TeamViewer: Free Tech Support Software
Free Remote Tech Support with TeamViewer
I’ve had that experience all too often, and TeamViewer is one excellent solution to this problem. Using TeamViewer, you can remotely control almost any computer (PC, Mac, smartphone or tablet) over the Internet. But before getting into TeamViewer’s features, let’s discuss what remote access software is, and the pros and cons of using it.
Remote access software allows one computer to control another connected to the Internet. To the user, the remote computer’s display, mouse and resources are available just as if he or she were sitting in front of it, even though it could be thousands of miles away. The user can point and click, run applications on the remote computer; debug problems; erase files; alter the remote computer’s registry; install software; and just about anything else that could be done if the computer was in the same room.
Remote access software is often used for tech support. Instead of traveling to another city to fix a user’s problem, a tech support rep can connect to the problematic computer using remote access software and debug it. Other applications include training and sharing of presentations or other documents.
But remote access can be dangerous. The remote user is effectively giving over control of everything on his system to someone he can’t see. Bad guys typically gain remote access to victims’ computers through social engineering or phishing. For example, you might get a phone call purportedly from Microsoft, with a “security rep” telling you that your system is infected with a virus and you must install remote access software so he can remove it. (See Fake Tech Support Scams .) Remote access software may also be installed on your computer without your knowledge when you download and install unknown software that purports to be something else.
That said, TeamViewer is a legitimate, full-featured remote access and file sharing program that operates with Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Apple iOS, and Android. The software is free for personal use, but commercial users must pay a one-time license fee. According to their website, over 100 million people have used TeamViewer.
Getting Started with TeamViewer
To use TeamViewer, both computers must be running the program. Here’s how to connect two computers with TeamViewer:
- Both users must download the TeamViewer Setup software by clicking the green Download button at the TeamViewer website. You can then choose to Install TeamViewer, or Run it without installation. I generally choose the latter option, to keep my system uncluttered. But for convenience, you can install TeamViewer and avoid the need to download the Setup program again in the future.
- The person needing support must then contact the helper, and provide the TeamViewer ID and password displayed on the screen, under the “Allow Remote Control” heading.
- The helper enters the ID and password on his end, under the “Control Remote Computer”, and the remote computer’s display will appear in a new window.
The helper will then be able control the mouse of the remote computer, run diagnostics, open files or programs, download anti-malware software, or whatever is needed. The person receiving help will see everything happening on their screen. As Arthur Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” So for the person on the receiving end of the remote tech support, it might as well be.
One benefit of TeamViewer’s architecture is that it enables remote access even through firewalls. TeamViewer uses secure data channels and strong encryption (256-bit AES) to ensure security. Unlike some other remote access programs that sell separate modules for support, desktop sharing, sales and other applications, TeamViewer is a complete remote access solution in one package.
TeamViewer supports file transfers between connected machines. You can choose to show your desktop to a connected partner, display documents within applications, or remotely control your partner’s computer. You don’t even need a partner. An unattended computer can be controlled with TeamViewer if the software is left running on it and it has a live Internet connection. This is particularly useful if you’re away from your computer, and need to access something on it.
There are other free remote tech support tools you can try. See my article Free Remote Access and Screen Sharing Tools. for the scoop on LogMeIn, Crossloop and a couple others that will do the job.
Recently, I was out of town and desperately needed to login to a website which required a password. I couldn’t remember the password, because I use a password manager on my home computer that automatically logs me in. I started the remote access app on my Android tablet, enabling me to open the web browser on my home computer, and login to the desired website from there. Nobody was home but the dog, but if he was watching my computer, it must have been puzzling to see the mouse cursor moving around, websites opening, and an unseen hand typing on the screen.
Do you use TeamViewer or other remote access software to provide tech support? Post a comment and tell me which solution you like best.
I’ve tried TeamViewer and found it clunky, and much prefer using LogMeIn (I have a number of machines setup with it, including my parents machines so I can connect any time and fix them as long as they can get on the internet).
Honestly, if I’m going to connect to the machine all the time/try to get actual work done on it remotely, I just setup the firewall/router to forward RDP connections to the machine. I still usually set them up with LogMeIn so I can get to them even if there is something wonky about the firewall settings, and it tends to work when other things don’t. I guess it’s the former boyscout in me, always prepared and have an extra connection (pair of underwear 😉 ) just in case.
Any thoughts on why I get. An add on for this website failed to run. I know how to fix it but it seems odd. Best regards, john.
As I understand teamviewer, a screen appears on the “target” computer with user id and pw. This is given [phone call?] to the second person for access.
This method eliminates the fear that once established, the viewer can access it 24/7 if turned on, such as gotmypc.
Do I have it right?
I have used Teamviewer for remote support for years. I have family in remote locations, and it is great to be able to fix problems for them, and show them what to do as well. I also use it for remote access to my own computers. I don’t use it commercially, but know of a couple of companies that do so very effectively. it cuts down on a lot of travel.
Yes, I’m always providing tech support to my family members, one of whom is not very computer literate. I’ve been using TeamViewer and I really love it. It’s very easy to use and in my opinion, is very fast. I’ve seen tech support at work use remote software, but there’s quite a lag. I’ve personally tried a few others myself that we’re also very slow and laggy. So I think TeamViewer is pretty quick, at least compared to others I’ve seen and/or used. Plus it’s free for personal use, that’s another plus.
I have used Teamviewer for years and have found it to be an excellent tool. Used it just this morning to help my son download and install a driver for his wi-fi card on a laptop. Would highly recommend this program.
I’m really curious why you don’t even mention the REMOTE DESKTOP CONNECTION that comes with W7.
Its already in your PC. It would seem logical to use it.
Great article and very helpful as always!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Why? It’s a much more complicated and limited solution. You cannot use Remote Desktop Connection to connect to computers running Windows XP Home Edition, Windows Vista Starter, Windows Vista Home Basic, or Windows Vista Home Premium. Or Macs. And if both computers are not running the standard Windows Firewall, some tinkering with ports is required.
Anyone using Teamviewer to control a remote computer that has internet access via Dish Satellite? Without being able to get a static IP address how do you remotely connect?