Everyone who works on computers has them – friends and family who ask for computer help, but invariably can’t describe the problem they’re having, when it started, or anything else about it in a helpful way.
Now, I don’t mind helping these people out, but one thing I hate is phone support. I can easily fix a problem if I’m able to look at the screen and click around a bit myself, but on the phone I can only see and do what the user can see and do, and this isn’t always helpful.
Luckily, Microsoft has a solution for people like me – it’s called Remote Assistance, and it’s been built into Windows since the XP days. Using the Remote Desktop Connection technology (see my previous piece here), it allows one person to “invite” another person to look at their screen and, if permission is given, take control of the computer to troubleshoot.
Since Remote Assistance can be used to access files and settings on your computer, it goes without saying that you should only use this tool with people you trust.
To begin, both the assistant and the assistee must have Windows Remote Assistance open on their computers. It can be found in the Start menu by typing “Windows Remote Assistance” in the search box.
We’ll follow the assistee first, the person who needs the help. Click Invite Someone you trust to help you.
You’ve got a number of options here. If you use a web-based email provider like Gmail or Yahoo! mail, you can save the invitation as a file and send it as an attachment to the person who will be helping you. If you use a client-based email service like Windows Live Mail or Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird, you can click Use e-mail to send an invitation to help automate this process. The person assisting you will need that file and the 12 digit alphanumerical password that appears on the screen in order to connect to your computer.
You can also try to use the Easy Connect option to connect the two computers – for this method, both computers will connect to a remote server and, using a password, they can find and connect to each other. Both computers must be on a network that allows such connections – some businesses may have firewalls that prevent Easy Connect from working normally.