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Remote tech support with less frustration

Question : I live a long way from my parents, who often need computer help. It gets frustrating to do this over the phone, so is there a way I can tap into their PC from mine and just fix things?

Answer : Troubleshooting by phone can be a challenge, particularly when the party needing assistance isn't as familiar with desktop navigation as the party providing the help ("What big green button in the corner?").

But, depending on what systems are involved, several long-distance tech support options are available.

Windows XP comes with a Remote Assistance feature that lets an expert control the computer of a novice over a network connection (like the Internet) to adjust system settings, look for lost files or provide other help.

The feature takes a little bit of advance setup, but Microsoft has a full overview at tinyurl.com/l5bemt.

Windows Vista also has its own Windows Remote Assistance service that can let it connect to other computers running Vista or Windows XP.

To use it, go to the Start button to All Programs. Click on Maintenance and then on Windows Remote Assistance in the menu.

A wizard then offers to walk you through the steps of either helping or being helped.

A page on Microsoft's site (bit.ly/12rMiq) explains how Remote Assistance works - and offers some caveats about privacy and security.

Third-party programs are also available. Prices vary, but are usually subscription based. LogMeln (logmein.com) and GoToAssist Express (gotoassist.com) are two such services.

Both can work with Macs and PCs and have free trial periods. Virtual network computing applications are often favoured by systems administrators, as is Windows Remote Desktop (bit.ly/QZpsL).

VNC programs let you remotely control another computer over the network. Real VNC (www.realvnc.com) and Tight VNC (www.tightvnc.com) are two of them.

And for Mac users looking for screen-sharing solutions, the MacFixlt site has a helpful article at bit.ly/VFejo.


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Remote tech support with less frustration


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