Remote Desktop Support – Tools of the trade

In the computer business the term Killer App gets thrown around loosely all the time. You know, from my twenty-five years of using computers I can say I’ve seen my share of Killer Apps. I remember way, way back when Word Star came out – that was a Killer App at the time.

You see, a Killer App is really a computer program that takes a job and makes it so easy to do that it “kills” the pain of doing that job. At least that’s my partial definition of what a Killer App is all about.

Fog Creek CopilotI’ve been a follower of Fog Creek Software and Joel Spolsky for some time now. Joel co-founded Fog Creek Software and a couple of summers ago he had his interns build a tech support tool call Co-Pilot. I don’t know, maybe Joel wanted to give the programmer wannabees something to do to get them out of his hair so he could write in his blog. Or, just maybe Joel had this great vision of a Killer App that would solve all remote desktop helpdesk issues. In either case Joel’s intern team hit a grand slam.

If you are the person all your DACUFs (dumb ass computer user friends) call for help when they’ve screwed up their PC or MAC, then you’ll no doubt want to use Co-Pilot. Co-Pilot makes it so easy to connect to the DACUFs computer so you can figure out what’s wrong. No more trying to describe how to get to the Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs icon.

And the really cool thing about Co-Pilot is that the tool is totally free on the weekends – like you didn’t have anything better to do on Saturday afternoon besides fix your DACUF’s computer.

On second thought, never mind, keep this tool a secret else your Saturdays are bye-bye.

But for the professional support people out there, you should invest in this tool and see how much pain is taken away from providing support to the computer illiterate masses.

Co-Pilot is indeed a Killer App in my book.

Update 7/15/2009: So I pay attention to the search terms used by people in Google who get directed to this blog entry and it seems that the searchers are wondering what are the comparisons of Co-Pilot versus  Microsoft’s built-in Remote Desktop and Remote Assistance applications.

Remote Desktop is where you actually attach to a Windows XP’s console and log into the machine, which will log out the user on the other end. Remote Desktop can be used for fixing issues with a Windows machine, but for end-user support it wasn’t really designed for that purpose since the user doesn’t see what you are doing to fix their problem. And with most help-desk issues, the problem most of the time isn’t the computer hardware or application but actually how the user is trying to get something done.

Remote Assistance is Microsoft’s attempt to allow a more skilled computer person to assist the less knowledgeable user. However, to get the skilled user connected takes like an act of God on the end-user’s side to initiate the connection. And then once the connection is made the interface for the person giving help is dog slow.

With Co-Pilot for an end-user to get help they can give a support person one link to initiate the connection to their computer. Additionally the help desk person can give an end-user one link to establish a connection to their computer. Once the connection is established it runs generally 10x faster than anything else I’ve used and it allows both helper and end user to communicate and see what’s going on with the computer.

Updated 9/30/2011:
In 2009, over the Christmas holiday’s I had the need to help a family member out with a rebuild of thier XP home machine. I found TeamViewer ( to be a great remote desktop support application and it is free for non-commercial use. The installation isn’t as easy as using Co-Pilot, but it isn’t so hard to get installed for the novice that you can’t walk someone through the process.

Since 2009 I’ve used TeamView for most of my remote support tasks… I still haven’t figured a way to bill my friends and family and get them to pay!

Mikogo EnglishUpdated 06/23/2009:
A friend sent me a link to a free remote desktop support application that works just like Co-Pilot.

I haven’t checked-out or tested Mikogo ( yet, but wanted to put it up here for your reference.

If you have a chance to test it, please let me know how it works out for you.

I received no compensation for this review and endorsement. But if Joel finds this one day while wasting time on the Internet he can reward me by sending me an autographed book of his best articles



Filed under All Posts, Software, Technology

3 responses to “Remote Desktop Support – Tools of the trade

  1. The Project Aardvark movie that documents the team of interns that created Co-Pilot is actually a pretty good movie if you are interested in how the software development process works at a small company. More info at:

    And I highly recommend both the Joel on Software and More Joel on Software books to anyone that is anyway involved in the business of software development. Fact… I’ve given them out as Christmas gifts before 😛

  2. Christmas gifts? I’m not so sure of that! 😉

    But yes, Joel has good sense.

  3. Hey. I have tried using TeamViewer remote desktop tool and it is really great. Thank you very much for such wonderful information. In addition to team viewer, I have even tried various other remote support services such as logmeinrescue, gosupportnow, GoToMyPC etc. and they are good too.

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