Learn Windows XP Professional in 15 Minutes a Week: Remote Assistance

by ServerWatch Staff

Jason Zandri's latest article in the Learning Windows XP Professional in 15 Minutes a Week series covers the Remote Assistance feature.

Welcome to this week's installment of Learn Windows XP Professional in 15 minutes a week, the 16th in this series. This article will cover the Windows XP Professional Remote Assistance feature.

Windows XP Professional Remote Assistance Overview

Remote Assistance is a convenient way for level two system technicians (and in certain cases, knowledgeable friends and associates) to connect to your Windows XP system and either walk you through any problems you are having or allow them to take care of the problems for you.

After Enterprise users log a call to a central help desk either via the phone or the Enterprise's current trouble call system (or by one of the ways mentioned later in this article), Remote Assistance allows the appropriate person to log into your system to view what you see on your computer screen and chat online with you in real time through the use of Windows Messenger about what you both see on the local system. (It is possible for them to speak over the telephone with you about what is seen on the local system as well.) If the task is "too difficult" to walk the user through, the support person can "take over" the session and complete the task remotely.

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] - The minimum system requirements needed to properly utilize Remote Assistance as outlined by Microsoft are that both connecting systems must be using either Windows Messenger or another MAPI-compliant e-mail account such as Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express.
Both systems will need network connectivity, either via the Internet or a corporate WAN/LAN.

On some corporate WANs, firewalls might stop you from using Remote Assistance depending on which ports are being filtered at the firewall.

Remote Assistance runs over the top of Terminal Services technology and uses the same TCP port used by Terminal Services: port 3389.

Remote Assistance will not work if outbound traffic from TCP port 3389 is blocked.

If you are using Network Address Translation (NAT) in a home environment, you can use Remote Assistance without any special configurations. However, if you have a personal firewall or similar lockdowns in your home environment, you will have the same issues as in a corporate environment -- Remote Assistance will not work if outbound traffic from TCP port 3389 is blocked.

Also, Microsoft Windows XP Professional or Windows XP Home Edition are the only two systems that can use this functionality. The user requesting assistance and the user providing the assistance must both be using systems running one of the versions of Windows XP.

Page 2: Remote Assistance Configuration

Remote Assistance configuration is accessed and settings are enabled via the System Properties page on a Windows XP system, either by selecting it from the Start Menu by right clicking My Computer and choosing Properties or by selecting My Computer from the Windows Explorer and right clicking My Computer and choosing Properties.

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] - What your Start Menu options look like all depend on how you have the menu set. If you are using the Classic Start Menu, you would not see My Computer as a selection to right click on.

I seem to continually repeat this from article to article, but it is important to stress the Windows XP Professional exam rarely tests you on Classic anything. You need to know how to get from Windows XP Professional settings to Classic and back, but in 90% of the cases you're going to find instructions laid out in the Windows XP Professional vein. I will do my best to point out alternatives in the [NOTES FROM THE FIELD] section as I have done here.

Local Administrators and certain permitted individuals have the rights to make configuration settings for the local systems to allow or prevent remote assistance invitations. Once the system is properly configured by the Administrator, any user can make a request for remote assistance.

After the Properties page has been brought up for a local system, it can be set to allow Remote Assistance invitations by selecting the Allow Remote Assistance invitations to be sent from this computer checkbox on the Remote tab.

Once this option is set, the Advanced button becomes available which displays the Remote Assistance Settings dialog box when selected.

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] - The default settings are shown in the image above. You can configure the Invitation settings in the drop down menu of numbers in a range from 1 to 99, and the definition box to the right can be set to MINUTES, HOURS, or DAYS.

The default option of Allow This Computer To Be Controlled Remotely is selected, which will allow the person offering the assistance to take over the full control of the local system. Clearing this check box allows the remote user only the ability to view a remote session. (Think of it as a "Read Only" session.)

Page 3: Remote Assistance via the Windows Messenger

Remote Assistance via the Windows Messenger

There are many different ways to solicit help via Remote Assistance. I will outline the main ways to ask via the local system.

You can ask for Remote Assistance via the Windows Messenger by logging in to the Windows Messenger and going to Actions on the Menu bar and selecting Ask for Remote Assistance.

This allows you to select a person from your list of contacts, provided they are online at the time.

You can also select the Other tab to enter the e-mail address of another person to contact.

The invitation from the My Contacts list will show up in the conversation window.

Also, if you already have a conversation session established with the person you want to request help from, you can simply select the Ask for Remote Assistance button from the I want to....menu.

Once the person accepts the invitation, you will see a dialog box asking you to confirm permission. In order for the session to continue, you would need to click Yes.

They can then operate on your system at whatever level of control that has been allowed (Either view or full control).

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] - The client requesting the remote session maintains ultimate control of the session even thought they have granted temporary controlling access to the invitee. Although you relinquish control of your computer temporarily, you retain control over the Remote Assistance session itself. The client requesting the remote session can end the session immediately by clicking the Stop Control button or pressing the ESC key.

Page 4: Remote Assistance via the Help and Support Center

Remote Assistance via the Help and Support Center

You can also initiate a session via Help and Support from the Start Menu.

This will open the Help and Support Center where you can ask for assistance from the main menu.

Selecting Invite a friend to connect to your computer with Remote Assistance from the Ask a friend to help section (from the Support menu on the left section of the screen, not shown in the above image) will bring you to the next Help and Support Center window.

From here you can select Invite someone to help you which will open the next screen to select either a Windows Messenger user or allow you to make a solicitation by email.

You can select a user from the list and click the Invite this person button, which will bring up the Web Page Dialog box.

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] - This box will stay open until it is accepted on the remote end or cancelled on the requesting end.

You can also elect to save your invitation as a file.

When you save the invitation, you can elect to require the recipient to use a password. (You will have to get this password to the recipient; it is not sent from this tool.)

Page 5: Remote Assistance Continued

You can also elect Get Help from Microsoft from the Support menu, which allows you to choose assistance options from Microsoft.

If you choose to Ask a Microsoft Support Professional for help, you'll need to agree to the End User License Agreement, after which you'll be prompted through a series of questions to assist you in your troubleshooting effort.

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] - While I have personally never used this option, I did fire it up to see how it functioned, and it appeared to work just the Windows Hardware Troubleshooters, where a number of "canned" questions are asked, which lead to the next question and so on, building the "path" of questioning from the previous answers. I can't really tell you if you have a "live" Microsoft support person on the other end, at least not for the number of questions I walked through in any case.

You can also choose to Go to a Windows Web site Forum from the Support menu and choose the Go to Windows Newsgroups in an attempt to resolve any system issues you might be having on your own by utilizing information posted there.

That's a wrap for this week. Be sure to check back in next week for the next article in this series.

In the meantime, best of luck in your studies and please feel free to contact me with any questions on my column and remember,

"I have yet to figure out why people put suits in a garment bag and put garments in a suitcase"

Jason Zandri

This article was originally published on Friday Oct 11th 2002
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