Anyone who puts their head above the parapet and admits they know a thing or two about computers soon finds themselves being asked to troubleshoot and fix other people's computers.
Sometimes a problem is easily solved via a phone call, but more often it takes some digging to discover what's gone wrong, and then some work to fix it. Remote control software is the key here, and that's where the free version of TeamViewer comes in.
TeamViewer isn't the only product on the market that does this job, but crucially it's easy for the less tech-savvy to get to grips with. All you need to talk your remote user through is downloading an app and reading out two codes. Once you're in control, all the features required for PC troubleshooting and fixing are readily to hand.
Version 11 of TeamViewer has had an interface overhaul, making it easier to access a wide range of features. It also seems faster to make connections, and my test control sessions of various remote devices were all efficient with no jerking, pauses or waits caused by flaky internet connections -- even though I was working with average-grade home broadband at both ends of the test links.
Once you're linked up, remote control is easy -- it's just the same as controlling your own computer, with the remote machine appearing in a window that the controller can resize as required.
Both parties have access to video link, internet voice call, typed chat, drag-and-drop file transfer and a shared whiteboard that uses the screen space for collaborative working.
The remote user still has control of their system, and can initiate these elements using a small pop-up window, while the person in control has both this pop-up and a wider range of features available via a menu called the Session Toolbar that sits towards the top of the screen of the host computer. This allows you to do things like make a video or take a screenshot, optimise screen resolution, even remotely print. You can even swap control with the remote user at any point.
TeamViewer doesn't just support PC-to-PC connections. Downloading the app to my Android handset allows me to control a PC, albeit with a somewhat more convoluted control system. You can also use TeamViewer with iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone 8, and BlackBerry.
If you want to use TeamViewer in a corporate environment, paid-for options are available in three price bands depending on the number of licenses and features required. To qualify as a free user you need to meet the criteria set out here.