If you have an interest in technology, you probably find your friends think you're fair game when it comes to fixing their PC problems. Remote access can take the pain out of the troubleshooting process, letting you access a friend's machine as if it were right in front of you. You can drive the controls yourself and fix problems quickly.
Using Remote Desktop Connection in Windows 7
Before you can connect to a remote system with Remote Desktop Connection, the computer must be configured to accept such connections. In Vista and Windows 7, right-click Computer and select Properties, then choose Remote Settings from the lefthand side of the window. Alternatively, go to Control Panel, System and choose the Remote settings link in the left pane. In XP, right-click My Computer, choose Properties and select the Remote tab.
The Remote Settings control panel lets you give other systems permission to connect with your computer. Members of the Administrators group automatically have access to a machine that has the Remote Desktop Connection feature turned on. You can add other users here.
Once Remote Desktop Connection is enabled, the basic information about your computer will tell you the name or address of the PC that must be used when connecting to the PC remotely.
To begin a Remote Desktop Connection session, click Start, All Programs, Accessories, Remote Desktop Connection. In the Remote Desktop Connection window, you can enter either the IP address or the computer name of the system you want to connect to, as well as the username you're using for the connection.
Once you've initiated the connection process, the software will ask you to enter a valid username and password for the remote computer, unless you saved the connection credentials from a previous session on that PC.
Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008 permit multiple simultaneous connections via Remote Desktop Connection, but desktop versions of Windows allow only one connection at a time. Unlike Remote Assistance, Remote Desktop Connection lets only the remote user see the desktop.
While you're working on another user's machine using Remote Desktop Connection, all they'll see at their end is a blacked-out screen. Whether they think you've made the problem worse and panic, or they get bored of waiting and think they'll have a look online, logging into the machine while you're working on it will automatically terminate the session. Advise them to sit back and not to fiddle until you say otherwise.
Working with Problem Steps Recorder in Windows 7
Problem Steps Recorder (PSR) is a helpful utility that's new to Windows 7. It lets you document the actions that led to or created a computer problem. You can then send the compiled recording to a helpdesk or a tech-savvy friend for review, hopefully enabling them to provide you with a solution in return.
It's often difficult to identify the exact problem with your PC to explain to another user. Likewise, your tech-savvy friend may have trouble recreating the behaviour you're describing. In such cases, PSR can be invaluable.
PSR sessions can be sent as file attachments, letting the recipient work on the problem offline and in their own time. This process enables tech support to work more efficiently (and without the added pressure of a frustrated user waiting on the other end of a phoneline).
PSR can't be accessed via the Control Panel or through any Windows menus. Instead, press the Windows key on your keyboard and type psr.exe into the search field. Double-click the PSR logo displayed in the search box and you'll see a simple console with options to start and stop screen recording, and to add comments.
Click Start Record. Recreate the problem on your machine by following exactly the same steps as you did when it appeared.
You can pause the recording at any time and resume it later. Click Add Comment to jot down any notes that may be of use in solving the issue.
When the problem has occurred, click Stop Record. The recorder will save the recording as a .zip file.
PSR sessions aren't videos but a collection of annotated screenshots. The resulting slideshow is compiled into an MHTML (multimedia HTML) file that you can email or send as an instant message attachment. This file is viewable only in Internet Explorer. To view the record of the steps yourself, open the .zip file and double-click the file to open it in your browser.
This utility isn't only useful when problems arise. You can also use it to create tutorials for complex tasks, potentially avoiding future problems.
Of course, connecting to a troubled PC and observing the problem are only the first steps in solving it. But if you can avoid a home visit, you've already made fixing the problem easier.