Fix Mom's PC From Your Home or Office

Fix Mom's PC.
Illustration: Edwin Fotheringham
My family, scattered to the four winds, has a dangerous habit of blindly clicking through software installs and downloading all kinds of junk from the Internet. That's why I hear "The PC is acting funny" a lot. Not long ago an effective fix had to wait until my next visit, but now I can repair the damage anytime from my home or office using the free UltraVNC remote control software ).

You can install and use UltraVNC in several different ways; in my experience, it's easiest for the person I'm helping if I run the remote viewer on my machine, and then send a simple applet to them via an e-mail attachment that they click to automate the link to my system.

To set up UltraVNC on your PC, install the application and select Run UltraVNC Viewer (Listen Mode) on the program's Start menu. If you have a router, you may have to open a port (the UltraVNC's default is 5500) to redirect traffic to your local computer. The method for doing this varies from router to router, so check your device?s documentation or the vendor Web site.

Locate Your IP Address

Next, customize the UltraVNC SC (for "single-click") server, which initiates the connection. Go to download custom.zip (look for the link about a third of the way down). Open the zipped file on your PC, and double-click helpdesk.txt to open that file. Replace both IP addresses (192.168.1.102) under the [HOST] headings with the address assigned to you by your ISP. Leave everything but those four numbers unchanged. If you're routerless, visit www.whatismyipaddress.com and note the number shown there.

Most home IP addresses change from log-on to log-on (this arrangement is called dynamic IP addressing). If you need to create a static IP address, visit the free DynDNS service. You must run the service's utility to update its redirect table every time your local IP address changes? Without DynDNS, you'd have to re-edit and recompile the helpdesk.txt file every time you reloaded your Net connection.

Send Them a Panic Button

Save the helpdesk.txt file back to the custom.zip archive. Next, browse to UltraVnc SC online creator, enter foo in the Userid field and foobar as the password, and click Browse to navigate to and select the custom.zip file. Click Upload, and it about 5 seconds you'll be told to download the custom.exe file that the remote user must click to connect to your machine. E-mail the custom.exe file (or whatever you rename it) to your family members, or post it on your Web site for them to download. When they follow the simple installation instructions that accompany it, you will see a dialog box on your screen informing you of an incoming connection. Accept it, and their Windows desktop appears in a window on your screen, ready for you to control. UltraVNC is free-but consider donating to help fund enhancements.

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