When Not to Use Remote Assistance to Fix a Windows Vista Problem

Remote Assistance can be a great way to get help fixing computer problems, but it's important to know when not to use Remote Assistance to fix your Windows Vista problems. Remote Assistance is great at many things, but there is no sense wasting your time and energy trying to do something that it just can't do.

Remote Assistance (RA) rates as one of the best timesaving features of Vista, and it works in most occasions. Rather than dwell on when to use RA (answer: almost anytime you can!), let's review the situations where Remote Assistance won't help:

  • If you have a problem that causes Windows to crash, RA will crash along with it, and your friend is disconnected. To get RA working again, you have to go through the entire cycle of inviting her to help, accepting the invitation, and so on.

  • If you have a problem with a video driver, chances are very good that any “artifacts” you see on your screen — weird lines or shading or streaks that appear and disappear mysteriously — won’t show up on your helper’s screen.

  • If you have an intermittent problem that you can’t reliably replicate, you'll probably just waste your friend’s time. To make matters worse, some problems that occur reliably when RA is not running suddenly clear themselves up when you have an RA connection going. Blame gamma rays and sunspots.

  • If the person requesting assistance (the novice) is running Vista, the person who gives help (the guru) can use Vista or Windows XP. On the other hand, if the novice is running Windows XP, the guru must also be running Windows XP.

    Remote Assistance didn't always work well in Windows XP — it had trouble poking through firewalls and working around various kinds of routers. Vista’s Remote Assistance overcomes many (but not all) of those problems.

  • If the novice and guru both start typing at the same time, the keys they type appear on-screen, interspersed with each other. If both move their mice at the same time, there’s no telling where the cursor goes. If one of you doesn’t back off, pandemonium results.

Another common problem that people run into with Remote Assistance is with the Windows firewall. Double-check to make sure that Remote Assistance is allowed to poke through both firewalls. In Vista, to make sure your copy of Windows Firewall lets Remote Assistance break through, choose Start→Control Panel, click the Security icon, and click the Allow a Program Through Windows Firewall link. Make sure the Remote Assistance box is checked.

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