<firstimage=”//static.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/mrmouse.jpg”>When you’re as involved in the computer field as deeply as folks here at MUO are, you inevitably get asked by family and friends to help out with computer problems.
One of my favorites has always been Instant Housecall, which Joel wrote about. The problem there is that the free version doesn’t offer unlimited remote pc support. You can only use it with a limited number of remote contacts. The full version is quite expensive.
Crossloop, which Mark covered, is also a great solution, but both people need to download and fully install the software for it to work.
Recently, I was tasked with helping a family member troubleshoot a virus-infected computer. The family member lives in a town three hours away, so it isn’t an easy task to go down and help him out. I wanted a solution that I could install on my laptop, but he wouldn’t have to install – at least not beyond simply visiting a website and accepting certain plug-in installations. I finally found the perfect, free remote PC support solution in Netviewer Support.
Setting Up & Connecting
The first thing you’ll want to do if you want the ability to help out anyone with their computer, anywhere in the world, is install the “support” version of Netviewer. I say the support version, because Netviewer actually comes with a free “meet” version as well, which is mostly for providing online presentations. The “support” version has the remote pc support feature that you need, so make sure to install that one.
Once you run the install and re-launch the application, the login screen lets you choose between basic or expert. As far as I can tell, in the free version either choice is the same (advanced options aren’t enabled).
Once you launch the app, you’ll see the control bar on the right. This is where all text chat takes place, and where you’ll enable or disable control of the remote computer. To initiate a connection with your family or friend that’s asking for computer help, just click on the “invite” button.
The software opens up your default email client with a pre-written message. All you have to do is type in the email address of your friend and press send. The message is already embedded with with session ID.
Once they receive the email, all they have to do is click on the link. It will take them to a special area of the Netviewer domain that automatically installs the required Java app. They’ll need to accept several warning messages along the way, such as this first one that informs them that the session may be recorded.
Entering Remote Control Mode
Once your friend enters the session, the support person (you) can see their desktop. At the beginning, you don’t have any control of their desktop until you click the “ON” button next to the “Remote Control” text at the upper right corner of your Netviewer control panel. When you do, your friend will see the following pop-up box.
Once they accept, you have full control of their computer through the Netviewer interface. The window view on your screen is encapsulated by the Netviewer window, which you can maximize or minimize if you need to get to your own screen. You can access your friend’s entire system, and you can even send the computer a reboot request.
A few useful add-ons that make the support session more interactive is the chat area, where you can chat realtime with the person at the same time that you’re troubleshooting the PC. The Netviewer website touted integration with Skype VoIP, but I could not get that part working, and suspect that it’s only enabled in the paid version.
What is enabled in the free version is also this useful File Transfer area. This basically uses Netviewer sort of like an instant FTP or peer-to-peer file transfer using this drag & drop area in the control panel. This makes it very easy to download files from the computer you’re supporting, edit or otherwise work on them on your local PC, and then upload them back to your friend’s computer.
All of the tools included in this free “support” version of the Netviewer application make this the best remote pc support app that I’ve used yet. You can only use it for free for non-commercial purposes, so don’t try to start up your own computer support business with it – or you need to buy a business license. However, to help out with the occasional request from a friend or family member, Netviewer is perfect.
So, give it a try and let us know what you think. Do you know of any other similar apps that do the same thing just as well or better? Share your own experiences in the comments section below.
Image Credit: ramasamy chidambaram