Helping people with their computers over the phone is challenging. That’s why the first time someone calls me for help we usually spend the first 10 minutes or so ignoring the problem they’re calling about and focusing on getting connected. Once I’m connected to their computer then I can get to work, see with my own eyes what the problem is and take steps to fix it without having to play “20 questions.” In fact, most of the time, once I’ve connected to the machine and understand the nature of the problem, I’ll have the caller hang up so they can do other things and then I call them back when I have something to report. They can watch what I’m doing or they can do other things (away from the computer of course!) while I work.

A good remote desktop program is one that allows you to connect to one computer over the internet to another and, when you connect, it’s just like you’re sitting in front of the remote machine pushing the mouse and typing on the keys. To the person sitting at the remote machine when the connection is made, it looks like the machine is possessed or something with the mouse moving by itself and words typing on their own. It’s safe (the owner of the remote computer can see what is happening at all times), password protected and it’s encrypted so no one can eavesdrop on the connection.

Although there are many different flavors of Remote Desktop programs out there, I’ve built my business around TeamViewer, a program that’s super easy to use. I’ve found it’s perfect for 99% of the calls that I get but every now and again I get one that’s stubborn and difficult to connect to.

When a caller first calls for help, I never know what the issue is. It can be anything. I usually will start by asking how old the machine is and if they are able to get out on the internet at all. The age of the machine will tell me a great deal right away. For instance if the caller is calling to have me make his ten year old Windows Vista machine run faster, I know right away not to waste either of our time – I suggest they bite the bullet and get a new machine because there is no way a ten year old machine is going to keep up with today’s standards and that means the machine will only get slower.

Nine out of ten times the machine was built within a reasonable time frame and they can get out on the internet, they just can’t print. Or maybe they’re calling because they’re getting overwhelmed with ads and other garbage or whatever, the important part is they are able to get online.

If they’re able to get out online I have them ignore the problem they’re calling about and focus on establishing a connection with me and this is the tricky part. Not because it’s difficult (the steps to get connected are very straightforward) the difficulty comes from the fact that, until I establish a connection, I have to “see through” the caller’s eyes by asking a series of questions.

Now some people are super easy to work with – they tell me what they are seeing and keep in mind the task at hand (making the connection) and follow my instructions.) The difficult calls are silent, saying nothing and forcing me to imagine what they should be seeing.

As I mentioned before, it’s not hard to make the connection, I first have the caller open their web browser (Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge even) and then enter my web address in the address bar. If all goes according to plan, my page should open up with my picture at the top of the page but I have no way of knowing that that’s happened until the caller tells me! Often I hear nothing on the other end of the line and I have to ask. Once I confirm that they are indeed looking at my website I walk them through the steps to connect and after that, the hard part’s over -once connected I can see what I’m doing and we can even hang up the phone until I’m done.

People are often skeptical as to whether I can be of any use remotely but the surprising fact is that I haven’t had to go out onsite in years!

Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at 888-752-9049 or (No Hyphens!).

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