Providing Remote Support with the Freeware TeamViewer

This post is for everyone who provides their friends and family support with their computer software issues. I am sure you've discovered by now that phone is not the best way to do it over. Here's how I do it - quite successfully and without spending a lot of time. Note that all of this post is specific to Windows users (sorry Mac, Linux, etc).

Based on my own experience, anyone providing remote support has the following needs:
  1. Ability to see what the caller sees on his/her computer
  2. So easily connect to the remote computer
  3. Ability to see and chat (or better yet .. speak) at the same time with the person at the other end actually sitting in front of the computer (preferably without spending a lot of time on the phone)
  4. Transfer files between your and the remote computer
  5. Occasionally take screen shots
  6. Ability to do any of the above wherever you are
The challenges you face are
  1. (ahem ahem) Limited technical background of the person you are helping with.
  2. The nature of the issue itself (there are enough jokes around this, so I will stay away from making any)
  3. The amount of time you spend on the phone during this exercise
  4. Bandwidth limitation
Luckily a Remote Desktop software can solve most of these issues. Simply speaking, a Remote desktop software allows you to access a remote machine pretty much as if you were sitting in front of it. Unfortunately most of the good ones are paid and are quite expensive. In any case, I do not see the point of paying to help someone else :) 

Most modern version of Windows (XP onwards) come with built-in remote desktop software. But really useful features (like the ability to Remote control someone else's computer) are restricted to the more costlier  Professional edition of Windows. Not all of us have the luxury of owning one.

So I have been on the lookout for a feature-rich, fast and most importantly FREE remote control software. My current favourite is - TeamViewer. The video below should give you a quick idea of how it works.

My particular favourite is this software's ability to allow drag and drop files between your computer and the one you are controlling. Here's a short video demo on how this works.

Other really cool features that really make life easy for me are:

  • The person at the other end requires no installation. Just download a file, run it and provide you with a ID and password it generates. A lot of people I deal with found this easy.
  • Ability to chat and speak over VoIP (requires a decent steady connection - ideally wired). This means I can do this without holding my phone (no cricks in the neck!) :-)
  • Works between Windows, Mac and Linux. And has apps for Android, iPad and iPhone. 
  • A portable version is available (See my previous post if you don't know what this means)
  • Even a web-version is available so you can do this from only a web-browser.
The software is free only for Personal use - so perfect!