Remote PC support for family members

Working in the IT industry, I’ve become a part-time PC support person for relatives, friends and neighbours. My guess is that this is fairly common!

Last Christmas I built new systems for my mother and my parents-in-law. My mother’s PC is on dial-up (still!), and my in-laws in Poland are on satellite broadband, so I haven’t been able to do anything particularly clever like sorting out dynamic DNS addresses. Actually I did try to get a DynDNS address working for my in-laws, but there were weird issues to do with NAT’ing from a router that I couldn’t get access to – upshot is, my plans for providing remote support got ruined early on.

That was until I read a fantastic piece over at LifeHacker all about how to create a simple VNC-based executable client package that would connect to run a VNC viewer listening on my desktop (and I can control the DNS address of machines on my network). So, rather than me trying to connect to them, they can run this tiny < 200k executable to connect to me. I can accept the connection, and then help them out.

The instructions are trivial to follow. I’ve customised the GUI to be a bit more friendly / needs-specific:


I’ve tested this locally on my home network, and it seems to work great. Now I need to find some family guinea-pigs. The last time I tried to talk my mother through the process of importing photos from her digital camera, it was fairly painful… maybe I’ll see if I can persuade her to try this out with me soon.

Update: it works… it was a little slow, but then the PC at the other end is on a 56k dialup. VNC was trying to adjust itself to use the best settings for both ends of the connection, and it was usable, but laggy. The next step is to try it across to Poland. This is looking very promising indeed.

Update #2: it works across to Poland too, and it’s much snappier. At this very moment, I’m fixing the backup schedule on the PC I built for my parents-in-law. I’d rather stupidly set it to do full backups every month, which caused the backup disk to run out of space after a couple of months. This time I’ll use incremental backups! Using the Windows XP user interface in a different language is great for improving my language skills.

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11 thoughts on “Remote PC support for family members”

  1. I’m don’t work on IT but since I am considered “pretty good” at computers, I get asked all the time by family and even people at work!

  2. I really like this! I’m the designated IT person for my family too, and just this past weekend spent a lot of time at my dad’s fixing some issues with his computer. Keep us posted.

  3. I use to resolve dynamic ip addresses. Requires a small client running on the target pc to update the current ip address on the no-ip web site. I think you can have up to 5 names or free sou you ust connect to They also have other domain names you can use

  4. I have no problem with using to manage the dynamic IP bit. The problem was on the PC in Poland in particular, where the DynDNS client was returning the IP of the (remote) router, not the PC itself – seemed like something to do with the way the network was set up for their broadband connection. This solution is better – it enables me to use DynDNS for my domain, redirect the incoming VNC request to the relevant PC on my side of my router, and then the others can connect to me = more control.

  5. Hey, also try this cool application called RemotePC. with RemotePC you can access your Internet enabled computer from anywhere in the world, read e-mails, work on the documents and resources and retrieve important documents and data files from your home or office computer with RemotePC.

    From a remote computer (Viewer) you will be able to see the desktop of your RemotePC enabled computer (Host) and using your remote computer’s keyboard and mouse launch applications in that computer, read emails and edit documents as though you are directly working on that computer.

    The entire communication between the remote computer and the RemotePC enabled computer is encrypted with 128-bit RC4/SSL to ensure security during remote access. You can access and transfer contents from a mapped network drive between the host and viewer computers. Greater security is ensured as RemotePC has two levels of authentication. RemotePC works behind most firewalls and proxy servers and with it has the remote printing ability to print directly from the Host computer to a printer accessible locally.

    With every RemotePC account, you will also get RemoteData. RemoteData is a convenient way to access emails, data and pictures from a remote computer, without the need to use full remote computer control. You can also share this data with friends and partners by creating sharable links.

    If you want to troubleshoot your customers’ machines, try Remote Access Helpdesk. Firms can log into their customer’s computers from anywhere in the world and fix their problems remotely. Try RemotePC free trial to know more about their features.

  6. […] In most cases, I’m already set up for helping my family with PC problems. The article appears to focus on “renders the machine unbootable” type errors such as loose internal cables or deleted Windows boot files. In those cases, I’d still have to go visit… but that’s probably no bad thing. Rather that, than loss of data, high costs, and more brokenness. Plus, it’s just more fun Technorati tags: PC World, repair, maintenance […]

  7. I’d recommend a service called Techinline Remote Desktop ( It’s probably the easiest tool to use since it requires no installation, downloads, or configuring any ports. I use it to support my computer illiterate relatives all the time, and it’s a fraction of the cost of what most of these other services charge

  8. When I tried to log on to ours notebook, a message saying “there are not sufficient resources to load” my account with the default something-or-other came up. The message had a timer that was going to close the box, and then when it closed it would not log me on. I couldn’t turn it off normally so I cut the power. When I turned it back on I logged on fine?
    I read here Laptop Error but couldnt make sense?


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