days of traveling to each client system to troubleshoot problems are over. A
wide variety of third-party remote administration options – from PC Anywhere to
Log Me In to VNC and others – are available. But often Microsoft’s native
Windows XP assistance tool is all that is required. Follow these steps to
configure and enable Windows XP’s Remote Assistance.

Sending a remote assistance request

XP’s Remote Assistance feature enables users to call for help. The application
proves particularly helpful when clients in remote locations require support.

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an administrator can render assistance, the end user must send a Remote
Assistance request to the administrator. Clients should follow these steps to
send a Remote Assistance request:

  1. Click Start.
  2. Click Help and Support. (Figure A)

Figure A

Access Remote Assistance from within the Help And
Support Center.

  1. Select the Invite A Friend To Connect
    To Your Computer With Remote Assistance link (found beneath the Ask
    For Assistance heading). The Remote Assistance menu appears.
  2. Click the Invite Someone To
    Help You link. Two options appear; users seeking help can either send an
    invitation through Windows Messenger or Microsoft Outlook. (Figure B)

Figure B

Users can request assistance using Windows Messenger or Microsoft Outlook.
Remote clients can also create a Remote Assistance e-mail attachment (Save
Invitation As A File (Advanced)) they forward a
support technician using another e-mail client.

  1. To use Microsoft Outlook, the user needs to enter the
    administrator’s e-mail address in the provided box; for convenience, an
    Address Book shortcut icon also appears (users can click the icon and
    select the appropriate e-mail recipient from the resulting menu). The
    Remote Assistance – E-mail An Invitation menu
  2. Users can enter their name in the resulting From box and provide a message describing the
    assistance they require; when done users should click the Continue button.
    The next screen will appear enabling users to specify security settings. (Figure C)

Figure C

The remote user must can his or her name and a message for the support

  1. Instruct users to set remote assistance invitations to
    expire in an hour (or less). Also require users to set a strong password.
    Users should check the Require The Recipient To Use A
    Password checkbox and enter a complex (mixed alphanumeric and special
    characters) password. Once a password is entered and confirmed, clients
    can click the Send Invitation button to forward the Remote Assistance
    request to an administrator or support representative. (Figure D)

Figure D

Remote users should set reasonable expiration periods for their Remote
Assistance requests and use strong passwords.

  1. Upon sending the invitation, users will often
    subsequently receive a Microsoft Office Outlook message stating that a
    program is trying to access e-mail addresses stored in Outlook. Instruct
    users to check the Allow Access For box (enabling access for one minute)
    and click the Yes button.
  2. The dialog box will then state a program is trying to
    automatically send e-mail on the user’s behalf; instruct clients to click
    Yes (only when sending Remote Assistance requests). A confirmation message
    will appear stating that the request has been sent successfully. While
    awaiting a response, clients may click the View Invitation Status link
    (from within the Help And Support Center) and
    review the invitation’s status and details. Users can also expire, resend
    or delete an invitation.

administrator will then receive an e-mail message. Within the e-mail message
will be an attachment (RcBuddy.MsRcIncident).

Creating a remote assistance e-mail attachment

that clients can also save a remote assistance invitation as a file (that can
subsequently be forwarded using another e-mail application). To save an
invitation as a file:

  1. The end user should click Save Invitation As A File (Advanced) from the Remote Assistance menu
    instead of entering a Microsoft Outlook e-mail address or using Windows
  2. Next the client should enter his or her name and set
    the invitation’s expiration period and click Continue.
  3. The client should specify a strong password and click
    Save Invitation. The Save As window will appear.
  4. The client requiring assistance should specify a
    location for the remote assistance file and click Save.
  5. Windows will save the remote connection file (named RAInvitation.msrcincident by default) to the location
    the end user species; the client will then have to forward it to the
    administrator or support technician.

Accepting the remote assistance invitation

the remote assistance invitation is received, administrators can follow these
steps to render assistance:

  1. To accept the Remote Assistance invitation, the
    administrator should double-click the attachment. Before doing so, it’s a
    good idea for the administrator to confirm the user, in fact, sent the
    request. When doing so, the administrator can learn the password the
    client entered for the remote assistance request.
  2. Upon double-clicking the attachment, the administrator
    will have to supply the password and click OK. (Figure E)

Figure E

The staff member who responds to the end user’s remote assistance request
must enter the password, then click Yes, after
double-clicking the e-mail attachment.

  1. The client will receive a dialog box stating that the
    administrator wishes to connect to the user’s
    desktop. The client must click Yes to enable the
    connection. (Figure F)

Figure F

Once the support tech responds to the remote assistance invitation, the
remote user will receive a dialog box; the end user must click Yes to enable the remote connection.

  1. If the administrator wishes to take control of the
    user’s system, the administrator can click the Take Control icon that
    appears at the top of the Remote Assistance window. (Figure G)

Figure G

The Take Control icon appears at the top right of the remote assistance

  1. Once the administrator or support technician has
    clicked Take Control, the end user will see a dialog box stating that the
    user providing the assistance would like to share control of the computer
    to help solve the problem. The user must click Yes
    to permit the support tech with access. When the remote user clicks Yes,
    the staff member providing support will receive a confirmation message
    stating the helper is now in control of the user’s desktop. To surrender
    desktop control, the administrator need only press the Esc key; the end
    user can terminate the administrator’s control at any time by pressing the
    Esc key (or disconnecting the session using the Disconnect button from the
    Remote Assistance menu).

the ability to view or actually control a remote user’s desktop drastically
simplifies troubleshooting and repair operations. All the end user must do is send the Remote Assistance request to an administrator. The
administrator or support tech needs only to connect to the remote system and
perform diagnostic actions and repairs. The user and support tech can exchange
chat messages with one another using the provided window.

Confirming proper firewall configuration

Remote Assistance connections fail to connect. A typical culprit, ironically,
is Windows’ own firewall. Note that the Windows Firewall (installed by default
with Windows XP Service Pack 2) must be properly configured to enable

these steps to confirm Windows Firewall isn’t blocking Remote Assistance

  1. Click Start.
  2. Click Control Panel.
  3. Click Windows Firewall.
  4. Select the Exceptions tab.
  5. Ensure the Remote Assistance box is checked. (Figure H)

Figure H

Unless Remote Assistance is enabled on Windows XP Service Pack 2 systems,
the Windows Firewall may block the requests.

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