Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Must Have Tech Support Tool

Microsoft Rocks!

A while back, I discovered the Windows XP Remote Assistance and my life of giving tech support advice to family and friends changed dramatically. All of a sudden, I had an easy way to get a view into what was on their screen. From giving HTML advice to figuring out why e-mail wasn't being downloaded, I was the Tech Support Man. All I lacked was the nifty headset phone and the possibly foreign accent.

However, I found that under some circumstances Remote Assistance wouldn't work. This was a major pain the neck because without a view into a family member's screen, debugging was reduced to "OK, read me exactly what's on the screen again" - not fun at all.

I finally dug into why I might be having issues with Remote Assistance - it turned out to be obvious. Remote assistance does nothing fancy to deal with routers and firewalls. I thought for sure Microsoft had a really sophisticated approach to dealing with giving support to customers on random home networks. Turns out, they don't support this in the least. When I actually looked into the contents of an invite that wasn't working, I found that the IP address listed to connect to was Well, that's useless.

I could have tried to get around this by having the tech-suportee setup a rule on their router to forward requests from port 3389 to their computer, but please. If I can't explain to them how to fix their e-mail, then there's no way I'm going to be able to explain to them how to setup firewall rules on a random router interface, that of course, I can't see.

OK, Microsoft Doesn't Rock. Now What?

I was just about to gave up, I did one last Google search. Of course, LifeHacker to the rescue.

LifeHacker pointed me to This totally free service does exactly what I want. With the person on the phone, I have them click on the link labeled Show My PC to a remote user. They then click a button which gives them a unique password. On my side, I enter this password. Poof, a few seconds later, I'm staring at their desktop. All without a single thought about firewalls, NAT routing or a million other details.

No worrying about invitations, e-mail or hand generated passwords. It just works. This is my new preferred way to a share a desktop, hands down.

1 comment:

  1. I've been looking over the net in search of a decent tool to remotely access technical support. I've found some: LogMeIn, iRemotePC, WebEx (VERY costly -- $375/month!). At last I've come across a web-based tool by the name of Techinline Remote Desktop. It works just great and the pricing is just $20 a month for unlimited use, or $40 for 20 session You'll only need an internet connection and a browser, no need to install anything on your pc. And right away you'll have a ready-to-use remote desktop access environment.