Lesson 2: Offering Remote Assistance

Windows Remote Assistance is a Windows Vista feature that allows one user, called a helper, to connect to another user’s desktop session on a remote computer. Once connected, the helper can view and optionally interact with the assisted person’s desktop. This lesson describes step by step how to offer technical assistance to another user through this tool.

After this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Request Remote Assistance from another user.
  • Answer a Remote Assistance request.
  • Offer unsolicited Remote Assistance to another user.
Estimated lesson time: 40 minutes



Enabling Remote Assistance

To allow a helper to connect to a computer by using Remote Assistance, you first need to enable Remote Assistance on that computer. To do so, select the Allow Remote Assistance Connections To This Computer check box in the Remote tab of the System Properties dialog box, as shown in Figure 12-8.

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Figure 12-8 Enabling Remote Assistance

As mentioned in the previous lesson, to locate the Remote tab, first open the System window, and then click Remote Settings on the Tasks menu, as shown in Figure 12-9.

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Figure 12-9 Accessing the Remote tab of System Properties

After Remote Assistance is enabled on a computer, a Remote Assistance connection to that computer can be initiated in one of two ways: by the user’s requesting assistance from the helper or by the helper’s offering unsolicited assistance to the user. Of these two methods, the first is simpler to implement.

NOTE Remote Assistance firewall exception

When you enable Remote Assistance, Windows Vista automatically adds a local firewall exception for Remote Assistance.



Requesting Remote Assistance

A user can request remote assistance from a helper by creating a Remote Assistance invitation. To create a Remote Assistance invitation, first open the Windows Remote Assistance wizard by clicking Start, pointing to All Programs, clicking Maintenance, and then clicking Windows Remote Assistance.

The first page of the Windows Remote Assistance wizard is shown in Figure 12-10.

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Figure 12-10 The Windows Remote Assistance wizard

To request remote assistance, on the first page of the wizard, click the option to invite someone you trust to help you. This step opens the page shown in Figure 12-11.

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Figure 12-11 Choosing a Remote Assistance invitation method

On this page you can choose whether to send the invitation file to the helper through e-mail or simply to save the invitation in the file system so that the helper can later access it through a network share or another means. In either case, the invitation file must be password protected.

After you choose the password and complete the wizard, the Remote Assistance toolbar, shown in Figure 12-12, appears on the user’s desktop. Note the toolbar’s status message of “Waiting for incoming connection…”.

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Figure 12-12 The Remote Assistance toolbar

At this point the helper must use the Remote Assistance wizard to open the invitation he or she has received. To do so, the helper first chooses the Offer To Help Someone option on the first page of the wizard. This step opens the page shown in Figure 12-13. To open the invitation file, the helper uses the Browse button or enters the path to the file in the appropriate text box and then clicks Finish.

Cc505914.Figure_C12624085_13(en-us,TechNet.10).png

Figure 12-13 Opening a Remote Assistance invitation

The helper is then prompted for the password of the file. If the helper can successfully enter the password, the assisted party receives a Windows Remote Assistance offer message, such as the one shown in Figure 12-14.

Cc505914.Figure_C12624085_14(en-us,TechNet.10).png

Figure 12-14 Accepting a Remote Assistance connection

Offering Unsolicited Remote Assistance

Before you can successfully offer unsolicited Remote Assistance to a user running Windows Vista, you need to perform a number of preparatory steps:

  1. Add the following local firewall exceptions on the assisted party’s computer:

    a. Msra.exe (program). When Remote Assistance is enabled on the user’s computer, this exception is created automatically.

    b. Raserver.exe (program). You must add this firewall exception manually.

    c. TCP 135 (port). You must add this firewall exception manually.

  2. In Local Computer Policy or Group Policy, enable the Offer Remote Assistance policy setting for the assisted party’s computer. You can find this policy setting in a Group Policy object (GPO) by navigating to Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/System/Remote Assistance.

    a. To enable this setting, you must add at least one user account to the Helpers list in the policy setting. Once added in the policy setting, these user accounts also appear in the Offer Remote Assistance Helpers security group on the local machine.

    b. By default, when you enable this policy setting, the designated helpers are allowed to view and control other users’ computers. However, in this policy setting you can also choose the option to allow helpers only to view remote computers.

The Offer Remote Assistance policy setting is shown in Figure 12-15.

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Figure 12-15 The Offer Remote Assistance policy setting

IMPORTANT Remote Assistance helpers list

Only users added to the helpers list can offer unsolicited Remote Assistance.



After you have performed these preparatory steps, you can easily offer Remote Assistance to another user by using the Remote Assistance wizard. On the first page of the wizard, select the Offer To Help Someone option. Then, after you provide the name or address of a computer to help, the wizard immediately initiates a Remote Assistance connection to that computer. At this point the assisted party receives a Remote Assistance offer message identical to the one shown in Figure 12-14.

Establishing the Remote Assistance Session

When the assisted party approves the Remote Assistance offer, the status message of the Remote Assistance toolbar on his or her local machine changes to “Connected to your helper. Your helper can now see your desktop.” At the same time, the assisted party’s desktop appears within a Windows Remote Assistance window on the helper’s desktop, as shown in Figure 12-16.

Cc505914.Figure_C12624085_16(en-us,TechNet.10).png

Figure 12-16 The helper's Remote Assistance window

At first, the helper can only view and not interact with the assisted user’s desktop. If the helper wants to interact with the remote user’s desktop, the helper must click the Request Control button on the Windows Remote Assistance window menu bar. This step opens the message, shown in Figure 12-17, on the remote user’s desktop.

Cc505914.Figure_C12624085_17(en-us,TechNet.10).png

Figure 12-17 In Remote Assistance, the assisted user always voluntarily grants control to the remote helper

Of particular importance in this message prompt is the option to allow the helper to respond to User Account Control (UAC) prompts. If this option is not selected, the helper’s Windows Remote Assistance window will go blank whenever a step requiring elevation is performed on the assisted user’s computer. The helper will be able to regain control of the remote desktop only when the assisted user handles the UAC prompt by providing administrator credentials or clicking Continue, as appropriate. If, on the other hand, this option is selected, UAC prompts will be passed to the helper during the Remote Assistance session. Note also that selecting this option itself requires elevation.

After control is granted to the helper, the helper can interact with the assisted user’s desktop. The assisted user can pause the session at any point by clicking the Pause button and resume the session by clicking Continue. To end the session, either party can click the Disconnect button on the toolbar.

NOTE Remote Assistance through Windows Live Messenger

In addition to requesting and offering Remote Assistance through methods built into Windows Vista, you can also request and offer Remote Assistance through Windows Live Messenger. This functionality, though interesting, is not covered on the 70-622 exam and is therefore beyond the scope of this training kit.



Windows Remote Assistance Compatibility Issues

Windows Remote Assistance is not new to Windows Vista, but there are enough feature differences with earlier versions to create certain limited compatibility problems.

  • You cannot offer unsolicited Windows Remote Assistance from Windows Vista to either Windows XP or Windows Server 2003.
  • In Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, Remote Assistance supported voice capability. Voice capability is no longer supported in Windows Vista.
  • In Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, you can’t pause a Windows Remote Assistance session. If the assisted party is running Windows Vista and pauses a session while connected to a helper running Windows XP, the helper will not be notified that the session is paused.

Quick Check

  1. A remote user agrees to let you share control of her desktop. After you attempt to open Computer Management on her computer, your Windows Remote Assistance window goes blank. What is the likeliest cause?
  2. Can you offer unsolicited Remote Assistance from a Windows Vista computer to a Windows XP computer?

Quick Check Answers

  1. When agreeing to let you share control of her desktop, the remote user did not select the option to allow you to respond to UAC prompts. No.



Practice: Offering Remote Assistance

In this practice, you will create a Remote Assistance invitation and allow a remote helper to take control of your computer.

Practice 1: Creating a Network Share for Remote Assistance

In this practice, you will create a network share in which to place Remote Assistance invitations.

  1. Log on to Dcsrv1 as an administrator.
  2. Create a new folder in the root of the C drive. Name the folder Remote Assistance Invitations.
  3. Open the properties of the Remote Assistance Invitations folder.
  4. In the Sharing tab, click Share This Folder, and then click the Permissions button.
  5. In the Permissions for Remote Assistance Invitations dialog box, assign Everyone the Allow – Full Control permission, and then click OK.
  6. In the Remote Assistance Invitations dialog box, click the Security tab.
  7. In the Security tab, assign the Users group the Allow-Modify permission.
  8. Click OK to close the Remote Assistance Properties dialog box.

Practice 2: Creating a Remote Assistance Invitation

In this practice, you will create a Remote Assistance invitation on Vista2 and save the invitation to the network share you created in Practice 1.

  1. Log on to Nwtraders from Vista2 as a standard user (not an administrator).
  2. Open the System Control Panel by right-clicking Computer from the Start menu and then selecting Properties.
  3. Beneath Tasks, click Remote Settings.
  4. In the UAC credential prompt, enter the credentials of an administrator.
  5. In the Remote tab of the System Properties dialog box, select the Allow Remote Assistance Connections To This Computer check box, and then click OK.
  6. Close the System window.
  7. Open Windows Remote Assistance by clicking Start, pointing to All Programs, clicking Maintenance, and then clicking Windows Remote Assistance.

    The Windows Remote Assistance wizard opens.

  8. On the Do You Want To Ask For Or Offer Help page, click Invite Someone You Trust To Help You.
  9. On the How Do You Want To Invite Someone To Help You page, click Save This Invitation As A File.
  10. On the Save The Invitation As A File page, type \\dcsrv1\Remote Assistance Invitations\RAinvite1 in the Enter A Path And File Name text box.
  11. Enter a password in the Password and Confirm The Password text boxes, and then click Finish.
  12. The Windows Remote Assistance toolbar appears with the status message “Waiting for incoming connection…”
  13. Proceed to Practice 3.

Practice 3: Answering a Remote Assistance Invitation

In this practice, you will use the Remote Assistance invitation created in Practice 2 to provide Remote Assistance to Vista2 from Vista1.

  1. Log on to Nwtraders from Vista1 as an administrator.
  2. Open Windows Remote Assistance.
  3. In the Windows Remote Assistance wizard, on the Do You Want To Ask For Or Offer Help page, click Offer To Help Someone.
  4. On the Choose A Way To Connect To The Other Person’s Computer page, type \\dcsrv1\Remote Assistance Invitations\RAinvite1 in the Enter An Invitation File Location text box, and then click Finish.
  5. In the Windows Remote Assistance dialog box, enter the password you assigned to the invitation in the Enter Password text box, and then click OK.
  6. The Windows Remote Assistance window opens with the status message “Waiting For Acceptance.”
  7. Switch to Vista2.

    On the Vista2 desktop, a Windows Remote Assistance dialog box has appeared and asks you whether you would like to allow the remote helper to connect to your computer.

  8. Click Yes to accept the Remote Assistance connection.

    On the Windows Remote Assistance toolbar, the status message has changed to “Connected to your helper – Your helper can now see your desktop.”

  9. Return to Vista1.
  10. On Vista1, the Windows Remote Assistance window has changed to “Viewing the screen.” Within the window, you can see the Vista2 desktop.

  11. Spend a few moments browsing the desktops on both Vista1 and Vista2. Do not change any settings.
  12. Answer the following question:

    Who currently has control of the session, the user on Vista1, the user on Vista2, or both?

    Answer: The user on Vista2.

  13. On Vista1, in the Windows Remote Assistance window, click Request Control.

    On Vista2, a new Windows Remote Assistance dialog box has appeared on the desktop and asks you whether you would like to allow the remote helper to share control of your desktop.

  14. On Vista2, in the Windows Remote Assistance dialog box, click Yes.
  15. On Vista2, the status message in the Windows Remote Assistance toolbar has changed to “Connected to your helper – Your helper is sharing control of your computer.”
  16. Switch to Vista1. Spend a few minutes experimenting with the control of the Vista2 desktop and exploring the various options on the Windows Remote Assistance toolbars.
  17. On Vista1, click Disconnect, and then click Yes to confirm.
  18. Close all open windows on both computers.

Lesson Summary

  • Windows Remote Assistance allows one user, called a helper, to connect to the live session of another user on a remote computer. Once connected, the helper can see the remote user’s desktop and (if allowed) interact with it.
  • For a computer to receive Remote Assistance, the feature must be enabled in the Remote tab in the System Properties dialog box.
  • Remote Assistance can be solicited or unsolicited. When Remote Assistance is solicited, a user creates a Remote Assistance request and sends it to the helper. With unsolicited Remote Assistance, the helper does not need a request, but this method requires significant preparation.
  • There are a few compatibility issues between Remote Assistance in Windows Vista and earlier versions of Remote Assistance. Most important, a helper in Windows Vista cannot provide unsolicited assistance to a user running Windows XP.

Lesson Review

The following questions are intended to reinforce key information presented in this lesson. The questions are also available on the companion CD if you prefer to review them in electronic form.

NOTE Answers

Answers to these questions and explanations of why each answer choice is right or wrong are located in the “Answers” section at the end of the book.



  1. You work as a desktop support technician in a large company whose network consists of a single Active Directory directory service domain. All client computers are running Windows Vista Business.

    While working at the help desk, you receive a call from an employee in another building who is receiving an unexpected error whenever he performs an elaborate procedure within an application. He is having difficulty describing the procedure and would prefer to show it to you on the computer.

    Which of the following is the best way to watch the user perform the procedure that generates the error?

    1. Use Remote Desktop to connect to the user’s computer.
    2. Ask the user to connect to your computer through Remote Desktop.
    3. Ask the user to create and send you a Windows Remote Assistance invitation file through e-mail.
    4. Create and send the user a Windows Remote Assistance invitation file through e-mail.
  2. You work as a desktop support technician in a company whose network consists of a single Active Directory domain. You want to be able to offer unsolicited Remote Assistance to a user by specifying her computer name in the Windows Remote Assistance wizard. If both of your computers are running Windows Vista Business, which of the following is NOT a requirement to achieve this?
    1. Your user account must be added to the Offer Remote Assistance Helpers group on the remote computer.
    2. In Group Policy, enable the Offer Remote Assistance policy option. C. Add firewall exceptions for msra.exe, raserver.exe, and port 135.
    3. Your user account must be a member of the Administrators group on the remote computer.
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