Michael Horowitz

GoToMyPC offers remote control convenience

August 07, 2012 1:42 PM EDT
If you're a techie, you no doubt have had to provide tech support to someone unfamiliar with computers. Sometimes that unfamiliarity can make it hard to communicate with the person needing help. How do you walk someone through something on the phone if they are not familiar with terms like task bar, browser or menu bar? And if you've ever had someone try to explain what they are seeing on the screen, you know where the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" came from.
 
An especially frustrating phone call recently convinced me that remote control software was needed to deal with a particular non-techie. But which product? 
 
I am a frequent flyer when it comes to remotely controlling computers, but dealing with a total non-techie requires the software employed on their end to be transparent. That is, the person being assisted should not have to know or do anything to setup the remote control session. 
 
I needed a solution whose only requirement was a computer connected to the Internet. Period. Software that requires even a single click by the person needing assistance was out of the question. 
 
I opted to pay $100/year for GoToMyPC and what follows is an explaination of why.  
 
First some terminology. I find the usual terms, local/remote, host/client, server/viewer, unsatisfying. Instead, I will refer to the computer I am sitting at as the "controller" and the computer operated by the person needing assistance as the "controllee". 
 
Installing GoToMyPC on a controllee machine requires a techie. But once that's been done, the software is indeed transparent to the person operating that computer. 
 
In my case the controllee computer was running Windows XP. 
 
One nice feature of GoToMyPC (and some other products too) is that a user does not even have to be logged on at the controllee machine. That is, GoToMyPC can remotely connect and drive the controllee machine even if its at the screen displaying the available Windows users (below). 
 
 
This is handy for me, because people I work with often use their computers while logged on as a limited/restricted user. If I need to logon as an Administrator, I can do so without interrupting the GoToMyPC session. 
 
Back when Windows XP was the dominant version of Windows, I was a big fan of NetMeeting for remote access. But, one of the drawbacks of NetMeeting was that it was tied to a Windows user. If I needed to logoff that user on the controllee machine, then I lost the NetMeeting connection, which was a pain to re-establish: NetMeeting was the polar opposite of transparent. 
 
Perhaps the biggest advantage of NetMeeting however was that it was part of the operating system and thus could be used without any up-front planning, a huge convenience when things cropped up unexpectedly. Join.me can do this too, and it's free, but it is not transparent. Citrix, the company behind GoToMyPC has other remote control products that can be used without being pre-installed but they are significantly more expensive than GoToMyPC and are also not transparent. 
 
Another upside to NetMeeting was that it avoided firewall issues on the controllee side. The person at the controllee machine could run NetMeeting and connect into my computer. After this initial connection was established, either side could share their desktop. This is rare in the remote control field, most software is designed for either the controller or the controllee side of the house, NetMeeting allowed either user to perform either function. 
 
Now, many products get around firewall issues, but they do so using a different scheme - they act as a middleman. 
 

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