Get IT Done: Troubleshooting WinXP Remote Assistance

Avoid pitfalls of of WinXP Remote Assistance.

Although Microsoft Windows XP offers many advantages over older operating systems, countless problems still arise. Some can be solved easily using Remote Assistance. But Remote Assistance itself sometimes fails, and overcoming these failures requires some specialized knowledge. Fortunately, you don't have to spend hours getting up to speed; the basics are often all you need to know to reopen the lines of communication. Follow these tips to identify the most common problems with Remote Assistance and quickly rectify them.

Troubleshooting failures
Generally, when using Remote Assistance, the user who needs help initiates a session by sending an invitation. However, it is possible for you or other support professionals to initiate the session by sending an offer to assist. Once this is done, the user and the support professional can communicate during the Remote Assistance session using live voice communication.

When you run into problems using Remote Assistance, you can investigate several features to try to get things back on track. First, if the voice communication doesn't work, check the following:
  • Ensure that both computers have full-duplex sound cards.
  • Verify that the network connection can support voice traffic. (Remote Assistance works best with a reasonably high-speed network connection, which likely won't be an issue over a LAN. But if you are using Remote Assistance over the Internet, and the connection is too slow, the computer may hang up during the session.)

Sometimes, an offer to assist cannot even be initiated because a user's computer is not set to receive such offers. Windows XP Professional computers don't have this feature enabled by default, so you need to enable it before the computer can receive offers. If you are unable to send an offer of assistance, check the remote user's local Group Policy settings.

Note that the Group Policy setting for accepting remote assistance offers is available only in Window XP Professional; it is not an option in Windows XP Home Edition. Also, offers can be sent and received only between computers that are members of the same domain. If the computers do not belong to the same domain, the assistance session must be initiated by the user.

Take in your surroundings
Regardless of your location, the first thing to do when Remote Assistance tanks is to analyze the situation. Check for a faulty configuration, which is one of Remote Assistance's most common problems. Bad setups may exist on either the requesting user's or helper's computer. If a user is unable to send a request for assistance, make sure the computer is configured with the proper settings mentioned above.

Develop a winning reputation
Windows XP delivers numerous advantages, but there are pitfalls—and Remote Assistance isn't the only problem area.

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