Looking for secure screencasting or remote access between Windows computers
July 22, 2012 8:18 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to help my aging father with his computer, but now that I'm 800 miles away, all of my guidance is done over the phone. What are some good programs for screen sharing or remotely controlling another computer so he can see what to do next time? We're both using Windows 7, and I'd prefer a remote control option, and something with a secure connection.

I saw the Quick Screen Share post on the Blue earlier this year, but I'm in agreement with most who were concerned about a closed-source program that doesn't (appear) to use encryption. The other options mentioned in that thread sound like they're more technically inclined, and I will first need to get him to set up the program on his end before I can do anything. As a point of reference, he was once confused why Gmail looked strange, but didn't realize he had typed in email.com.

The current questions are about Quicken, which can be more detail-oriented than his prior questions about MS Word and Excel, so remote control would be great. And because he could be sharing personal finance information, I'd really like something with an encrypted connection.

It looks like Skype has a screen share option, as does Google+ as part of their Hangout feature, but that's just screencasting. Has anyone used either for remote help? I checked out Skype's option quickly, and it looks pretty straight forward. If nothing else, I'll be giving this a try.

If there's a program to purchase that is well regarded and isn't priced for company use (less than $50 would be great, but $100 would be my upper limit), I'd be OK with that.
posted by filthy light thief to Computers & Internet (30 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
I use LogMeIn (the free version) to help my new-to-computers 76-year-old mother. When she first got the computer, we had a computer consultant (someone who specializes in working with seniors) come over to help her with a few basics, great a few shortcuts and set up the LogMeIn account, and then for the past year, I've been able to help her with everything else by screen sharing.

I love it because I can use my cursor to point at things while I talk to her on the phone and say, "See this, where I'm circling around the pretty blue box" and by the time she's put my voice and what she sees together, we're ready to move to the next issue. It takes seconds instead of the many minutes (hours?) it might have taken if we were just doing phone support.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 8:24 PM on July 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Is there something wrong with the built-in remote access? I see it's still offered in Windows7.
posted by Listener at 8:29 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Teamviewr.com worked fairly well for me and older father-in-law.
posted by cameradv at 8:30 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Um ... Teamviewer.com.
posted by cameradv at 8:33 PM on July 22, 2012


You can use the personal version of TeamViewer (.com); you can secure it very well with a permanent password (create a good one), and get it to run with windows. It can even negotiate the User Account Control stuff. It's free for personal use. I use it all the time to control home from work and a few other things. For semi-permanent use, this is the thing to do. You can even use it to remotely upgrade your dad's TeamViewer client-- how about that?

You can run the full version at both ends-- that'll be the easiest to do.

Also, if you need it in a pinch and you haven't set anything up, both of you go to http://join.me , which uses the logmein technology. Pass a 9-digit code over the phone, both parties download a small file (about 1.5MB) and you've got control.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:35 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


nthing LogMeIn, it's great and secure.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:36 PM on July 22, 2012


I said "personal version"-- that's misleading. Use the full version, and when installing, you'll be asked what you're using it for. Personal is free, and you're legit. That's what I meant.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:36 PM on July 22, 2012


Is there something wrong with the built-in remote access? I see it's still offered in Windows7.

The most common stumbling block for this is dynamic IPs / hostnames that are typically provided for home internet connections. I use a DDNS service, e.g. No-IP to get around this. Works beautifully...I can RDP into my home computer from anywhere.

The advantage, though, of web-based remote access solutions like LogMeIn, etc is platform-independent access. E.g. going from Mac to PC or vice versa, etc.
posted by wutangclan at 8:37 PM on July 22, 2012


Yep I'm voting for Team Viewer too, mostly because it was so easy to set up I could talk my parents through that part of it over the phone.
posted by trialex at 8:37 PM on July 22, 2012


Join.Me took me about 2 seconds to get set up with and has been great.
posted by mynameisluka at 8:41 PM on July 22, 2012


Is there something wrong with the built-in remote access? I see it's still offered in Windows7.

You linked to a page about Remote Desktop there, which is only available if the father's system is at least Windows "Professional". If he only has Windows Home then Remote Desktop isn't available and you would use Remote Assistance instead which would have the additional benefit of allowing them to both see what's going on at the same time.
posted by XMLicious at 8:42 PM on July 22, 2012


I use LogMeIn Free, and it has apps to control a Windows machine from iPad (free) or Android ($29.99!! grr).
posted by caclwmr4 at 9:07 PM on July 22, 2012


I use TeamViewer as linked above. So easy even my 77 year mom can open it and watch in amazement as I control her mouse from 1100 miles away. This is a person who still calls me after 11:00 because she thinks long distance is cheaper after 11:00.
posted by AugustWest at 9:19 PM on July 22, 2012


I use join.me to get into parent's machines, and from there I can install whatever I need for ongoing maintenance (usually logmein)
posted by joshu at 9:24 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


LogMeIn is pretty much the gold standard. If you don't want to actually take control, join.me will be easier to get running, as it doesn't require an installation. You run the program and it pops up a code that you type in a website and like magic you can then see their screen. Great stuff.
posted by wierdo at 9:24 PM on July 22, 2012


Can't recommend TeamViewer enough. Fantastic program.
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:26 PM on July 22, 2012


By the way, both TeamViewer and LogMeIn allow the remote user, dad, to watch what you're doing. Remote Desktop would be a nice standby if you just need to get in there and do some surgery on the registry or something, but it locks out the remote user.

That said, it's a good option with these caveats:
A) you should enable remote access with Network Level Authentication (supported by Win7) in Computer Properties -> Remote settings. Either set your own user or make sure you have dad's password.
B) RDP uses TCP Port 3389 through the firewall, two-way-- make sure it's admitted through dad's Windows firewall as well as his ISP modem, and port-forwarded if necessary. Unlike TeamViewer and LogMeIn, which will call out to a server belonging to those respective services, thereby allowing a standard stateful firewall like your dad's probably internet modem to welcome the friendly incoming connection, RDP needs this access set up.
C) File transfer over RDP means sharing your drives through the connection, which is not as easy and clever as TV's or LMI's file-transfer methods.
D) Ctrl-Alt-End to restart, not Ctrl-Alt-Del. Otherwise, shutdown -r from the command-line.

I definitely prefer TeamViewer, with RDP as a backup.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:29 PM on July 22, 2012


XMLicious has it right. I linked to the wrong thing. I meant to suggest remote access.
posted by Listener at 9:38 PM on July 22, 2012


As well as TeamViewer which everyone else here seems to use, I also use Crossloop which some of my aging clients (read: family members) find easier to use for some reason.
posted by juiceanddoom at 10:52 PM on July 22, 2012


Sooo, just to sort of piggyback here...
I loved LogMeIn until the free version died and it's just too spendy to pay in an ongoing way.

I have a couple of relatives' computers that I want to control of whenever it suits me (do maintenance essentially). Would I be right in thinking that TeamViewer would be a better call than Remote Access? It seems Remote access relies on my relatives sending me a bat signal whereas I'd prefer they didn't need to do that. (PLUS - can TeamViewer be used for controlling more than one remote machine?)
posted by peacay at 10:57 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another vote here for TeamViewer. I've used it both privately (for those pesky rellies who need help at ridiculous hours of the night) and professionally. In both situations, we used Skype or the common old telephone to share the password.

Peacay, I've never used Remote Access but TeamViewer is simple enough that my luddite rellies can install it, and then send me the password to get onto their PC's when they need help.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 11:01 PM on July 22, 2012


Since there seems to be a bit of confusion - Remote Assistance is a feature built into every version of Windows, which doesn't need to be installed separately. It's activated from the computer of the person who needs help by sending an "invitation file" to the helper via email or on a thumb drive or through a Windows Live Messenger conversation (the Microsoft instant messenger service.) The two people share the desktop of the person who needs help and they both see what's happening at the same time. The Wikipedia article links to a PDF of a book chapter that discusses it.

Remote Desktop is a different feature that's also built in but only available in the "Professional" and higher-grade versions of Windows which, after security settings are configured to permit it, allows someone to remotely connect via their own user account and do stuff on their own desktop which the person sitting in front of the computer can't see. (And depending on how things are set up, connecting like this may kick off the person who's sitting in front of the computer / at the console, for the duration.)
posted by XMLicious at 11:41 PM on July 22, 2012


Remote Assistance is a feature built into every version of Windows, which doesn't need to be installed separately. It's activated from the computer of the person who needs help by sending an "invitation file" to the helper via email or on a thumb drive or through a Windows Live Messenger conversation (the Microsoft instant messenger service.)

I believe the way Remote Assistance works is that the computer providing assistance has to open a direct TCP connection to the computer requiring it. In my experience, that process is nearly always troublesome because most domestic networking gear has features specifically designed to get in its way.

TeamViewer and LogMeIn both use a middleman server that the endpoint computers each establish a connection to, and the most complicated process you'd need to guide your aging father through blind is downloading and installing a client. I've done this successfully on several occasions with elderly customers and it's always gone pretty smoothly.
posted by flabdablet at 12:01 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


peacay: "I loved LogMeIn until the free version died and it's just too spendy to pay in an ongoing way."

Logmein is still free, it just automagically gives you a 30 day trial of pro. Good thing, too. I can't afford 280 machines on Pro.
posted by wierdo at 12:37 AM on July 23, 2012


I believe the way Remote Assistance works is that the computer providing assistance has to open a direct TCP connection to the computer requiring it. In my experience, that process is nearly always troublesome because most domestic networking gear has features specifically designed to get in its way.

The one time I had to use it with a relative on the other side of the country (who was at home, though I don't know the details of the networking gear) I did it over Windows Messenger and it Just Worked™.
posted by XMLicious at 1:18 AM on July 23, 2012


Logmein may be your answer but their customer service leaves a lot to be desired, to the point of being kind of sleazy.
posted by InkaLomax at 4:42 AM on July 23, 2012


Flabdablet is mostly correct. In order to use most direct-connect remote control programs like VNC, MSRA, etc, you'll need to punch holes through the host's router (which is not an easy task for novice users unless on most routers). Logmein/Teamviewer/Join.me/WebEx/MSRA via messenger/etc all use a "middleman" approach which ensures the initial connections are outgoing, not incoming...that way a session can be established that requires no working knowledge of the host and guest's network environment.

Just a word of caution if you're helping from work. Where I work, Logmein's Hamachi is somewhat frowned upon (reverse SSH tunneling software) as it can be set up in a way that can bypass our forward facing firewall/vpn solutions entirely and allow a guest to become a part of the local network. For home to home use, I wouldn't worry...i just wanted to mention that because the added functionality could be useful for remote support for friends and relatives...but could raise red flags in an environment where it could be used for less altruistic purposes (with encrypted SSH tunnels a security admin will have no idea whether the traffic is safe or harmful, and will likely err on the side of caution and cut off the traffic and treat it as an incident). Hamachi is relatively safe to use, although I'd stick to the standard logmein if you're connecting from a work PC.
posted by samsara at 7:52 AM on July 23, 2012


"I loved LogMeIn until the free version died and it's just too spendy to pay in an ongoing way."

LogMeIn is definitely still free. Just be sure you actually select Free when you install it, otherwise you'll get nagged later.
posted by odinsdream at 9:03 AM on July 23, 2012


You might also want to take a look at Fog Creek's CoPilot. It's encrypted, very easy for your father to use, with free access at weekends plus flexible pricing options at other times.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 2:32 PM on July 23, 2012


Thanks, y'all. I'll be checking each of these out in the next few days, then trying it with my Dad on Saturday. I'll post an update later.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:40 PM on July 25, 2012


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