Monthly Archives: April 2008

How remote computer assistance works

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One of the more popular services we offer at BD PC Services is our remote computer assistance. When people first hear about being able to access a computer remotely many are initially skeptical of the service, but once they have an understanding of how remote desktop sharing works they usually prefer that to any other support method.

There are many different applications which allow for remote computer assistance but in general they all work the same. One computer connects to another via data transfer over a network (internet or local) and takes control of the computer as if sitting there at the mouse and keyboard. The person whos computer is being controlled is able to watch everything that is taking place as it happens. This provides a peace of mind for many people who are concerned about a remote desktop technician getting into files they shouldn’t be in. As soon as you notice it is happening you just move the mouse and take back control.

Tools for remote desktop assistance
There are several popular tools available free of charge which assist us in remotely administering your computer. We’ll briefly take a look at each one and explain what it does and when it is best used.

Log Me In
Log Me In is a web browser based tool which you install on any Windows based computer system for remote support. The nice thing about Log Me In is that firewalls and routers don’t need to be specially configured to allow the data to pass through. This setup is especially good for individual users or small offices without a central server or domain controller. If you’re not sure if you have a domain controller one easy way to check it is to right click on your “My Desktop” icon, click properties, click “Computer Name” tab and see if the domain name information is filled out. If not you probably don’t have one.
Virtual Network Computing (VNC)
Another popular remote computer assistance tool is Virtual Network Computing (VNC). There are many different flavors of VNC but for the most part they all work in the same way. The computer that is being controlled becomes a server and the one doing the controlling becomes a client of that server. If you are behind a router it becomes necessary to take some extra steps to instruct the router to direct traffic to the specific computer in question using a technique called port forwarding. VNC works well, but it can be a little harder for the average person to setup due to the firewall issues and the configuration that is required. Generally VNC is a good idea if you are on a domain or part of a workgroup because we are able to connect to one computer using a Remote Desktop (explained below) and then VNC to other computers on your network from there.
Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)
RDP is another way of connecting to a Windows based computer. It operates in much the same way as the other two mentioned above except you can’t see nor can you stop what is happening. Windows actually opens up another desktop session and the person sitting at the physical computer has no idea that someone else is one the computer. You might wonder why you’d want to use such a thing, but there are several very good reasons.

  • No interference with work productivity. Our remote computer assistance can work on your systems without needing to kick people off
  • Speed. While VNC and Log Me In do a good job RDP is simply much faster. Which means work will take less time to complete
  • Desktop display using RDP is much easier for the remote technican to see which helps to decrease resolution time
  • Encrypted. Data sent via RDP is encrypted which means that there is much less of a liklihood it will be compromised. One the other hand VNC is “in the clear” (not encrypted) which is another reason it is good to RDP to a server and then VNC from there
How we decide which tool to use
Initially nearly all connections are made using Log Me In. This occurs because it is the simplest method for the vast majority of our clients. Once a technican has connected using Log Me In they are able to install and/or configure other remote access solutions if necessary.After the initial connection is made the tool(s) we setup become dependent upon your support needs. For instance if you are in an office with 10 computers we’ll figure out either the central server/domain controller or a computer which is always on, connect to it using RDP and then setup VNC on the rest of the computers in the office. On the other hand if you only have one or two computers we’ll generally rely on Log Me In.

Regardless of what method of connection we choose we will keep you full informed as to the process and exactly why that method is being used.

If you would like more information on our Remote Computer Assistance we would be glad to setup a short demonstration for you.

Connect to a Windows computer using remote desktop

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If you ever find yourself needing to access your computer from another location it helps to setup remote desktop (RDP) on it. Many IT consultants use RDP to provide off-site services for the their clients. At BD PC Services we use it (and a couple of other “tricks”) to give our clients all over the world the best service we possibly can. It works well, comes with Windows (or can be freely downloaded), is simple to learn, and is effective.

Preparing for RDP connections
Before you can use RDP there are a few things you need to be ready with. Here are a list of those things and how to go about getting and/or preparing them:

The RDP software
In Windows XP/Vista: start->run-”mstsc”->ok (without any quotes) and the Microsoft Terminal Services Client should open up. This confirms that you have the software installed. XP and Vista install it by default so unless you’ve removed it from the installation it should be there. If you are on any other Windows operating system or it is missing from an XP or Vista installation you can download RDP from Microsoft.Once you’ve downloaded the software go ahead and install it on the machine you want to connect to. Please note that the computer you want to connect to must be running Windows XP, Windows 2003 (2008) server, or Vista. Other versions of Windows are able to connect to another computer using RDP protocols, but can not have a computer connect to them using RDP.
Setting up the host computer to receive incoming client connections
First make certain the host computer is using a supported operating system (XP, 2003/2008 server, or Vista) otherwise you’re just wasting your time. Once you’ve established that it is using the proper O/S take the following steps to enable it:

  1. Start->run->”sysdm.cpl” (no quotes)->enter
  2. In the system properties window: Remote (tab)->check “Allow users to connect remotely to this computer”->Ok
  3. Start->settings-control panel->network connections->”Your connection”
  4. Right click on “Your connection”->properties->advanced (tab)->Settings (Windows firewall section)
  5. Give the computer a static IP if you are behind a router
  6. Disable Windows Firewall by clicking the radio button next to “Off(Not Recommended)->Ok->Ok – Please note you do not have to turn Windows firewall off for RDP to work. If you prefer to leave it on the you’ll need to allow exceptions.
  7. Open port 3389 (default RDP port) for incoming and out going TCP traffic on any software firewall solutions (zonealarm, comodo, sygate, etc) you might have running
  8. If you are behind a router you will also need to forward port 3389 to the IP of the computer you want to be able to connect to. There is some great documentation about how that can be done at www.portforward.com
  9. Find out you WAN (wide area network) IP address. Easiest way to do this is go whatismyip.com and just write it down. You’re going to need it later.
Setting up the client computer
Getting the client computer configured to use RDP is much easier. In fact you only need to download and install the RDP client mentioned earlier in this article if your O/S doesn’t have it installed by default. Once you’ve done that there shouldn’t be any need to do anything else aside from connect to the remote computer.
Connecting to the host computer with RDP
If you’ve done everything right you should be able to make a connection from the client to the host using the following steps:

  1. Start->run->”mstsc”->enter
  2. Computer: put the IP address of the host computer in here (the one you got previously in this article). It should look like xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx where the x’s represent numbers
  3. Click connect and follow the prompts. Within a few moments you should be connected to the host computer
Further information about RDP connections with Windows computers
As simple as it seems RDP can become a daunting task when it isn’t working right. If you find yourself stuck the following resources might prove helpful to you:

  1. Get started using Remote Desktop with Windows XP Professional
  2. Enable Your Computer as the Host
  3. Start a Remote Desktop Session

But hey we understand that people are busy and sometimes you just don’t have the time to wade through something like this. If that is the case we at BD PC Services would be more than happy to help you out with the issue. Just let us know and we’ll be happy to help you out.

How to recover deleted items

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If you’ve worked on a computer for any amount of time you’ve likely had that “Oh crap” moment. That’s the moment when you delete something you weren’t supposed to have deleted.

The Good News
The good news is that recovering deleted items is not only doable, but in most cases fairly simple. The following steps will take you through a process that will help you recover the work you thought lost.

Recycle Bin
If you’ve recently deleted the item check to see if it is in the trash. Open your recycle bin and see if the missing item(s) is/are in there. If so right click on the item and click restore. This will put it back into the location it was deleted from. This is a good reason to always double check what you have in your recycle bin before you empty it. It just makes the recovery process much easier.
File Search
Next do a through file search on your computer to be sure that the file wasn’t just moved to another location. Often times when we’re brought in to do a data recovery that turns out to be the case. External Hard Drives and USB flash keys seem to be some of the biggest offenders. Just be sure to check everything
Stop using the computer
If neither of the above brought your file back then it is time to start preparing for recovery. The less you use your computer at this stage the better off you’ll be. When something is deleted from a computer it doesn’t actually remove the item initially. It just makes the disc space the item is taking up available to have new data written on top of it. So the less you use your computer the less likely it is that new data will be written there.
Run Recuva
Recuva (pronounced “recover”) is a small program from the makers of Ccleaner that is designed to recover deleted files. It is lightweight, fast, and best of all effective. In order to use Recuva follow these steps:

  1. Download the program from Recuva to your desktop
  2. Attach a USB flash drive to your computer and wait until it initializes
  3. Run the Recuva executable and when you get to the part that allows you to specify where it will be install change it to your USB flash drive and install it
  4. Start Recuva from the flash drive (look for the Recuva.exe file) and begin searching for your lost and missing files
Advanced recovery options
As good as Recuva is there are some things it just doesn’t have much luck with recovering for one reason or another. If this turns out to be the case contact us (978-335-6074)and we can have one of our technologists assist you with the recovery of your data if you are located in the greater Boston area or Southern New Hampshire.