Windows 8.1 and MS Remote Assistance

Let’s just say that we have family living hundreds of miles away (I do) that would like us to help them with issues they are having on their computer.

We could:

  • Do the whole phone support thing (requires patience) to try to walk them through the troubleshooting steps.
  • Remote into their computer and troubleshoot as they watch on the other end.

Some times the phone support thing just makes me crazy; so I just remote in and do my thing.  We could purchase something like Team Viewer (which is a very good product), Bomgar or go grab some open source product but personally I use that which has been built into Windows forever.

In Windows 7/XP it is called Windows Remote Assistance and in Windows 8/8.1 it is called Microsoft Remote Assistance. Either way it is the same program.  I am working on a Windows 8 box so I will refer to it as MSRA, which actually is the executable program.

MSRA is not the same as a remote desktop Connection like Remote Desktop or something like Gotomypc where you can log into one of your home computers from another network.  It is a means to log into friend or family’s (distant) computer, with permission from the far end, to offer help.  MSRA requires a human to be present at the far end to grant permission by initiating the process and providing a password to the individual providing assistance.

Enable/Verify Remote Assistance on ailing computer.

It is really quite simple to do.  The only requirement is that Remote Assistance is enabled on the computer that will be requesting assistance. Checking that Remote Assistance is pretty easy to do over the phone.

Have the person with the ailing computer (for all versions of Windows):

  1. Press Windows Key + Pause/Break to open System Properties.
  2. In the left pane click on Remote settings.
  3. Check Allow Remote Assistance connections to this computer; Click on the OK button.

EnableRA

The distant computer is now able to accept remote assistance.

Requesting Assistance

The person with the ailing (distant) computer initiates the remote session.

Windows 7/XP

Note: If you will be helping this family member a lot have them create a shortcut on their desktop.

If you just want them to run Windows Remote Assistance have them:

  1. Click the Windows Start Bubble
  2. Start typing Windows Remote Assistance in the find files and program field.
  3. When Windows Remote Assistance appears at the top of the start list have them click on it.
  4. The program will launch.

To have them create a shortcut on the desktop:

  1. When Windows Remote Assistance appears have them Right Click on it
  2. Select Send To > Desktop (create shortcut)
  3. They now have a Shortcut on the desktop they can click every time you need to assist them.

Win7RAshortcut

Windows 8/8.1 

On the Start Screen start typing Invite someone to connect choose Invite someone to connect to your pc and help your; or offer to help someone else from the results.  The Remote Assistance program will launch.

Note: You cannot “Pin” the above search result to the Start Screen or Taskbar.  What I did to create a shortcut was to:  On the Start screen type MSRA the result will be msra.exe, this executable can be pinned to the Start screen and/or Taskbar.

In writing like above it looks like a lot but really it is not.

So the person requesting help launches the Windows Remote Assistance program:

On the first dialog that appears have them choose Invite someone you trust to help you.

WRAAskforhelp

The next dialog is How do you want to invite your trusted helper.

In the image below you may note that Use Easy Connect is grayed out.  The screen cap is on a Win 8 box so I am guessing that doesn’t work with Windows 8.  I have never got Easy Connect to work anyways (Windows 7 to Windows 7) so let’s skip that.

WRAHow

They will pick between the Save a file… or Use Email… choices depending on how email is set up on their PC.  Or in the case of my next session with Mom, the mail client (Windows Live Mail on Win 7) is broken.

About Use Email to send an invitation. The pc that the person is requesting help on must have a default mail client like Outlook, Live Mail or many of the other Mail Clients available.  With Windows 8 the Mail App is not considered a resident Mail Client and Windows Remote Assistance does not recognize it as being one.

With a mail client (and it works) on the requesting computer the person requesting help will choose the Use Email… option, their mail client will open a new message with all the specifics about the session; they will enter the email address of person that will be helping them and send the email.

On the requesting pc a session window will pop open.  It will have the password for the remote connection.  Make sure to tell the person you are helping to not close that window.  The requestor will read that password to you over the phone or otherwise.  The session window will go away once the two pcs are connected.

WRASession

On the helper end the email you receive will have a link in the body to click on to initiate the connection, the helper will be prompted to enter the password.  The two pcs will connect with each other and the helper will see the remote pc’s desktop.  Initially you will only see the remote pc but won’t be able to interact with it.  This is useful if you just want to walk the person on the far end through the troubleshooting steps.

If you want to interact with the remote pc you the helper must request control and the person on the far end must grant it.  Below is the remote desktop as viewed on the helpers pc.  In the upper left of the helper’s client is Request Control, Clicking the link will pop open a allow control dialog on the remote pc.  The person you are helping must click Yes before you will be able to control the remote pc.

WRARequestControl

Save this invitation as a file is just like Use Email… except no mail client is launched.  The information that would be in the email is in a file that is saved to the requesting computer.  This is useful if there is no email client or the email client is broken.

The requestor would choose that option to:

  1. Save the file to their computer
  2. Browse to their Web Mail
  3. Create a new email to the person helping them
  4. Attaching the saved file to that email and sending it

The helper receives the email, opens the attachment and will be prompted to provide the password to connect to the remote pc.

That was the easy part, now you have to figure out what the problem is on the other end 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Windows 8.1 and MS Remote Assistance

  1. Nancy Gratsch

    You just saved my sanity. I spent about an hour trying to figure how to pin a remote assistance request. My in-laws don’t know it, but they owe you a debt of gratitude. Couldn’t find this info anywhere else.

  2. I’m running Win 8.1 Pro in a domain environment (Outlook 2013) and testing Remote Assistance for use by the IT team. When I select “use email” a screen pops up saying ‘checking the email client’ then the email is properly created with an attached file. However, that screen never goes away – even after the email is sent – and no password window ever appears. If I select ‘create a file” the password does appear and the connection works as advertised. PS, it appears that Easy Connect is only available if the computer runs IPv6 and isn’t behind a firewall…

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