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The Microsoft Solution

Not surprisingly, Microsoft has remote control products—three of them, in fact:

  • Remote Assistance. Remote Assistance is built into Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. It’s specifically designed to allow someone to help the user from a remote location. It includes a chat feature so host and guest users can communicate during the session, and, if the user grants permission, the helper can take control of the host computer remotely.
  • Remote Desktop. Not really for troubleshooting, this remote-working software is designed to let the user log into his computer remotely and work pretty much as if he were sitting at his desk. In effect, it turns whatever computer the user is on, wherever it may be located, into a terminal for his remote system.
  • SMS Remote Control. Microsoft’s System Management Server (SMS) has remote control features built in as well. Somewhat counterintuitively, Microsoft doesn’t recommend using SMS Remote Control when Remote Assistance is available, as in Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. Remote Assistance is more secure and better integrated with the operating system. In fact, in XP with SP2 installed, SMS Remote Control won’t work out of the box because of changes to the firewall.
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