Copywriter, technical writer, translator (FR>EN, ES>EN, IT>EN), journalist

Getting computer help from friends

You know the geek (sorry, good friend, or “help desk person”) you call when your computer goes on the fritz? The one who happily helps you for free?

Make that person’s life easier. If there’s nothing wrong with your Internet connection and you can turn on your computer, consider saving that person a trip the next time you need a repair call – check out web conference systems that let your techie friends provide you remote support from the comfort of their own homes.

Plenty of web conference (aka desktop-sharing or remote support) software exists that you can use for free. These systems let other people see your computer over the Internet, whether they’re across the street or across the country.

Getting ready for remote support

What do you need to do?

  1. Install the software
  2. Get a user ID for the software system (sometimes these first two steps are reversed)
  3. Tell your “help desk person” what screen-sharing software you have (and listen carefully if the “help desk person” asks you to use other software – there might be good reasons for this)

What tools can I choose from?

Corporate-standard tools like Webex, GoToMeeting and Adobe Connect might be overkill for computer support sessions between friends. Check out these three free options first:

  • Mikogo, for both support and web conferences
  • Skype, which includes a screen sharing option
  • CrossLoop, developed to sustain a community of support providers but whose software you can download and use for free.

Features to look for in desktop-sharing software

During a great demo from Andrew Donnelly, Online Marketing Manager for Mikogo, I built up a list of neat features that I later pared down to the following list. (I haven’t researched each feature across web conference tools, so check the tool you’re considering for more info.)

  • Whiteboard tool: lets participants draw lines onscreen that look like what you see on sports replays.
  • Voice chat: so you don’t need a separate tool for voice conversations, like the phone or Skype.
  • Chat function: so you can swap text (e.g. urls) within the conference.
  • Remote control: the ability to let somebody else take control of your computer screen.
  • Transfer files: if you need to send each other files having to do with the conference.
  • Quality and speed controls: (I’ve never seen this outside of Mikogo.) The session host can turn the shared screen black and white and lower resolution to speed up the session. This is really useful over slow Internet connections.
  • Participant Pointer: (another Mikogo thing) a participant other than the person controlling the mouse and keyboard can click the screen to place a big red arrow where the other person needs to look.

Web conference systems offer other tools too, but these are the key elements that facilitate one-on-one help sessions.

1 Comment
  1. Very useful service!That saves my time and my life because I’m living far away and work remotely to provide some service to clients and remote support software really economizes my expenses. I can get my computer fixed or I can visually explain everything to my clients from home rather than driving all the way to the closest civilization:)Usually I’m using Techinline which is very cost-effective and easy in use.
    Good luck!