By Martin Jansen, Owner of Jansen-PCINFO
Picture this: you are the family computer technician. When your relatives call for technical help, you can try to “walk them through” the problem, that is, rely on them to describe the problem and take various steps until the problem is resolved. You have the user work through menus, type what you ask them to type, right/left clicks of the mouse and have the user repeat what they are doing. You can’t see what they see and it takes a very long time to fix anything.
This approach is strenuous for the user and you. It’s probably better to get in the car and drive to visit the ailing user and computer. Unless there is a severe problem, you can most likely fix the computer with a few clicks, but the relative has learned nothing about how to fix the problem for themselves.
Instead of “the walk through” you could install TeamViewer on their computer and on yours. TeamViewer is good for personal use and is cross platform with these operating systems:
This is a pretty comprehensive list of possible desktop operating systems. Of course professional use, where you are supporting hundreds of computers, requires a paid license.
TeamViewer works by supplying remote codes and passwords. Once the connection is established, it’s just like being in front of the computer.
I like this system because it definitely requires interaction with the user and requires their permission to work on their computer.
Now, instead of wasting time relaying what to click and type, you can control the mouse and keyboard fixing the issue in a few minutes compared to potential hours.
Best of all, the user can see what you are doing, possibly take notes and fix the same problem themselves next time.
What Won’t Work
Remote control software works great in most instances, but there are times when computer problems are too severe for remote help. Chiefly these fall into hardware failures. Computers without solid network connections cannot be controlled remotely. Network cards can fail or maybe the whole network is down.
Nothing can be done about a computer with a failed drive. Clicking hard drives must have the data backed up immediately or risk total loss of data. When a Solid State Drive fails no operating system and no data is recoverable. Backups are recommended to avoid data loss.
Likewise, failed motherboards cannot be fixed remotely. In general, hardware problems need to be fixed by professionals.
Sometimes, when having multiple computers at home, it is advisable to remote control computers from a single main computer. For my Ubuntu file server, for instance, I can remote control it by executing the command: sudo ssh email@example.com. After I enter the password, I can control the update and upgrade process by entering sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade. This is strictly for working in the Command Line Interface or CLI.
For working in Graphic User Interfaces, I can use a flavor of VNC like RealVNC or TightVNC. I can take control of any computer on my network, including my server. Lately, however, I have been using NoMachine which is free for personal use. I have used it to connect from my Linux Mint computer to a computer running Windows 10.
The controls for NoMachine are in the upper right of the screen. Hover the mouse in that area and peel back the edge.
Yes, it is possible to help your relatives with remote control software like TeamViewer. For home use, multiple computers can also be controlled, just install NoMachine.