Not many people know about Windows Remote Assistance and how to use it to provide remote technical support to other Windows users. Therefore, in this tutorial we will cover this tool in detail and show you how it works. As you'll see, it works smoothly and you don't really need to install third-party software for a quick support session. Windows Remote Assistance will do the job just fine.
NOTE: Windows Remote Assistance looks and works the same way both in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. For simplicity purposes, all the screenshots we'll use in this tutorial are taken in Windows 8.1.
Prerequisites To Using Windows Remote Assistance
First of all, Windows Remote Assistance requires two parties: one to request help via this tool and another who will accept the invitation to provide it. In order for it to work, the party receiving assistance needs to have Windows Remote Assistance enabled in System Properties. We've already talked about how to enable it, here: How to Enable Remote Desktop Connections in Windows 7 & Windows 8.
The party in need of help has to request it via Windows Remote Assistance.
To request help, one can either send an invitation file (using any of the first two options: "Save this invitation as a file" or "Use e-mail to send an invitation") or use Easy Connect.
If any of the two parties involved is using a slow or unstable Internet connection, it is best to use one of the first two options. If both parties have a good Internet connection, then Easy Connect is a good choice. This connection feature uses Microsoft's Peer Name Resolution Protocol (PNRP).
Even if you have previously connected to it, you cannot connect to another computer via Windows Remote Assistance if it has not requested help and is waiting for an incoming connection.
How To Request Help Via Windows Remote Assistance
First, you need to start Windows Remote Assistance. In Windows 7, the fastest way to do it is to type the word "remote" in the Start Menu search box. Then, click on the Windows Remote Assistance shortcut.
If you're using Windows 8.1, switch to the Start screen and start writing the word "invite". Then, tap or click "Invite someone to connect to your PC and help you, or offer…".
Another way of launching Windows Remote Assistance, available both in Windows 7 and 8.1, is to run the msra.exe file, found in the "C:\Windows\System32" folder.
Once you have opened Windows Remote Assistance, click or tap "Invite someone to help you".
Select the way you want to connect with the person who will help.
If you send an invitation, make sure the person on the other end receives it and also knows about it. The invitation is stored as a file with the ".msrcIncident" extension, which is opened only by Windows Remote Assistance.
If you use Easy Connect, you will first see a list with people who have helped you in the past (only if you received help).
No matter how you send the request for help, once sent, Windows Remote Assistance shows a long password and starts waiting for the incoming connection. Make sure the person who is about to connect to your computer knows the password, otherwise the connection won't work.
How To Provide Help Via Windows Remote Assistance
Start Windows Remote Assistance using any of the methods we showed in the previous section. Then, select "Help someone who has invited you".
Now you need to choose the connection method. If you received an invitation, download it to your computer, click or tap "Use an invitation file" and select that file.
If you will "Use Easy Connect", Windows Remote Assistance will start searching for the other party. This process can take a while, especially if you are not part of the same network or one of the two connections is slow (or not very stable).
Once the other computer is found and the connection is about to be established, you are asked for the connection password.
Get the connection password from the other party, type it and press OK.
The remote party will be asked to approve the connection. Your computer will wait until you accept the incoming connection.
You are now connected to the other computer via Windows Remote Assistance and you can see its desktop.
In order to take control and use the mouse and keyboard on the remote computer, you need to first press the Request control button and wait for the other party's approval.
A good recommendation is for the remote party to check the box which says "Allow... to respond to User Account Control prompts", especially if you will need to install applications or configure important aspects of the operating system.
Available Configuration Options
At the top of the Windows Remote Assistance window, there is a toolbar with several buttons. Their number varies depending on the party involved. For example, Request control and Actual size/Fit to Screen are available only to the computer providing help.
Both parties can access the Chat feature and use it to communicate.
On the computer which receives assistance, you can use the Settings to configure the way bandwidth is used. If the connection works poorly, don't hesitate to move the Bandwidth usage slider to Low.
Unfortunately the computer which provides assistance cannot configure this. It has only two options available: "Save a log of this session" and "Exchange contact information when using easy connect".
The Help button is self-explanatory: it loads help information about Windows Remote Assistance.
If the connection cannot be established, the party receiving help can Troubleshoot the problem. Pressing the Troubleshoot button will launch a wizard that can help in identifying the problem and also fix it.
We have used Windows Remote Assistance on a couple of different computers & Internet connections and it always worked well. If you do encounter issues with it, don't hesitate to read through Windows Remote Assistance: frequently asked questions.
In our opinion, Windows Remote Assistance is a decent alternative to some well-known remote desktop support solutions such as TeamViewer or UltraVNC. Its only downside is that it only works for Windows operating systems.