Helping a friend remotely
February 26, 2010 10:24 PM   Subscribe

What remote access software (pref. free) should I use for occasional tech support for non-techie clients?

I need to access clients' Pcs for occasional training, online sign-ups (involving a credit card transaction), etc. Simple and cheap are key. I'd prefer it didn't require them to download and install anything. Ideally they would just log in to a website, at my invitation, and we could both drive their PC.

Webex is too pricey. Fog Creek Copilot looks promising -- anyone have any first-hand experience with it? Are there other simple (free?) solutions out there? (Not the ones oriented toward accessing my own PC remotely, like logmein, etc.) Thanks!
posted by wordwhiz to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
There are so many options now it's crazy.

VNC is an oldie but goodie.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:46 PM on February 26, 2010

Ah. missed the part about not requiring them to install software. Sorry!
posted by Deathalicious at 10:48 PM on February 26, 2010

I've used CoPilot for helping out non-techie relatives. It was pretty easy, but not free (at least, the version I used). I've since used Team Viewer, which is free for personal use. Very similar concept (no port forwarding/router config required), works across platforms, and was easy for the recipient to install.

CrossLoop, a remote support service, also has a decent free client, with the same features as the two listed above.
posted by heliostatic at 10:52 PM on February 26, 2010

LogMeIn, maybe.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:27 PM on February 26, 2010

I guess I'm not clear why you can't use LogMeIn, but I'll retract that answer if it doesn't meet your needs for some reason.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:28 PM on February 26, 2010

Logmein rescue does what you're after (web-based, easy to use, bypasses firewalls, no local install) but at £79 a month subscription likely doesn't meet your cost limit. If it's for limited use though, you could always sign up for the free trial with a throwaway email every time you need it.

Teamviewer is app-based, but doesn't require installation on their end. You run the main app, 'invite' them with a small runtime app then they give the password (over the phone etc) to login to their pc. Free for non-commercial use, but depending upon your relationship with your clients you may be in breech of licence.

Simplehelp is a web-based one-off purchase you run on your own website; the client visits the site, enters their details, and then you can take over their desktop.

There's the built in free remote assistance feature in windows XP upwards that uses RDP, but as I'm sure you know getting that to work through firewalls can be a pain in the ass sometimes.

Finally, there's netviewer. They run the app to setup a session and are given a number, they give you that number via phone, email etc and you goto the netviewer website and 'join session' with the number and then you can take over their pc.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:08 AM on February 27, 2010

I've not used fog creek copilot personally, but I do like a lot of their other services and they do have a deserved reputation for high quality software. I presume you're looking at the pay-per-minute version which seems fairly reasonable, and there's always the free trial option.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:12 AM on February 27, 2010

There are a lot of apps around that you have to pay for for commercial applications. The nice thing about them is that they are worth their money.

If you want to go with free, you can use UltraVNC. It is a spruced up VNC variant that lets you build a single executable.
The client starts this small stand alone programm that you can let them download from your website. The application phones back to you and you can work on their computer where both of you can see and operate the mouse, etc.
The only thing you need is a reachable IP/dynDNS on your side.

If you want something similar to WebEx BeamYourScreen works nicely and is very cheap compared to the others. (They offer a free trial. I'm not affiliated but used their product successfully.)
posted by mmkhd at 3:27 AM on February 27, 2010

I use TeamViewer to support my parents all the time. There's a non-install exe program that you can send them alink directly to for download. Super simple, extremely reliable and surprising powerful for a free interface. Higly recommended.
posted by chefscotticus at 3:58 AM on February 27, 2010

I just asked this question like 5 weeks ago or something.

The winning answer by 10,000 miles is mikogo.
posted by TomMelee at 11:53 AM on February 27, 2010

nthing TeamViewer
posted by yoyoceramic at 1:25 PM on February 27, 2010

nthing TeamViewer; it is available as a "Portable App" from (meaning: you can drop it on a USB flash drive... no install)
posted by Drasher at 1:51 PM on February 27, 2010

Funny, mikogo is from the BeamYourScreen people. Small world.
posted by mmkhd at 4:57 PM on February 28, 2010

I've used Copilot. It's foolproof and free on weekends.
posted by Nameless at 2:07 PM on March 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for your feedback, everyone. First impressions: Teamviewer, then Mikogo and CoPilot.
posted by wordwhiz at 5:17 AM on March 4, 2010

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