My friends often call or email and ask computer questions that are hard to answer without actually sitting in front of their computer. I've heard radio commercials for a product that lets you control another computer over the Internet. But there's a monthly fee, software to download, and I'm not sure it'll be secure. Is there a free, secure tool to access a friend's computer remotely?
Remote Assistance via Internet
I feel your pain! So many times I can remember trying to help someone over the phone and the conversation would go like this. Me: Right-click on the desktop. Friend: Wait, I see a little square with words in it! Me: That's fine -- just click on Properties. Friend: Okay, where is the first property? Me: Sigh...
But then I discovered the Remote Assistance tool built into Windows. With Remote Assistance, you can view and interact with your friend's computer (with their permission) just like you were sitting in front of it. Your friend sees everything you're doing, so they can quickly learn how to fix the problem on their own. You can even open an audio channel to interact by voice during the session. (Mac and Linux users: See the end of this article for alternative solutions.)
To use Remote Assistance, the computer receiving assistance and the computer providing assistance must both run Windows XP or higher and they must be connected via the Internet or a local network. And a high-speed connection on both ends will make things go a lot smoother.
On a WIndows XP system, the person requesting assistance must click on Start, then Help and Support. Then they must click on Invite a friend to connect to your computer with Remote Assistance.
Next, they should click on Invite someone to help you and choose a method for contacting the assistant. I recommend against using Windows Messenger, unless both parties are already familiar with it. Otherwise, it's just not worth the hassle of setting it up. Choose the email option, and enter the assistant's address in the box. If the person requesting assistance uses web-based email, have them choose the Save invitation as a file option, which creates a file they can send to the assistant as an attachment.
In the invitation, the person requesting assistance should give their name, a description of the problem, and a way for the assistant to contact them. Instructions on how to use Remote Assistance will be emailed to the assistant. They can specify how long the invitation will remain open, and provide a password that the assistant must use to connect. I strongly recommend using a password, to make sure that only the intended person is able to connect. It's a good idea to give a phone number in the invitation, so the assistant can call for the password. This ensures that the correct person received the invitation, adding another level of security to the process.
If you have Vista or Windows 7, the process is similar. For Vista, click Start, then All Programs. Click Maintenance, and then Windows Remote Assistance. On WIndows 7, click Start, then in the Search box enter 'troubleshooting' and press Enter. Next, select 'Get Help From a Friend' from the Control Panel. From there, things work pretty much the same as with XP.
Taking Control, Remotely
When you receive the request for Remote Assistance, click on the attachment, launching Remote Assistant. The person requesting assistance will get a prompt asking them to allow the remote connection. When they press Yes, you will able to see the remote desktop, and chat with the person requesting assistance.
You can instruct the other person via chat or phone, while viewing the remote screen. But I recommend that you click on Take Control so you can directly control the other person's computer from your screen. After granting you permission to take control, the other person will be able to see you whatever you're doing, and can close the remote assistance session at any time. The assistant can also send a file to the remote computer, which can be helpful for problem solving and illustrating certain techniques.
As mentioned earlier, Remote Assistance only works if both computers are running Windows. If the assistant is using Linux, I recommend that you look into rdesktop, which allows Linux users to remotely login to a Windows system. For Mac users, Apple Remote Desktop used along with a Mac VNC client will do the trick.
Have you used Remote Assistance or a similar tool? Post your comments below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 13 Jun 2006
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- Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Article information: AskBobRankin -- Remote Assistance (Posted: 13 Jun 2006)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved