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Most families today have one or more computer literate members that help friends and family with their systems and gadgetry. In many cases, the aging parents of Baby Boomers are only now becoming familiar with computers and need help updating software, installing programs, or working out a glitch. Computer literate children or grandchildren might be counties, states or even oceans apart. But you can still help out your loved ones by using something that network administrators have known about for a long time: remote computer repair.
Certain tools will allow you to view and control a computer’s desktop over the Internet, allowing you to perform maintenance, install programs, or do whatever tasks that need to be done as if you were sitting in front of the computer yourself. The most popular operating systems by Microsoft®, Apple® and Linux® each have the capability to engage a type of remote desktop software, but this solution requires configuration on both ends.
Another option for remote computer repair is third party software. The most longstanding is Symantec®’s PCAnywhere®, but this is a sophisticated program geared towards remote network administration. A better choice to help out family and friends would be a simpler program like VNC™ Free, or a paid flavor like VNC Personal Edition. Here too, the remote party would still need to configure software before you could connect.
So what is the alternative? Thankfully, there is one. The easiest remote computer repair method is to use a Web-based service to act as an encrypted conduit between your computer and the one you are controlling. Although this solution requires installing a small program on the computer you want to control, the installation is hassle-free and does not require configuration. The remote party will have to setup an account, however, at the servicing website, though this is an easy process.
If needed, you can be on the phone with the remote party to guide him or her through the account creation process. An email address and password is all that’s commonly required. A verification email will be sent that needs to be clicked on to complete registration. The website then adds the name of the remote computer to the account. The party will click a button to download required software. No interaction is needed in the installation process. The party logs off the website and their part is done.
To access the remote computer you would login to the secure website using the credentials just setup, and click on the computer’s name. As long as the remote computer is turned on and has Internet access, a secure connection can be made. You will be required to give logon credentials to enter the operating system. In Windows operating systems, for example, this is the logon name and password required to access the system.
Once connected, you will see the desktop of the remote computer fill the webpage. All communication is end-to-end encrypted, so it is completely private and secure. Using this method, you can remotely fix a computer, update its operating system, reboot it, install software, surf to files and download them, or do anything else, just as if you were sitting at the computer yourself.
Most Web-based services charge a monthly fee to host such an account, but LogMeIn® Free is the notable exception. There are some restrictions with the free service, as opposed to the upgraded services. LogMeIn Free does not allow for file transfers between the remote computer and the one controlling it, though files can always be downloaded from the Internet on to the remote computer. Advanced services also include extras like the ability to have a Net Meeting between multiple parties.
Remote computer repair is a great tool that can save time, money and hassle. Even if the computer is just a few blocks away, when you remotely fix it you can work on it whenever it’s convenient for, even if that’s in the middle of the night. If you’re sick you can remotely fix a computer without exposing family or friends to germs, and you can even do it in your pajamas from bed.
@AnswerMan- I had a little different experience with computer repair services. The phone company sent out a freelance technician who ran his own computer repair center. He was an authorized technician, but he didn't actually work for the phone company. He pretty much set up camp in my home office and ran his company remotely while repairing my computer.
He told me that his dream was to start a remote access computer repair company he could manage from anywhere in the world. He would get the passwords and other security information from his clients, and then access their computers remotely if they ever had problems. It scared me to think of this man having complete access to my computer files whenever he wanted it. I don't mind remote computer troubleshooting, but I want to be aware of someone else's access to my computer when it happens.
I was having trouble with my computer's Internet speed a few years ago, so I called the tech support number for the phone company we use for Internet access. I thought the technician would just walk me through the problem while I did all of the tests and adjustments myself. That's what I was used to doing whenever I called tech support in the past.
I was really surprised when the tech support guy asked me a few security questions and then said "Okay, I'm in." He was able to do remote computer repair while I sat back and watched. He'd ask me questions about a certain setting, and then a minute later it would be completely different. He did all of the computer troubleshooting from the other side of the world.