TeamViewer: Free Tech Support Software
A reader asks: 'My friends and family members rely on me for computer support, but diagnosing and fixing their problems over the phone can be maddening. I've heard about GotoMyPC, but it's too expensive for me. Are there any similar, but free, remote access tools I can use for remote tech support over the Internet?
Free Remote Tech Support with TeamViewer
I've had that experience all too often, and TeamViewer is one excellent solution to this problem. Using TeamViewer, you can remotely control almost any computer (PC, Mac, smartphone or tablet) over the Internet. But before getting into TeamViewer's features, let's discuss what remote access software is, and the pros and cons of using it.
Remote access software allows one computer to control another connected to the Internet. To the user, the remote computer's display, mouse and resources are available just as if he or she were sitting in front of it, even though it could be thousands of miles away. The user can point and click, run applications on the remote computer; debug problems; erase files; alter the remote computer's registry; install software; and just about anything else that could be done if the computer was in the same room.
Remote access software is often used for tech support. Instead of traveling to another city to fix a user's problem, a tech support rep can connect to the problematic computer using remote access software and debug it. Other applications include training and sharing of presentations or other documents.
But remote access can be dangerous. The remote user is effectively giving over control of everything on his system to someone he can't see. Bad guys typically gain remote access to victims' computers through social engineering or phishing. For example, you might get a phone call purportedly from Microsoft, with a "security rep" telling you that your system is infected with a virus and you must install remote access software so he can remove it. (See Fake Tech Support Scams.) Remote access software may also be installed on your computer without your knowledge when you download and install unknown software that purports to be something else.
That said, TeamViewer is a legitimate, full-featured remote access and file sharing program that operates with Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Apple iOS, and Android. The software is free for personal use, but commercial users must pay a one-time license fee. According to their website, over 100 million people have used TeamViewer.
Getting Started with TeamViewer
To use TeamViewer, both computers must be running the program. Here's how to connect two computers with TeamViewer:
- Both users must download the TeamViewer Setup software by clicking the green Download button at the TeamViewer website. You can then choose to Install TeamViewer, or Run it without installation. I generally choose the latter option, to keep my system uncluttered. But for convenience, you can install TeamViewer and avoid the need to download the Setup program again in the future.
- The person needing support must then contact the helper, and provide the TeamViewer ID and password displayed on the screen, under the "Allow Remote Control" heading.
- The helper enters the ID and password on his end, under the "Control Remote Computer", and the remote computer's display will appear in a new window.
The helper will then be able control the mouse of the remote computer, run diagnostics, open files or programs, download anti-malware software, or whatever is needed. The person receiving help will see everything happening on their screen. As Arthur Clarke said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." So for the person on the receiving end of the remote tech support, it might as well be.
One benefit of TeamViewer's architecture is that it enables remote access even through firewalls. TeamViewer uses secure data channels and strong encryption (256-bit AES) to ensure security. Unlike some other remote access programs that sell separate modules for support, desktop sharing, sales and other applications, TeamViewer is a complete remote access solution in one package.
TeamViewer supports file transfers between connected machines. You can choose to show your desktop to a connected partner, display documents within applications, or remotely control your partner's computer. You don't even need a partner. An unattended computer can be controlled with TeamViewer if the software is left running on it and it has a live Internet connection. This is particularly useful if you're away from your computer, and need to access something on it.
There are other free remote tech support tools you can try. See my article Free Remote Access and Screen Sharing Tools, for the scoop on LogMeIn, Crossloop and a couple others that will do the job.
Recently, I was out of town and desperately needed to login to a website which required a password. I couldn't remember the password, because I use a password manager on my home computer that automatically logs me in. I started the remote access app on my Android tablet, enabling me to open the web browser on my home computer, and login to the desired website from there. Nobody was home but the dog, but if he was watching my computer, it must have been puzzling to see the mouse cursor moving around, websites opening, and an unseen hand typing on the screen.
Do you use TeamViewer or other remote access software to provide tech support? Post a comment and tell me which solution you like best.
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 2 Apr 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- TeamViewer: Free Tech Support Software (Posted: 2 Apr 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved