Having seen you upgrade your RAM, sweep your system for malware and then relax with a copy of PC Advisor, do friends and family members assume you know everything there is to know about technology? What’s more, do they expect you to sort out all their PC problems? We thought so.

It’s all very flattering, of course. But sometimes the troublesome PC isn’t close at hand. Giving PC advice via email or over the phone can be incredibly frustrating. It’s not always possible to make a reliable diagnosis and, since you can only bark instructions over the phone, you won’t know whether they’ve been understood or followed correctly.

If only you could see what they were up to and the messages that the system pops up in response to probing. It would be better still if you could delve in and control the computer yourself.

Remote assistance creates exactly this experience, letting you control the poorly PC and view its onscreen read-outs as if you were sitting in front of it. The PC could be at the end of the street, in another town or even on the other side of the world; location doesn’t matter.

One way to set up this arrangement is to use Windows’ own Remote Assistance utility, but this is complex and ill-suited to novices. Many potential users simply give up in frustration.

A more intuitive option is CrossLoop, which does everything Windows Remote Assistance can do without the headaches. It’s free and a piece of cake to set up.

With CrossLoop running on both the problem PC (the host) and your own PC (the guest), you can gain remote control of another user’s desktop, as we describe in the following steps. You can run programs, open documents, download drivers, alter settings and even delete files.

The program works by establishing a connection via the CrossLoop server. This employs 128bit Blowfish encryption, meaning it’s safe from hackers and other ne’er-do-wells.

Here, we’ll show you how to install, set up and use CrossLoop. For demonstration purposes, we’ll be using our Vista PC to control an XP system, although any combination of Windows Vista, XP and 2000 will work.

Using a friend’s PC as the host is an ideal way to familiarise yourself with remote assistance. This way, you’ll be comfortable using the software when you come to troubleshoot computer problems for real.

1. CrossLoop needs to be installed on both the host (the PC you wish to control) and guest (the PC you’ll be working from) systems. To get started, download it from CrossLoop.com.

Step 1

Step 1

2. Double-click the Crossloopsetup.exe installation file. Setup is a quick, straightforward process: you simply have to accept the default settings (assuming you’re happy with them) and agree to the licensing restrictions.

Step 2

Step 2