Get up to Speed on Windows XP

Windows XP

Story Contents


Facts & Figures

Home & Pro Differences

Behind the New Wheel

Folders & Special Folders

Looking at 'My Pictures'

Windows Media Player 8

Internet Explorer 6.0

Functional Improvements

Personal Firewall

Remote Assistance

Backup & Restore

Product Activation

Hardware and Setup

Will Your Programs Run?


Beta Conclusions

Remote Assistance

In theory, Remote Assistance should be a great tool for less-experienced users to get help from friends or support professionals. Here's how it's supposed to work: A user running Windows XP is having a problem he can't solve. He goes to the Help and Support Center and clicks Remote Assistance, then sends someone an assistance request by email. Or, he could start MSN Messenger and select Tools > Send an invitation > To start Remote Assistance. The person receiving the invitation clicks a special attachment to the message that allows him to start a remote access session via the Internet. The invitee will be able to see and manipulate the first person's computer to help work through a problem. It's a feature that holds a lot of promise to help both experienced and inexperienced users alike.

We'd love to tell you about how well Remote Assistance (RA) worked, but the combination of the authors' network configurations and the design of RA prevented any of us from being able to use it successfully. At the moment it only works with static public IP addresses that have full access to the Internet. This is because the IP address is sent with the RA invitation, and the assisting computer expects to be able to contact the requesting computer at that IP address. Computers behind a firewall that blocks port 3389 or those that use a router with Network Address Translation (NAT) -- including Internet Connections Sharing -- won't be able to use the Remote Assistance feature. For the same reason, a dial-up user who sends a RA invitation and then logs off and back on will most likely receive a different IP address (if your ISP dynamically assigns IP addresses), making the invitation useless.

If you're familiar with Windows Me's System Restore feature, you're familiar with Windows XP's.
Click to see larger image

If you're familiar with Windows Me's System Restore feature, you're familiar with Windows XP's.

Given the increasing prevalence of high-speed Internet connections and firewalls in the home, the need for a static public IP address is going to be a major impediment to using RA effectively. There are solutions to this problem (see, for example) but given that Microsoft has let the problem survive to this stage of development, it's likely we'll have to live with these limitations for the final release. That's too bad, too, because this was one of our favorite features on paper.

System File Protection and System Restore
Both Windows Me and Windows 2000 have System File Protection, a feature that protects the integrity of crucial system files. The Windows Me version was somewhat lame, so you'll be glad to know that Microsoft has used the Windows 2000 implementation for Windows XP with no apparent functional changes. Any attempts to change one of the protected files will result in the file being restored to its official version. In addition, System File Protection writes an entry into the system event log so you can detect these file copy shenanigans and track down the cause.

Windows 2000 didn't have System Restore functionality (a feature that debuted in Windows Me. When implementing the feature in XP, Microsoft used the same interface from Windows Me. You choose a restore point from a calendar display, and then click the button to restore to the old state and reboot the system. Given the divergence of the 9x and NT code bases there are no doubt many technical differences under the covers between Windows Me's System Restore and Windows XP's. You just never know that from the way it looks.

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