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Using Computers Remotely

Remote Assistance lets you turn control of your computer over to a trusted expert for advice, troubleshooting, or general support. Remote Desktop allows you to control a remote computer from whatever computer you happen to be using. This tutorial covers both of these topics.

Using Remote Assistance

Remote Assistance is a way to give control of your computer to a trusted expert. A trusted expert is any computer expert you trust not to damage your computer or steal any personal information. It may be someone from Desktop Support at your place of business. It may be a friend or relative who happens to be a computer expert. Whoever it is, you have to find that person yourself. Remote Assistance provides you with only the ability to let a trusted expert operate your computer from afar - it doesn't provide the trusted expert.

Remote Assistance and Firewalls

If you have any trouble using Remote Assistance, make sure that it's listed as an exception in Windows Firewall. To do so, open Windows Firewall from the Control Panel. Click the Allow an App or Feature through Windows Firewall link. Select Remote Assistance and click OK. Note that to send e-mail requests for Remote Assistance, you must enable Windows Remote Assistance for Public connections. In addition, if your computer sits behind a perimeter firewall (DSL router, wireless access point, or other hardware firewall), both your local firewall and the remote firewall must support Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) to support Remote Assistance without any special configuration. Or, if the firewall in front of the system requesting Remote Assistance doesn't support UPnP, you need to use port forwarding to get the incoming Remote Assistance traffic to the computer. How you set up port forwarding depends entirely on the type of firewall you have. Essentially, you need to create a rule in the firewall to forward incoming traffic for port 3389 to the computer that needs Remote Assistance. For additional information, contact your local ISP or contact your network administrator.

Setting up Remote Assistance

Before you try to use Remote Assistance, make sure that it's enabled in your user account. Doing so requires administrative privileges. You find options for enabling and disabling Remote Assistance in the System Properties dialog box. Here's a quick and easy way to get to those options:

  1. At the Windows taskbar, start typing the word assistance. The Allow Remote Assistance Invitations to Be Sent from This Computer link appears in the results area. Clicking this option opens the System Properties dialog box direct to the Remote tab. (To open Remote Assistance open Control Panel and click the System option.) Choose the Allow Remote Access to Your Computer option in this dialog.
  2. If prompted, enter an administrative password. The Remote tab of the System Properties dialog box opens.
  3. If you want to allow the computer to be used in Remote Assistance sessions, select the Allow Remote Assistance connections to this computer check box. Otherwise, the computer cannot be used for Remote Assistance.
  4. Optionally, click the Advanced button. Then, to allow trusted experts to control the computer remotely, select the Allow this computer to be controlled remotely option.
  5. Optionally, set a time limit on how long Remote Assistance invitations remain open. Also, you can limit Remote Assistance to other computers running Windows Vista or later versions of Windows.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Click OK again.

The next section assumes that you've allowed Remote Assistance in the preceding steps.

Requesting Remote Assistance

Before you allow a trusted expert to take over your computer online, you need to agree on a time. For security, you should agree over the phone or in person.

If you know the e-mail address of an expert you can trust to help with your computer, follow these steps and then send a Remote Assistance request:

  1. Open Control Panel, choose Troubleshooting and then click Remote Assistance.
  2. The Remote Assistance dialog loads with information on how to request Remote Assistance.
  3. Click the Invite someone to help you option.

How you proceed from there depends on how you use e-mail. If you use Windows Mail or another email client that's compatible with Windows 10, follow these steps:

  1. Click Use e-mail to send an invitation. You e-mail client loads with an invitation e-mail ready to send.
  2. Type the expert's e-mail address in the To box and click Send.
  3. If your e-mail client isn't configured to send mail immediately, open that program and perform a Send/Receive.

If you use a browser-based e-mail client, follow these steps instead:

  1. Click Save this invitation as a file.
  2. Choose a location in which to save the file and click Save.
  3. Compose an e-mail message to the expert and attach the Invitation (or Invitation.msrcincident) file to that message using the standard method for your e-mail service. Then send the message normally.
  4. Compose a second message to the expert and enter the Remote Assistance password that shows on your screen. Send the message.
Tip: If you don't know how to attach files to messages, search your e-mail service's support using "Attach" as the keyword, or ask your trusted expert.

The e-mail message is sent to the trusted expert. In the meantime you will receive a Windows Remote Assistance message providing you with the helper's connection password.

Note: If you close the Windows Remote Assistance window, your invitation expires and the expert won't be able to connect. If that happens, repeat the previous steps to create a new invitation.

The trusted expert needs to receive your e-mail and open the attached file. Remember to also provide the password in the Remote Assistance window to your trusted expert. Remote Assistance doesn't send that password in the e-mail so you must send it to the other person in a separate e-mail or by phone. Then the trusted expert can enter the password in the Remote Assistance window on his or her end.

After your expert has done that, you see a new message on the screen, asking whether you're willing to allow that person to connect to your computer. Choose Yes.

When connected, the trusted expert sees your screen and options for chatting, requesting control of the computer, sending a file, and starting a voice conversation. To operate your computer from afar, the expert takes control of your computer, which she can do by clicking Request Control at her end. Depending on the Windows version that the trusted expert is using (such as Windows Vista), you may see another message asking if you're willing to share control. Choose Yes.

You can see everything the expert is doing while she has control of your computer. On your computer and the expert's computer, the following icons represent the main actions that can be performed in the Remote Assistance window for actions:

  • Request Control: Seen from the helper's windows, this option allows the expert to take control of your computer from a remote location.
  • Stop Sharing: On your side this keeps the expert connected visually, but the expert can't operate your computer.
  • Pause: On your side this temporarily breaks the expert's connection to your computer. Click Continue to reestablish the connection.
  • Actual size: Resizes the display of the remote computer so it fills the entire screen.
  • Settings: Takes you to a Settings dialog box, where you can opt to exchange contact information or save a log of the session. On your side there is also an option to use the ESC button to stop sharing. This option is provided in case you lose control of your mouse and need to end the sharing immediately.
  • Chat: Opens a chat window so that you and the expert can communicate during the session.
  • Help: Opens Windows Help and Support.

At any time, you can click the Stop Sharing button on your screen to take back control of your computer. Similarly, the expert on the other end can click Stop Sharing to stop the sharing session and give you back control of your computer.

While the expert has control of your computer, she can use your computer just as you can. As the expert moves around your computer, opening applications, setting options, or displaying the Windows 10 interface, you can sit back and watch. This is one way in which you can learn new troubleshooting steps or application procedures if you're stumped on how to make something work or improve Windows performance.

When the expert has finished working or if you want to stop sharing your desktop, click the Stop Sharing button and close the Remote Assistance window. The expert can click the Disconnect button to end the session.

[Next.....Using the Remote Desktop App]