Given that you’re reading APC right now, we’d say that there’s a pretty good chance that you’re that guy or gal. The “one who knows about computers” and the person that gets the call whenever a person in your social circle has a computer problem.
Whether or not you’re actually a technical person or just proficient in Google, you inevitably then have to resign yourself to spending the next three hours sitting on the phone, hoping to decipher their incoherent descriptions of the problem and what they’re seeing on their screen while trying to remember how Windows XP control panels work.
Of course, most such issues are software problems. They’ve downloaded something they shouldn’t have, messed with settings best left alone or deleted files that they wanted kept.
Phone support is useless, because they’re unable to describe the problem and you’re unable to see it. So you’re off on a drive over to their house to take a look. Or not.
If you’re fielding a lot of calls like this in your life, it’s absolutely worth getting to know a little app called TeamViewer.
TeamViewer is a remote desktop application, functionally very similar to Citrix, Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Services and the many other remote desktop applications available today.
What makes it great for this type of support is that it’s free for non-commercial use, it’s easy to use and there’s a simple app that can be download and run to provide ad-hoc access without requiring a full installation.
It has a code-based matching service that makes it easy to connect to another user without knowing their IP address or sending them an invitation file — rather like Windows Remote Assistance’s Easy Connect, except that it works most of the time.
It also happens to be multi-platform, so you can control a Windows PC from an Android device, for example, or a Mac from a Windows PC.
Using TeamViewer on a support call
If you’ve not had the chance to set up TeamViewer on the other person’s PC beforehand, don’t worry. There’s a special version of the app called TeamViewer QuickSupport that can be downloaded and run without requiring an installation or administrator access.
The controlling PC still needs the full version of TeamViewer installed, but the host (the PC that you’re controlling) can just run QuickSupport.
While you’re on the phone, just follow these steps:
On your PC, head to the TeamViewer website and download and install TeamViewer full version.
Run it (select the ‘basic installation’ and ‘Non-commercial license’ options).
Tell the other person to go to www.teamviewer.com in their web browser, then click on the Download link to go to the download page.
Then they should scroll down, and under ‘Additional Downloads’ should click on the TeamViewer QuickSupport download link. Remember to tell them to take note of where they saved it!
Have them run TeamViewer QuickSupport by going to the save directory and double clicking on the icon (or directly running it from the browser download window). The QuickSupport app will pop up immediately, and they will be given an ID and four digit passcode.
Tell them to read out their ID to you (or send it via SMS, or whatever).
In your copy of TeamViewer, type in the Partner ID under the Control Remote Computer field and click Connect to partner. You’ll be asked to enter their password (which they also have to read to you).
They’ll get a confirmation popup, which they need to accept.
The remote control window will pop up and you’ll be able to see their desktop, with the TeamViewer control bar at the top. Any actions you take in this window will be mirrored on the remote PC, and there are a variety of functions that you can explore in the Control Bar.
If you want to save on your phone bill, you can hang up now. There are chat options in the tool bar for communications.
Hopefully, you can now diagnose and fix the problem! Close the window when you’re done to end the session.
Installing TeamViewer for unattended access
What this does is install a permanent agent on the PC so that it can be connected to and controlled at any time, without the need to install or run any application.
It’s perfect when you have a problem user — you can instantly connect and control, and they don’t have to do a thing.
You can go around to their home and install it manually, but you can actually also install TeamViewer for unattended access from within a TeamViewer session — there’s a handy button for doing so right in the tool bar.
Just follow these steps:
You’ll need to create a TeamViewer account.
Click on ‘Sign up’, then create an account.
Start a QuickSupport session with your support buddy as described above.
While in the remote control session, click on ‘Files & Extras’ in the toolbar, then on ‘Install TeamViewer’.
Click on ‘Install default TeamViewer host module’.
Follow the prompts to download and install it.
There will be a short reconnect, and in the host window, the unattended access wizard will pop up. Go through the wizard, giving the remote computer a name and a password.
Once that’s done, the remote computer can be controlled by you at any time.
The remote computer should automatically be added to your contact list. Just double click on it to start a new session whenever you need to.