How to do tech support for family
September 26, 2010
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:
- Hit the Start/Windows icon and type Remote Assistance in the "Search Programs" box
- Click Windows Remote Assistance
- Click "Invite someone you trust to help you"
- If you see another windows saying "Who do you want to get help from," click "Invite someone to help you."
- Click "Use EasyConnect" and give the helper the EasyConnect Password
- One Windows Remote Assistance the same way as above
- Click "Help someone who has invited you"
- 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"
- Enter the password given to you in step 5 of the Helpee instructions above
- 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.
I'm Ryan Schuetzler, a husband and father, professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and professional nerd. You can follow me on twitter, but there's not much there.