Access any PC over the internet for troubleshooting or remote access purposes
magine the scenario: you or a friend needs help with their PC, but you live miles apart. You try to help over the phone, but you're getting nowhere fast. You need to be sat at the PC to see what's wrong, so what can you do?
If both parties have got working internet connections you can connect to each other's PC, enabling the expert to take a closer look at the other and - with the novice's permission - even take control of it as if they were sat in front of it.
This functionality extends beyond simply fixing someone else's problems - if you've got the right software you can share programs or even access your home PC from the office laptop, which might be a godsend if you forgot to send an email or transfer a file. Better still, this functionality is built into Windows XP and Vista, so won't cost you a penny.
If you have a problem with your PC, and your friend is also running Windows XP, then Remote Assistance is the way to go. It's designed to make it as easy as possible for someone to request and receive help.
The step-by-step guide below reveals how to request assistance from another person with Windows XP - once you've clicked Send Invitation you should open your email program and double-check the invitation has been sent; if not, click Send/Receive and it should immediately go to your friend.
Once the expert has received the email, he should open it and double-click the attachment, choosing Open when prompted. He'll then need to enter the password you've sent him separately before clicking OK.
I can't seem to find any options for Remote Assistance - can you help?
The most likely reason for your problem is that your PC isn't set up to support Remote Assistance. To verify this, open the System Properties Control Panel (right-click My Computer and select Properties) and switch to the Remote tab. Make sure the Allow Remote Assistance invitations to be sent from this computer box is ticked. Also click Advanced and - if required - tick Allow this computer to be controlled remotely.
Ask for assistance
1. LAUNCH HELP AND SUPPORT
To ask a friend to give remote assistance, click Start > Help and Support. Under Ask for assistance, click Invite a friend to connect to your computer with Remote Assistance". Choose Invite someone to help you to start the invitation process.
2. SEND AN EMAIL
Although you can send invitations via Windows Messenger, it's better to send via email using your default email program. Enter the person's email address and click Invite this person. Type a short message explaining what you're asking for and click Continue.
3. PICK A PASSWORD
For security reasons, you should set an expiry time or date for the invitation, plus set up a password that your friend will need to enter. You'll need to communicate this separately to him or her by phone or another email. Click Send Invitation.
4. START SESSION
Once your friend receives the email and follows the instructions within it, they'll initiate the process of connecting to your PC. You should see a pop-up window asking you to accept the connection - click Yes to give your friend access and start troubleshooting your problem.
Using Remote Assistance
This looks very similar to Windows Messenger, and it works in a similar way, enabling you to chat with the expert and explain your problem. If you have headsets you can talk directly with each other, although you will need to have configured them using the Audio Tuning Wizard (accessible through the Settings menu) first.
When the expert clicks Take Control a dialog will appear - click Yes if you're happy to let him do so. He'll then get on with whatever it is he needs to do, pressing [Esc] when he's finished to surrender control back to you. If you're unhappy with what he's doing, you can take back control at any time by pressing [Esc] or the Stop Control button.
Once the support session has ended, either party can click the Disconnect button - if the invitation is still valid (in other words, it hasn't expired), you can connect again if necessary; if it has expired, just send out another invitation.
Remote Assistance will work on a dial-up connection, but performance will be sluggish and we suggest you don't attempt to communicate via headset over the same Internet connection.
Annotation: How Remote Assistance works
A. TAKE CONTROL
The expert clicks this and if the novice allows it, is able to control the other PC as if he or she were sat at it themselves.
B. MESSAGE ENTRY
Chat with the novice by typing into this box - if you have a microphone you can use that instead; click Start Talking after running the Audio Tuning Wizard through Settings.
C. NOVICE'S SCREEN
The background image on the novice's PC is automatically removed when connected - this helps optimise the connection between computers.
D. NOVICE'S CONSOLE
When connected, the novice talks to the expert and controls the connection through this dialog box.
E. DISCONNECT BUTTON
Once both parties have finished, either can click the Disconnect button to hang up.
F. SCALE TO WINDOW/ACTUAL SIZE
If the expert's screen isn't big enough, use these buttons to decide how the novice's display is shown in the Remote Assistance window.
Remote Desktop works in a similar way to NetMeeting's Remote Desktop Sharing, but is more secure. Your home or work PC will need to be running Windows XP Professional, but you can control it from any Windows-based PC with the help of a free download.
The technology is designed to work over a VPN, network or the internet. If you're accessing it via a VPN, all you need is your computer's name (verify this from the Computer Name tab of System Properties). Network users will need to obtain their PC's private IP address by clicking Start > Run, typing cmd and pressing [Enter], then typing ipconfig /all and pressing [Enter] again. Finally, those wishing to access their PC over the intenret will need its public IP address, which you can obtain by clicking here.
You'll also need to verify that Remote Desktop Sharing is enabled - once done, you'll be able to access your PC from another machine. The step-by-step guide below reveals all.
Take remote control of your PC
1. ENABLE REMOTE SHARING
The PC you wish to control must be running Windows XP Professional. If it is, click Start, right-click My Computer and select Properties > Remote tab. Tick Allow users to remotely connect to this computer. Click OK and - if necessary - add a password to your user account.
2. OBTAIN CLIENT SOFTWARE
To control your PC from another Windows-powered computer either choose Start > All Programs > Accessories > Communications (Windows XP Home and Pro, Windows Vista) or download and install the Remote Desktop Client from here.
3. LOG ON TO REMOTE COMPUTER
The screen above will appear (it will be slightly different in Windows Vista) - select your target PC from the drop-down menu or type in its name or IP address and click Connect. If your firewall throws up a prompt, allow the connection.
4. ACCESS COMPUTER
You'll need to log on using your password. Once done, the screen is yours to control. You can use the PC as if you were sitting at it yourself. To relinquish control close the dialog box - to change settings, open Remote Desktop Connection and click Settings.