Configure Windows XP Remote Assistance!
The days of traveling to each client system to troubleshoot problems
are over. A wide variety of third-party remote administration options Ė from PC
Anywhere, Ultra VNC to Log Me In to Real VNC and others Ė are available. But often Microsoft's
native Windows XP assistance tool is all that is required. Follow these steps to
configure and enable Windows XP's Remote Assistance.
Sending a remote assistance request
Windows XP's Remote Assistance feature enables users to call for help. The
application proves particularly helpful when clients in remote locations require
Before an administrator can render assistance, the end user must send a
Remote Assistance request to the administrator. Clients should follow these
steps to send a Remote Assistance request:
- Click Start.
- Click Help and Support. (Figure A)
|Access Remote Assistance from within the Help And
- Select the Invite A Friend To Connect To Your Computer With Remote
Assistance link (found beneath the Ask For Assistance heading). The Remote
Assistance menu appears.
- Click the Invite Someone To Help You link. Two options appear; users
seeking help can either send an invitation through Windows Messenger or
Microsoft Outlook. (Figure B)
|Users can request assistance using Windows
Messenger or Microsoft Outlook. Remote clients can also create a Remote
Assistance e-mail attachment (Save Invitation As A File (Advanced)) they
forward a support technician using another e-mail client.
- To use Microsoft Outlook, the user needs to enter the administratorís
e-mail address in the provided box; for convenience, an Address Book shortcut
icon also appears (users can click the icon and select the appropriate e-mail
recipient from the resulting menu). The Remote Assistance Ė E-mail An
Invitation menu appears.
- Users can enter their name in the resulting From box and provide a message
describing the assistance they require; when done users should click the
Continue button. The next screen will appear enabling users to specify
security settings. (Figure C)
|The remote user must enter his or her name and a
message for the support technician.
- Instruct users to set remote assistance invitations to expire in an hour
(or less). Also require users to set a strong password. Users should check the
Require The Recipient To Use A Password checkbox and enter a complex (mixed
alphanumeric and special characters) password. Once a password is entered and
confirmed, clients can click the Send Invitation button to forward the Remote
Assistance request to an administrator or support representative. (Figure D)
|Remote users should set reasonable expiration
periods for their Remote Assistance requests and use strong passwords.
- Upon sending the invitation, users will often subsequently receive a
Microsoft Office Outlook message stating that a program is trying to access
e-mail addresses stored in Outlook. Instruct users to check the Allow Access
For box (enabling access for one minute) and click the Yes button.
- The dialog box will then state a program is trying to automatically send
e-mail on the userís behalf; instruct clients to click Yes (only when sending
Remote Assistance requests). A confirmation message will appear stating that
the request has been sent successfully. While awaiting a response, clients may
click the View Invitation Status link (from within the Help And Support
Center) and review the invitationís status and details. Users can also expire,
resend or delete an invitation.
The administrator will then receive an e-mail message. Within the e-mail
message will be an attachment (RcBuddy.MsRcIncident).
Creating a remote assistance e-mail attachment
Note that clients can also save a remote assistance invitation as a file
(that can subsequently be forwarded using another e-mail application). To save
an invitation as a file:
- The end user should click Save Invitation As A File (Advanced) from the
Remote Assistance menu instead of entering a Microsoft Outlook e-mail address
or using Windows Messenger.
- Next the client should enter his or her name and set the invitationís
expiration period and click Continue.
- The client should specify a strong password and click Save Invitation. The
Save As window will appear.
- The client requiring assistance should specify a location for the remote
assistance file and click Save.
- Windows will save the remote connection file (named
RAInvitation.msrcincident by default) to the location the end user species;
the client will then have to forward it to the administrator or support
Accepting the remote assistance invitation
Once the remote assistance invitation is received, administrators can follow
these steps to render assistance:
- To accept the Remote Assistance invitation, the administrator should
double-click the attachment. Before doing so, itís a good idea for the
administrator to confirm the user, in fact, sent the request. When doing so,
the administrator can learn the password the client entered for the remote
- Upon double-clicking the attachment, the administrator will have to supply
the password and click OK. (Figure E)
|The staff member who responds to the end userís
remote assistance request must enter the password, then click Yes, after
double-clicking the e-mail attachment.
- The client will receive a dialog box stating that the administrator wishes
to connect to the userís desktop. The client must click Yes to enable the
connection. (Figure F)
|Once the support tech responds to the remote
assistance invitation, the remote user will receive a dialog box; the end
user must click Yes to enable the remote connection.
- If the administrator wishes to take control of the userís system, the
administrator can click the Take Control icon that appears at the top of the
Remote Assistance window. (Figure G)
|The Take Control icon appears at the top right of
the remote assistance screen.
- Once the administrator or support technician has clicked Take Control, the
end user will see a dialog box stating that the user providing the assistance
would like to share control of the computer to help solve the problem. The
user must click Yes to permit the support tech with access. When the remote
user clicks Yes, the staff member providing support will receive a
confirmation message stating the helper is now in control of the userís
desktop. To surrender desktop control, the administrator need only press the
Esc key; the end user can terminate the administratorís control at any time by
pressing the Esc key (or disconnecting the session using the Disconnect button
from the Remote Assistance menu).
Having the ability to view or actually control a remote userís desktop
drastically simplifies troubleshooting and repair operations. All the end user
must do is send the Remote Assistance request to an administrator. The
administrator or support tech needs only to connect to the remote system and
perform diagnostic actions and repairs. The user and support tech can exchange
chat messages with one another using the provided window.
Confirming proper firewall configuration
Occasionally Remote Assistance connections fail to connect. A typical
culprit, ironically, is Windowsí own firewall. Note that the Windows Firewall
(installed by default with Windows XP Service Pack 2) must be properly
configured to enable connectivity.
Follow these steps to confirm Windows Firewall isnít blocking Remote
- Click Start.
- Click Control Panel.
- Click Windows Firewall.
- Select the Exceptions tab.
- Ensure the Remote Assistance box is checked. (Figure H)
|Unless Remote Assistance is enabled on Windows XP
Service Pack 2 systems, the Windows Firewall may block the requests.
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