How to offer Remote Assistance under Windows 7
How to offer Remote Assistance under Windows 7
From my prior blog article; Enabling Windows 7 Remote Desktop and Remote Assistance, one needs to have remote assistance properly configured in order to offer or respond to a Remote Assistance request. Remote Assistance was designed more for a standard user to request assistance than for an expert to offer assistance, though both approaches are attainable.
To start Remote Assistance from the menu, click Start > All Programs > Maintenance and select Windows Remote Assistance.
To request assistance, select Invite Someone you trust to help you. Users requesting assistance may save the invitation as a file, send an email, or from a Windows 7 platform use Easy Connect.
Offering assistance is designed primarily as a response to someone requesting assistance, using the Help Someone who has invited you option. You will need the invitation file stored by the requester, the email attached request, or in the case of Easy Connect, the password created by their requesting process.
A thorough tutorial for initiating and requesting remote assistance can be found at SourceDaddy. The tutorial offers nicely cross-referenced content, including information regarding Windows 7, Vista and XP inter-connectivity and compatibility.
More powerfully, it is possible for the expert to offer remote assistance to the novice without the effort being initiated by the novice. Some preconfiguration, as discussed in my prior blog, is essential. NOTE: A novice can accept a remote assistance offer from an expert only if the associated Group Policy is enabled and the helper list is populated in advance.
To offer assistance without an invitation via the GUI interface, the expert should click on the Help someone who has invited you option. Then select the Advanced Connection option for help desk at the bottom of the panel.
This yields a screen requesting the novice user’s computer host name or IP address.
If the interface is properly pre-configured, the ‘novice’ user will merely need to accept the connection from their console.
Microsoft Remote Assistance is also available via the command prompt. The command line tool is MSRA (%windir%\system32\msra.exe). Technet information is available at: Initiate Remote Assistance from a Command Line or a Script.
Running MSRA /? yields the following set of options:
You do NOT need to run the command prompt as an administrator unless you are the ‘expert’ AND the ‘helpers’ group on the ‘novice’ system requires administrative credentials. The Remote Assistance GUI enables connectivity between standard users, and offering assistance from the command line works from standard permission levels as well. It is possible to elevate UAC commands, or to perform the shift-right-click and ‘Run As Different User’ ONLY if the user on the ‘novice’ system has appropriate rights.
Using MSRA /Expert is equivalent to selecting the GUI and responding to an invitation.
Using /geteasyhelp and /offereasyhelp only works on Windows 7, effectively creating shortcuts into the Easy Connect capability. The /geteasyhelp and /offereasy help switch launches the Easy Connect GUI, testing first for Easy Connect capability. If the capability is present, the /geteasyhelp switch creates the Easy Connect password that must be provided out of band to the expert using the /offereasyhelp switch. Once the Easy Connect password has been exchanged between two machines, it should not be necessary to use the password to connect or offer assistance for subsequent sessions, unless the DNS resolution, IP address or other system authentication elements subsequently change. On subsequent sessions, the ‘expert’ system provides a list of systems previously connected, allowing access without the exchange of a password.
The /getcontacthelp and /offercontacthelp switches are equivalent to starting the GUI process, except in the event where an Easy Connect session has been previously established. The command line interface will default to use of Easy Connect if it has been previously established. If you want to revert to the full GUI option, including invitations, then you should use the /expert or /novice switches to initiate the process.
If you wish to both initiate and establish the session from the ‘expert’ end of the connection, the switch that you want to use is /offerRA. Note that the switch is not case sensitive, though I have typed it this way to help you avoid the most common syntax error. The switch has two ‘f’s and two ‘r’s.
If the four configuration components identified in the prior article are in place, typing MSRA /offerRA <host> will connect to the remote computer where <host> is a DNS resolved host name; an IP address; or a Peer-to-Peer resolvable name under Windows 7. In the example below, I named a host ‘novice’.
Following approval at the ‘novice’ system console, I was immediately connected without the need for the exchange of an invitation or an Easy Connect password.
The most common problem is larger networks and across firewalls, is the establishment of appropriate Ports. NAT is supported, if the appropriate protocols are supported on router and firewall interfaces. If you are attempting to debug Remote Assistance through a router or firewall, you will find a good thread at Windows SevenForums – Remote Assistance Linksys Router.
Checking remote system visibility via ping, tracert or pathping are obvious tests while in the cmd window. You can also use Remote Desktop Connections as a test of system availability, or to provide uni-directional support from the command interface. The syntax for Remote Desktop Connection from the command prompt is mstsc /v:<host> where host may again be a DNS resolvable name or and IP address. Mstsc /? Also provides a list of additional Remote Desktop Connection configuration options.
With just a little preconfiguration and some simple guidelines, Microsoft Windows 7 provides far greater remote system and user assistance.
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