Remotely Solving a Windows Problem Using Two Macs

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My wife’s grandfather recently ran into a problem with his new laptop. At some point he had to restart his laptop but wasn’t able to login Windows (Windows 7 Home Edition). We’re not sure if someone changed the password without his knowledge or if he forgot that he had a passwords (it’s possible that he simply hadn’t restarted his computer since it was given to him).

The simple solution is to download a Windows password reset tool. There are many free tools available for download from the Web. In this case, I chose to use the Offline NT Password and Registry Editor.

However, the plan was to have his laptop for only a short window. My wife picked it up last Sunday and planned to return it the following Friday. Normally, that wouldn’t be an issue, except I was out of town and my wife had not used this type of tool before.

Fortunately, we both have Macs. Specifically, MacBook Pro systems. By using FaceTime and Screen Sharing we were able to burn the tool to a pre-built ISO, run it on the laptop and successfully clear the password.

I used Screen Sharing to see and chat with my wife. I also used it to view the display of the Windows laptop (from the camera on her Mac) and inform my wife which options to select. Screen Sharing was useful because I could guide my wife through downloading and burning the ISO image for the tool.

You certainly don’t have to use Macs to remotely diagnose and provide assistance. Combinations of devices, such as an iPhone and an iPad or even a mix of Windows and Macs can be used, though Windows to Mac setups will require cross-platform tools to replace FaceTime and Screen Sharing.

The point of this article is simple to serve as a reminder that remote diagnosis of a computer can often be done using built-in or free tools.

Keeping FaceTime Windows On Top (OS X and FaceTime 1.1.1)

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Last night I was sharing a FaceTime session with my wife via my MacBook Pro. In addition, I was also looking up some information in a Web browser. Several times I was annoyed that the FaceTime window kept falling behind other open program windows.

FaceTime (version 1.1.1) for Mac doesn’t appear to have an option to keep the windows on top. I’m not sure if this was an intentional UI decision or just an oversight – chat programs often have this capability. It’s probably something that will be added in the future but until then I found a solution by installing a program that I’ve used in the past.

Afloat works as an add-on that provides a handful of new window controls, including the ability to keep a window on top for programs that do not have this option built-in. The program is free and the current version works in Snow Leopard and Lion. It works directly from Window menu item. It doesn’t support every program (I didn’t see it appear in Firefox, but it did show up in Acrobat Pro and FaceTime).

Afloat 2.4 (Snow Leopard and Lion) – Developer Website