As everyone who does computer-y things knows, you will be called upon to do tech support for people around you. The most difficult of these calls is when you are doing tech support for a relative who lives far away. The best way I have found to do this technical support is using a tool included in Windows called Windows Remote Assistance.

Windows Remote Assistance is basically a slightly modified version of Remote Desktop. With Remote Desktop you can log into a remote computer and do what you want. With Remote Assistance, you are invited by the user of a computer to share a session. The benefit of this is that you can see exactly what the user sees on his/her screen. You can also demonstrate how to do things by sharing control of the mouse.

Windows 7 has the best version of Remote Assistance (at least it beats XP. I've never used it on Vista) because it has a feature called EasyConnect. Below I have the steps for using Remote Assistance with EasyConnect and Windows 7 on both the helper and the helpee's computers.

For the Helpee:

  1. Hit the Start/Windows icon and type Remote Assistance in the "Search Programs" box
  2. Click Windows Remote Assistance
  3. Click "Invite someone you trust to help you"
  4. If you see another windows saying "Who do you want to get help from," click "Invite someone to help you."
  5. Click "Use EasyConnect" and give the helper the EasyConnect Password

Now the Helper steps in:

  1. One Windows Remote Assistance the same way as above
  2. Click "Help someone who has invited you"
  3. Click either the username of the person you are helping, or click "Help Someone new" if you see that screen. If not, just click "Use EasyConnect"
  4. Enter the password given to you in step 5 of the Helpee instructions above
  5. The Helpee will see a prompt asking if they want to share control of their computer with such-and-such. Instruct them to click yes on that prompt.

You now have a shared view of the computer. I don't remember the name of the button, but in the upper-left corner of the Helper's screen you should see a button that says something like "Request control." If you click that button, the Helpee will receive a prompt asking if they want to share control of the screen. If he/she clicks "Yes," you (the Helper) will be able to control the computer. This is incredibly useful for searching for stuff or demonstrating how to do something.

I know there are other tools as well that provide similar functionality. Logmein and TeamViewer are the two most common that I hear. However, both of these (I think) are browser-based, which to me seems like a big disadvantage. They don't provide the same experience as Remote Assistance in my experience. Plus, Windows Remote Assistance comes pre-packaged with Windows, so it's already there and ready to use.