hard drive directly to a router? so I could have the hard drive always available on the net?

Thank you.

James Moxham
April 8, 2006 6:18 AM

Check out Leo talks about this in other forums. This stuff is changing rapidly, but with hamachi there is now a totally free VPN solution that enables LANs to connect for games/file sharing etc and it is really easy to set up. At last...

April 9, 2006 6:38 AM


I would like to phone-dialup to my home (from outside) and use the internet connection at home. How can I do that?


Michael Gardiner
June 17, 2006 5:04 AM

Maybe my software can help you?

A totally free and easy solution to sharing your hard disk online.

June 20, 2006 1:34 AM

Hi..I'm doing a application.One of the application requirements need me to check hardisk over network. Means that, if one of the pc in the network has run out of space, it will prompt up in the application for alert warning.
Hope that someone can help me.

Thank You

November 3, 2006 11:41 PM

i want to connect two remote pc through internet and access of harddisk. i have a inventory software and i want to control that software.

November 20, 2006 4:35 PM

Can i share music with my friends a nd how

Santosh Kumar
May 25, 2007 1:15 AM

Dear all,

i am having trouble with remote desktop connection. i want to copy some files to remote server from my laptop. My laptop is having windows XP pro and remote server is having Windows 2000 Server. I am using remote desktop connection and there i am checking the disk drive option under local resource..once i am connected to the server, i can't see my shared disk drives from my pls guys help do i make my disk drives visible in this windows 2000 server...


March 18, 2008 12:18 AM

I can use my hard disk remotely because my brother is on out of state i can share my brothers hard disk so plz. send any software to share my pc & my brother pc through broadband

November 18, 2008 5:09 AM

Dear u can access totaly any pc on internet through of teamviwer software and complitly handle internet pc

February 4, 2009 1:35 PM

Didnt anyone think of a FTP solution here? Quite easy to set up and will do the job excellently, especially if you want to give access to only a share and not all the rest too.

Yes, TeamViewer is an excellent solution (with few exceptions) if you want to share your PC, but... you'll be opening up your PC completely to the other party and not just the share. Not so good if your buddy is a practical joker ;-).

However, this could much easier done by a FTP server. Set up a FTP server on your side with access accounts authorised on the (parts of the) disks/partitions you want to share. And the other party can log in on the FTP server you configured with a FTP client and access the authorised stuff. You can even configure which type of rights (create, read, write, delete) each account has.

Normally this is a quite secure solution. I would suggest to use strong paswords on the FTP accounts though, and if you think you need a bit of security on the data transfer preferably use a SFTP or FTPS protocol or plain FTP over VPN if you're really into it.

What? You were looking for freeware? Well, lots of FTP freeware servers and clients around.
Just look in Wiki or Google on FTP. FileZilla, client and server will for sure deliver, but there might be folks out there that have better suggestions.

Setting up an FTP server, particularly behind a router, isn't for everyone, but it can work. One concern is that the FTP protocol transmits passwords in clear text, meaning that anyone sniffing the connection could harvest account/password info. Secure FTP (SFTP, or FTP over SSH) is more ... secure ... but also more difficult to set up.
- Leo

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