There are few things that can be more frustrating and potentially damaging to relationships with family and friends than trying to blindly talk them through complicated computer tasks over the phone. Fortunately, much of the pain was erased with the inclusion of Remote Assistance software in Windows XP that allows you to take control of a remote machine and do tasks yourself rather than try to talk someone else through them. While Remote Assistance is quite helpful, it is not without its share of problems that can turn a 10 minute task into an hour ordeal.
Recently however, a friend introduced me to a program called TeamViewer. This program is probably the simplest means of offering remote support that I have seen thus far. TeamViewer is cross-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux) so you can offer support to anyone regardless of the OS used on either end. Installation is fast and so easy that even the most technically challenged user can have it up and running in a matter of minutes. Once it’s setup the remote user only needs to read out their session ID and password to allow you to connect to their machine. There’s not fuss over firewalls, ports, etc. TeamViewer uses intermediary servers to orchestrate the easy connections. While there is a very slight security risk in using that approach, security fanatics have the option of setting up their own TeamViewer server to placate their paranoia. For the rest of us, TeamViewer has got to be one of the slickest ways to quickly and easily help distant family and friends with their computer problems.