Help me help my parents unmuck their computers remotely
June 29, 2006 12:46 PM   Subscribe

ParentTechFilter: Help me do remote tech support on my poor Luddite parents' computers.

I live in Chicago, but my parents live in Houston. Like many people of a certain age, they are both terrified of their computers, and at the same time, manage to mess them up horribly. I've installed spyware and virus snoopers on both boxes, but every time I visit, I spend probably about five or six hours of the short time I have at home unraveling the mess they've made over the previous few months.

I've heard that PCAnywhere will allow me to basically remotely operate their computers from my box in Chicago. Is this true? If so, how do I do that? What do I need to set up on both sides? Are there other options? Please explain it to me like you would to a small child, as I am a neophyte when it comes to networking stuff. Thanks!
posted by weirdoactor to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Co-Pilot is a really easy one, you can pay for a handful of hours. This is a good option if you just need occasional access.

Do they use XP? You can set up Remote Desktop if you're a bit savvy about routing through their firewall.
posted by voidcontext at 12:51 PM on June 29, 2006

Best answer: You dont really need PCAnywhere. Just use Remote Desktop that comes with Windows. (link includes full explanation of how to set it up)
posted by vacapinta at 12:53 PM on June 29, 2006

So you have antivirus, firewalls, firefox as a browser and antispyware and microsoft automatic updates on both computers and they still have spyware on their computer?

What the heck are they doing on the internet that will continue to get infections?

Why not put them on Power User mode as well to ensure that they aren't downloading any programs.
posted by k8t at 12:56 PM on June 29, 2006

Best answer: Sorry, but to answer your question about PCAnywhere, yes, that's what it can do.

It comes with fairly good instructions about how to set it up, and since you're paying for it you can call them up for tech support. The only thing that might be tricky is to get around the firewalls involved. Also, it won't work too well if they have dialup. Needs a fast connection.
posted by voidcontext at 12:58 PM on June 29, 2006

You can also use RealVNC. I like it best because it gives better screen reproduction than Remote Desktop, it works cross platform (I use Chicken of the VNC on my Mac to access my windows machine at work, which sits in a corner humming away, uh, loudly).
posted by SpecialK at 12:59 PM on June 29, 2006

Best answer: Another free option, assuming you have broadband access on your computer and their computer, and using windows 2000 or XP, is to use free service (not the paid service). Basically, you create a single free account on the website. Then, when you are in front of your computer, you log in to the website (using IE only) and click the buttons to "add this machine" to the machines under your control. Then you go to your parent's computer, log into the website with the same account, and also add their computer to your account's list of computers available. This process adds some software to both computers and adds a taskbar icon to both desktops. Then when your parents are having trouble, they turn on their computer, you turn on yours, you log into the website and into your account, then click on their computer, and soon you will be seeing exactly what they see. You both are able to control the keyboard and the mouse.

I have used this free service now for about 8 months with both of my parents, and I must say it has saved me HOURS and HOURS of troubleshooting problems. I find the advantage of this over Microsoft's Remote Desktop is that with logmein, I see exactly the windows and desktop that my parents see, whereas with Remote Desktop I see my own desktop screen that is not the same as what my parents would see on their monitor. With logmein I can see how they move their mouse, and they can watch me as I talk them through something on the phone, such as installing software, getting updates, or anything that is difficult for them to explain. It's really worth it. Even if it wasn't free, I'd still pay for it (although they try very hard to sell you the paid version).
posted by jldindc at 1:09 PM on June 29, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help. It seems I have hours of work ahead of me, but when I think of all the yummy Mexican food I can eat in Houston with the free time I'll have, it's SOOOOOOOOO worth it. ¡Muchas gracias!
posted by weirdoactor at 1:17 PM on June 29, 2006

This is interesting, I have the same problem with my mom...catch is, she's on a mac (as am I). Is there any software for mac that does the same?
posted by miss tea at 1:17 PM on June 29, 2006

Miss Tea, on a mac you can choose between Apple Remote Desktop, which is pay-ware but very well put together and useful, and any number of opensource VNC options available out there which won't be as polished, but will be free.

I haven't ever used ARD over an internet connection, but I don't see any reason why it wouldn't work, assuming the router/firewall was properly configured.
posted by Alterscape at 1:27 PM on June 29, 2006

You can also use RealVNC. I like it best because it gives better screen reproduction than Remote Desktop, it works cross platform

Really? I used RealVNC for a few years before I started using Remote Desktop, and I've always found RD to be the superior program, in regards to speed (thin client), control (windows keys work!), and display (faster, hell, you can run video and stream audio with it -- something I wouldn't ever try to do with VNC).

RD is cross platform-ish now too -- there's a client out for OSX.

Then again, I haven't looked at VNC in a loooong time.
posted by fishfucker at 2:22 PM on June 29, 2006

OK, howzabout this....I have nothing but Macs, but my parents have a PC....I'm dying to rectify problems as they come up rather than spending half a weekend fixing problems when I could be out in a kayak.....
posted by nevercalm at 2:37 PM on June 29, 2006

Install one of the VNC's on their computer, UltraVNC or RealVNC. on their PC. You can follow their directions for installation. Then, you can use a program called Chicken of the VNC to log on to their PC from your Mac. You will see what they see on their screen.

The only tricky part might be that you have to set up their router/firewall to allow you remote access. You will beed to set up port forwarding. You can check their router instructions for specific details. Here is a good reference for setting up port forwarding, it gives detailed instructions for every router model.
posted by voidcontext at 3:45 PM on June 29, 2006

Sorry... you can follow their instructions means that the instructions that come with the VNC program will be good enough, probably. It's getting late, and my English isn't so good.
posted by voidcontext at 3:46 PM on June 29, 2006

OK, howzabout this....I have nothing but Macs, but my parents have a PC...

As fishfucker mentioned, there's a Remote Desktop client for Mac, free from Microsoft. I use it as my sole interface to a Windows box I have.
posted by vacapinta at 3:52 PM on June 29, 2006

Mom, Do I Have To Fix Your Wi-Fi Again? Slate article on just about exactly this topic.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:01 PM on June 29, 2006

Please note when using RD with a fresh windows install you will need to enable remote login (hit windows-break, select the remote tab, and allow users to remotely connect. I *believe* that you will have to set up an account with a password in order to use RD)

remote desktop for mac is here. it is free.
posted by fishfucker at 8:49 AM on June 30, 2006

Surprised no-one mentioned 'Ask For Remote Assistance' using MSN Messenger?

Doesn't get easier or cheaper than that!
posted by DrtyBlvd at 1:24 PM on June 30, 2006

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