Remote Assistance – Win XP/Vista/7

I was looking for a solution that would allow me to remotely connect to machines on the local network. We often get phone calls form users asking for help. It is way easier to provide help if we can see their screens and we usually end up having to visit their workstation. This can be time consuming, especially when we are in the middle of a project.

In my search, I came across a wonderful gem called Microsoft Remote Assistance which happens to be included in Windows XP/Vista/7.

How does it Work?

  1. Tech enters the Machine name of the client that he/she wants to provide Remote Assistance to.
  2. User is prompted to allow Tech to view their computer (Yes/No)
  3. Tech then can request to take control
  4. Again, the user is prompted to allow the tech to take control

Enabling Remote Assistance on the Domain (via Group Policy)

Computer Configuration -> Policies -> Admin Templates -> System -> Remote Assistance

  • Offer Remote Assistance -> Enable
  • Solicited Remote Assistance -> Disable (If you don’t want your users requesting others for Remote Assistance)

You then have two choices “Allow helpers to control the computer” or “Allow helpers to only view the computer”. In addition to selecting one of these choices, you have to add the users and groups that should be able to provide remote assistance.

Offering Remote Assistance

  • Start -> All Programs -> Maintenance -> Windows Remote Assistance or type in msra.exe
  • Click “Help Someone who has invited you”
  • Click “Advance connection option for the help desk”
  • Lastly, enter the machine name or ip address of the machine you want to provide Remote Assistance to

 

How can I possibly remember all the host names?

I’ve created a small C# application that you can have your users run. I would put it on a shared drive and push out a shortcut via group policy.

WhoAmI

Source: WhoAmI.zip
Bin: Included in source ./WhoAmI/bin/Release/WhoAmI.exe

Offering Remote Assistance – A nice GUI app

Although the method mentioned above works it is long and convoluted. I put together a small  C# app to easily offer Remote Assistance to a user.

The app simply calls msra.exe /offerra <hostname>

Source: RemoteAssistance.zip
Bin: Included in souce ./RemoteAssistance/bin/Release/RemoteAssitance.exe

Ideas for the two Easy GUI apps came from SYNACK over at edugeek. http://www.edugeek.net/forums/coding/49448-easy-gui-remote-assistance-support.html

More Information:

4 thoughts on “Remote Assistance – Win XP/Vista/7

  1. Michael D.

    This is a great article. I see you list that this applies to Windows XP – did you actually test this on XP or were you able to get it working?

    I’ve got Remote Assistance working between Windows 2008 R2 sessions (meaning a tech who has a terminal server session on a Windows 2008 R2 server can send a Remote Assistance request to a user’s TS sessions on a different Windows 2008 R2 server and it works great). But I can’t get it working between Windows 2008 R2 and Windows XP Professional SP3. MSRA on the 2008 server reports “Your offer to help could not be sent” and advises you to check if you have permissions on the remote computer, computer is powered on, etc.

    I’ve got the same group policy applied to the Windows XP machine as I do the 2008 R2 machine. Both in the same domain, same network and I’ve checked to make sure the GPO is indeed applying to the XP client. I’m scratching my head as to why this isn’t working.

  2. Pyther Post author

    I don’t recall actually testing it on Windows XP. I would insure that XP doesn’t have a firewall enabled that might be preventing connections from being established. I do know I’ve done remote assistance from Windows 7 (request)-> Windows Vista and Win 7 (request) -> Win 7

  3. Michael D.

    After banging my head against this problem for a day and digging through forums all across the internet. It seems I (and everyone else, from the posts I’ve seen) overlooked one simple thing: check to make sure the Windows XP client has the Terminal Services service enabled and started.

    Once I started this service, Remote Assistance was working like a charm between Win2008 R2 and WinXP Pro. Confirmed: compatible with Windows XP SP3. :D

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