How Can I Solve A Faraway Relative’s Computer Woes?

Give your granny several states away the tech support she deserves—from a smartphone.

IT Girl
IT Girl
IT GirlLeft to right: Martial Colomb/Getty Images; Krystian Nawrocki/Getty Images

Every family has an unofficial IT guy or girl. When printers won't print or files can't be found, the odds are good, dear reader, that you're the one answering relatives' panicked distress calls. Unfortunately, troubleshooting can lead to head-banging frustration for both you and your less savvy kin.

There's an easy fix: Download remote-access software—a program that connects you to a faraway computer so that you see exactly what the other person sees. Even better, you can control that person's machine with your own mobile device. Instead of a maddeningly slow back-and-forth dialogue, you can take the reins and work some magic directly.

What might this cost you? Nothing if you choose the right product. LogMeIn Free and TeamViewer, for example, offer free remote access on Windows and Mac (the latter software supports Linux too). Both programs are also platform-independent, which means you can control a Mac from a Windows machine or vice versa. They even allow interaction via apps on mobile devices, so you can take charge from your tablet or smartphone.

Now your family can pester you for help, even when you're on vacation. Whether you answer the phone is still up to you.

This article originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of Popular Science. See the rest of the magazine here.