TeamViewer: Free Tech Support Software

Category: Networking

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.

TeamViewer Free Remote Access Software

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:

TeamViewer Setup screen shot
  • 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.

 
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Most recent comments on "TeamViewer: Free Tech Support Software"

(See all 27 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Silverback
02 Apr 2013

I've tried TeamViewer and found it clunky, and much prefer using LogMeIn (I have a number of machines setup with it, including my parents machines so I can connect any time and fix them as long as they can get on the internet).

Honestly, if I'm going to connect to the machine all the time/try to get actual work done on it remotely, I just setup the firewall/router to forward RDP connections to the machine. I still usually set them up with LogMeIn so I can get to them even if there is something wonky about the firewall settings, and it tends to work when other things don't. I guess it's the former boyscout in me, always prepared and have an extra connection (pair of underwear ;-) ) just in case...


Posted by:

john donald
02 Apr 2013

Any thoughts on why I get ! An add on for this website failed to run. I know how to fix it but it seems odd. Best regards, john.


Posted by:

bob price
02 Apr 2013

As I understand teamviewer, a screen appears on the "target" computer with user id and pw. This is given [phone call?] to the second person for access.

This method eliminates the fear that once established, the viewer can access it 24/7 if turned on, such as gotmypc.

Do I have it right?


Posted by:

Cedric
02 Apr 2013

I have used Teamviewer for remote support for years. I have family in remote locations, and it is great to be able to fix problems for them, and show them what to do as well. I also use it for remote access to my own computers. I don't use it commercially, but know of a couple of companies that do so very effectively. it cuts down on a lot of travel.


Posted by:

Andrea
02 Apr 2013

Yes, I'm always providing tech support to my family members, one of whom is not very computer literate. I've been using TeamViewer and I really love it. It's very easy to use and in my opinion, is very fast. I've seen tech support at work use remote software, but there's quite a lag. I've personally tried a few others myself that we're also very slow and laggy. So I think TeamViewer is pretty quick, at least compared to others I've seen and/or used. Plus it's free for personal use, that's another plus.


Posted by:

Larry
03 Apr 2013

I have used Teamviewer for years and have found it to be an excellent tool. Used it just this morning to help my son download and install a driver for his wi-fi card on a laptop. Would highly recommend this program.


Posted by:

Huffy
03 Apr 2013

I would be interested in knowing what Ari found out about something being "dirty" with Samantec as I've had them remote my computer also.


Posted by:

snert
03 Apr 2013

My younger sister is ALWAYS having problems with her W7 machine. She has to fetch me at least twice a week. TeamViewer will save her a lot of gas and frustrations and let me get more sleep.


Posted by:

Nicolo
03 Apr 2013

Logmein has worked very well for me. However a new feature that Avast!!! recently added to their program also allows remote control. Businesswise (I'm a computer repair technician)it's a huge help. I give all my customers Avast!!! antivirus, and now am able to remotely control their computers if they need me. Activation is similar to Team Viewer and is so simple even computer illiterate people can easily activate it.

On a not so related side note, due to Avasts! recommendation rewards, they have given me their more advanced security system for free. It's a great (free) antivirus software, that includes a whole lot of new features including REMOTE CONTROLS.

PS: Thank You Bob for all the tips you've been posting throughout the years. I've learned more from you than any other person or book I've read regarding tech. You're a Legend in my book. And I look forward to reading more of your articles for many more years. If you are ever in Vegas, I'd like to take you out to lunch in one of the BEST Buffets in the country. The least I can do for all you have done for me.


Posted by:

Rob
03 Apr 2013

Have used Teamviewer often to support family members' computer problems. Saves everyone involved a lot of driving time, fuel and money. Much easier than trying to have them describe the problem over the phone. Works very well. No need to spend money on other similar software.


Posted by:

mur_phy
03 Apr 2013

Unless the helper is being paid as a source of income or main source of earning a living, perhaps it would be better to teach the users how to solve computer problems themselves rather than spoon feeding them. Almost 23/7 the admins in PC Tech in Paltalk have spent the last 13 years helping users fix and learn how to solve issues with their pc's and do not resort to the use of Team Viewer. However, recently, joinme has been a nice tool to see exactly what the user sees so he can be directed toward the correct method to solve a problem but the remote ability is not used by the PC Tech room.
It still is amazing as to how many issues are solved when offering "blind" assistance over the years.


Posted by:

Frans
03 Apr 2013

I have been using Teamviewer to provide PC support to family members for more than 5 years and swear by this product. It has saved me countless hours. For simultaneous voice support I used Skype but now use Teamviewer for voice communication as well.


Posted by:

Eddy
03 Apr 2013

I am also using Teamviewer to help my friends with updates and virus removals. I tried others but none are as good. Here are my observations on using this fantastic remote control tool: It is fast and very reliable. The password they give you to access their computer changes each time you connect. You can use video or V.O.I.P. and talk to your friends, you can teach people who are intimidated by computers to understand and use their equipment properly. You can transfer files from your PC to theirs. Best of all, it is free! I recently moved to Europe and most of my friends are in the USA. They are so happy that I can still help them although I live thousands of miles away. Teamviewer is also available in several languages. Did I mention it is free? Thanks Bob for your excellent articles, although I have been repairing and updating computers for over 20 years, I still learn a lot from your newsletters.


Posted by:

PAUL
05 Apr 2013

What makes "TeamViewer" different from the Remote Feature that comes with MS OS, at least the remote feature is in XP, and I think W7. I don't enable the feature though because I think they could be a security risk.


Posted by:

Blake
10 Apr 2013

Thanks for the post. I use ScreenConnect really love it. I've heard of Teamviewer but never used.


Posted by:

Nitin
12 Apr 2013

Thanks for this post bob, this post is very usefull for using remote access.


Posted by:

Rashiid Amul
29 Apr 2013

I live in CT and my mother-in-law lives in Florida. I've been using TeamViewer for about 6 months. I love it. It is very easy to use.
I have never tried the other programs other than RDP.


Posted by:

james
24 Nov 2013

I'm really curious why you don't even mention the REMOTE DESKTOP CONNECTION that comes with W7????
Its already in your PC. It would seem logical to use it.
Great article and very helpful as always!
Thanks!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Why? It's a much more complicated and limited solution. You cannot use Remote Desktop Connection to connect to computers running Windows XP Home Edition, Windows Vista Starter, Windows Vista Home Basic, or Windows Vista Home Premium. Or Macs. And if both computers are not running the standard Windows Firewall, some tinkering with ports is required.


Posted by:

Alan
10 Apr 2015

Anyone using Teamviewer to control a remote computer that has internet access via Dish Satellite? Without being able to get a static IP address how do you remotely connect?
Thank you.


Posted by:

Alexandra
11 Aug 2016

TeamViewer is good but its data has been recently hacked. Have a look at http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-36459015 Are hosted services secured? Why not use on premise remote support solutions like R-HUB remote support servers? It works from behind your corporate firewall, hence better security.


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