Holiday gifts mean new tech for all, and new tech for all means fresh “tech support” headaches for you! You know your friends and family are going to have issues with their devices and gadgets; it’s one thing to be able to help them in person, but if you live far away, servicing these issues remotely can be a struggle. Here are some tips to make things easier for both you and the ones you’re trying to help.
Walk them through with a video call
Please, if at all possible, don’t rely on a regular phone call to help your friends and family with a tech issue. It might be natural for someone to call you up with a question about their device, but only having their voice to go on when working through a problem can quickly turn into a problem of its own.
Don’t get me wrong; plenty of tech questions can be solved on a phone call. But often, it’ll be much faster for you to figure out what’s going on if you can see what you’re working with. Sure, you can ask your dad, “Is there a port on the back that says HDMI 1? It should be, I don’t know, next to all the other ports…” Or you could have him point his iPhone at the back of the TV and show him which port is which.
If your family has questions about their new smart TV, speaker setup, smartwatch, or something of that nature, it’s likely easiest to help them using a video call. Often, a FaceTime or other smartphone video call will be the simplest way to do this, since they can easily move the camera around to show you what they’re looking at.
Have them share their screen
Video calls are a great resource for tech support. But, since you place video calls from smartphones, tablets, and computers, that method might not work well if the tech issue pertains to one of those three devices. Instead of having your friend point their smartphone at their computer (or vice versa), you can have them simply share their screen.
Screen sharing used to be more complicated than it is today, but thanks to the prevalence of video conferencing apps, the feature is now easily accessible from essentially all modern devices. Your friend can share their laptop’s screen to your phone, their phone’s screen to your tablet, and their tablet’s screen to your laptop. You have multiple options to work with, as well, depending on the device in question.
For Apple users, FaceTime’s new SharePlay might be the best route here. The new feature allows you to share your screen with other FaceTime participants, as long as you’re running iOS 15, iPadOS 15, or macOS Monterey. Whether your friend is having trouble with their iPhone, iPad, or Mac, they can jump into a FaceTime call, share their screen, and you can help them through their problem. You can learn more about how to use this feature from our full guide here.
Whether your friend uses Apple, Android, or Windows, there are other screen-sharing solutions, as well. Popular apps like Zoom, Teams, and Skype have this feature built-in; all you need to do is make sure they download and set up the app in question (same on your end), then initiate the screen share.
Zoom has a very obvious “Share Screen” option in its video call window; have them click it, then click “Desktop,” and “Done.” Teams and Skype have a similar feature; have them click the box with the arrow, then “Desktop,” “Share,” or “Start Sharing.” From here, it’s much easier to give directions.
Use an app for remote access
Sometimes, the easiest fix is one you do yourself. Yeah, yeah, teach a man to fish and all that, but nobody is going to be learning to fish if the tech support session devolves into frustration.
If you’re feeling up to the initial challenge, gaining remote access to your friend’s device can greatly simplify tech help on your end. Of course, that involves setting up remote access remotely. You’ll need to use one of the above methods to set up and install the program, and your family member or friend will need to follow your directions. Good luck!
Unfortunately, remote access is mostly only possible on Mac or PC. For iPhones and Androids, most of the “remote access” solutions you’ll find are actually glorified screen-sharing tools. Even the app we’re about to recommend, while available on mobile, only offers screen mirroring for direct use on those devices.
There are many methods to gain remote access to a Mac or PC, but the simplest is through an app like TeamViewer. TeamViewer boils down remote access to a unique ID and password; your friend will give you that information, and in seconds, you’ll have access to their entire computer, from your own computer, smartphone, or tablet.
You should definitely do a screen-share session while setting up this app on your friend’s computer, since it can be complicated to explain over the phone.
How to use TeamViewer to access a computer remotely
Have your friend go to teamviewer.com, and click “Download for free.” You should do the same, or, if installing on mobile, download TeamViewer Remote Control for iOS or Android. Have them install the program like they would any other. On Windows, installation is pretty simple; just choose “Default installation,” “Accept – next,” then allow TeamViewer to make changes to your device.
If they’re on Mac, there will be three different security settings to enable. Luckily, TeamViewer shows a pop-up explaining exactly which settings you need to enable; Screen Recording, Accessibility, and Full Disk Access. If you don’t see the pop-up, you’ll find all three options under System Preferences > Security & Privacy. After clicking on each setting, enable TeamViewer. If you don’t see the option, click the (+), then choose TeamViewer from your applications.
At this point, your friend will have a unique ID and password for their TeamViewer app. Enter that ID in the “Control Remote Computer” field on your TeamViewer app, then enter the password when prompted. Once you do, you should see your friend’s computer screen in a window on your own device! There are plenty of settings here you can mess with, but essentially, you now have control over their computer.
When you’re done with the session, be sure to click the (X) in the TeamViewer window. You also want to be sure no one has access to the ID and password for both your friend and your TeamViewer app. Remote access is very useful, but it can be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands. Try to hammer that point home; you don’t want your convenient remote session to spawn into a cybersecurity debacle.