Overview of Remote Assistance in Windows XP

Support for Windows XP has ended

Microsoft ended support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. This change has affected your software updates and security options. Learn what this means for you and how to stay protected.

This article was previously published under Q300546
This article has been archived. It is offered "as is" and will no longer be updated.
Remote Assistance is a technology in Windows XP which enables Windows XP users to help each other over the Internet. With this tool, one user, called the "Expert," can view the desktop of another user, the "Novice." With the Novice's permission, the Expert can even share control of the Novice's computer to resolve issues remotely.

With Remote Assistance, a Help Desk can assist users on the network, which is known as the Offer Remote Assistance feature.

For additional information about the Offer Remote Assistance feature, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
301527 Configuring a Windows XP computer to receive Remote Assistance offers

Requirements for Remote Assistance

  • Both the novice's computer and the expert's computer must be running a version of Windows XP or Windows Server 2003.
  • The novice's computer and the expert's computer must be connected to a common network. The Internet can serve as this common network.

    For additional information about possible network configurations, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
    301529 Supported connection scenarios for Remote Assistance
  • In Windows XP Home Edition, the novice must be using an Owner account.
  • The novice must be able to transfer a file to the expert. The novice can send a file automatically through the Help and Support Center by using Microsoft Outlook Express or Windows Messenger. Therefore, the user must have set up Outlook Express or Windows Messenger. The novice can also save the file and send it to the expert by using any other means of transferring a file.
Note This article describes Remote Assistance situations where the novice initiates the Remote Assistance session by sending an invitation to the expert. On computers that are in the same domain, the expert can offer Remote Assistance to the novice and bypass the requirement that the novice sends the invitation to the expert.

For additional information about offering Remote Assistance, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
301527 Configuring a Windows XP machine to receive Remote Assistance offers

Sending a Remote Assistance Invitation

  1. Open Help and Support Center by clicking Start, and then clicking Help and Support.
  2. Under Ask for Assistance click Invite a friend to connect to your computer with Remote Assistance.
  3. The Remote Assistance page is displayed. Click Invite someone to help you.
  4. There are three available options for sending the Remote Assistance invitation: Windows Messenger, email, or saving the invitation as a file. Choose one of the three options, and then follow the directions. With the email or Save as Invitation methods, the Novice will be given the opportunity to protect the session with a password. The Novice must also select a time period when the invitation will automatically expire. The Novice can expire any invitation at any time by clicking the View invitation status link on the Remote Assistance page that is referred to in Step 3.
  5. When the Expert receives the invitation, the Expert is prompted for the password which the Novice set. After supplying this password, the Expert can initiate the Remote Assistance session.
  6. After the Expert initiates the session, the Novice's computer verifies the password that the Expert entered.
  7. The Novice's computer also checks to make sure that the invitation that the Expert used is a valid invitation and that the invitation is still open.
  8. If the invitation is open and the password is correct, the Novice receives a notification stating that the Expert wants to start the session now and the Novice is prompted to start the Remote Assistance session.
  9. If the Novice chooses to start the session, the Remote Assistance Novice chat dialog box will open on the Novice's computer and the Remote Assistance Expert console opens on the Expert's computer. At this point, the Expert can see everything on the Novice computer, in real time.
  10. The Expert can request to take control of the Novices computer at this point by clicking the Take Control button on the Expert console. This sends a message to the Novice's computer notifying the Novice that the Expert is requesting to take control of the computer. The message provides the following three methods by which the Novice can stop the Experts control of their computer:
    Press the ESC key.
    Hold down the CTRL key, and then press the C key.
    Click the Stop Control button next to the Novice's chat window.
  11. If the Novice chooses to give control of the computer to the Expert, the Novice and the Expert share control of the keyboard and the mouse. It is best if the Novice does not move the mouse or type when the Expert has control because the session responds to both users inputs, which causes the mouse to behave erratically. If the Novice stops control, the Remote Assistance session continues and the Expert can still see the Novice's desktop.

Overview of Methods for Sending the Invitation

Windows Messenger

Users of the Windows Messenger service can invite a contact to help them by using Remote Assistance. Using Windows Messenger is the preferred method of sending a Remote Assistance invitation for the following reasons:
  • Windows Messenger works in real time which allows the Novice to know if the Expert is online.
  • Windows Messenger provides additional ways for the Novice and Expert computers to find each other over the Internet. This is used when computers are not on the same network or are attempting to connect over the Internet through a firewall or NAT machine.

    For additional information, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
    301529 Supported connection scenarios for Remote Assistance
When using Windows Messenger service there is no need to open Help and Support Center. You can also send the invitation by opening Windows Messenger, and then following these steps:
  1. On the Tools menu, click Send an Invitation.
  2. Click To Start Remote Assistance.
  3. Click the desired contact for Remote Assistance.
The selected contact receives a message requesting a Remote Assistance session and the Expert can click Accept or Decline.

A Remote Assistance session may also be initiated in Windows Messenger by right-clicking on a contact, clicking Invite, and then clicking To Start Remote Assistance.


Remote Assistance can help the Novice compose an email to send to the Expert. The email contains an attachment with the invitation. When the Expert opens the attachment, they are prompted for a password, providing that the Novice specified a password, and the process continues as explained in the "Sending a Remote Assistance Invitation" section.

Remote Assistance uses the e-mail client that is specified in the Programs tab of Internet Options. If an e-mail client has not yet been configured, Remote Assistance attempts to help the Novice configure it. To change the e-mail client that Remote Assistance uses, in Control Panel, double-click Internet Options, and on the Programs tab, change the e-mail setting to the e-mail client of your choice.

Remote Assistance uses Simple Mail Advanced Programming Interface (Simple MAPI) to help the Novice compose an email. Some e-mail clients to not support Simple MAPI and do not appear as an option in the Internet Options Control Panel program.

Save invitation as a file

If the Novice's e-mail client does not support Simple MAPI, or if the Novice wants to use another means by which to transport the invitation file to the Expert, the Novice can choose to save the invitation as a file.

This option allows the Novice to save the same file that would be created and attached to an email automatically to be saved to their local drive or to a network share. The Novice can then attach this file to an e-mail message by using an e-mail client that does not support Simple MAPI, or the file can be transferred on a network share, a floppy disk, and so forth. When the Expert receives the file, they can double-click it to open the invitation and start the Remote Assistance session.

Technical Overview

For a technical overview of Remote Assistance please see the following Microsoft Knowledge Base article:
300692 Description of the Remote Assistance connection process
Note Remote Assistance uses DCOM. In Windows XP, the DCOM registry path is
with a String value of EnableDCOM = Y. If this value is set to 'N' or is missing, remote assistance will not work.

Article ID: 300546 - Last Review: 12/06/2015 03:05:46 - Revision: 2.2

Microsoft Windows XP Professional, Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition

  • kbnosurvey kbarchive kbenv kbinfo KB300546