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Remote Assistance - using a (virtual) Private Network (VPN) for security

If you have finished with this page and want to go to the guides then please click on one of: Assistance by NetMeeting, Assistance by e-mail & online or Assistance by Messenger & online.

There are many free software tools to allow you to create your own secure and private network within the sprawling and dangerous network we all now as the Internet. This page considers the use of just one even though there are so many alternatives because it requires a relatively small amount of technical skill to achieve a very secure VPN.

To download the software please visit the Hamachi site, or key hamachi.cc but you will be re-directed to the link given above, then select the free edition even if you later plan to upgrade to the paid version. When installing Hamachi the default is to use the premium, paid edition - please use the Free edition for now because it matches the instructions that I outline below, you can upgrade later.

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Firstly you should click on the normal Windows Start button (or just press the 'Windows Logo Key' to the bottom left of your keyboard) and then click on 'Control Panel', which is usually half way up the right hand column.

Obviously the choice is 'Next' if you want to proceed

You need to agree to the terms and conditions in order to use their software, then click 'Next'.

Taking the defaults is OK because if Hamachi starts automatically then you don't need the icon on the desktop. HOWEVER, if you want to switch those two selections then it has two benefits:

  1. You have one less item started when Windows does - that saves time, memory and PC 'cycles - all useful to preserve!
  2. You can choose to start Hamachi 'as and when needed' which might make you feel more secure as well as it being marginally so...

Take the defaults as you probably will have no need to do any of the things that are mentioned and if you did - they can be enabled as and when needed.

Purely so the installation matches this guide please select the Basic option as it is also less susceptible to changing instructions.

Obviously you choose 'Install' if you are happy so far.

Hamachi installation will create some messages of it's own - see those in black on grey but more importantly you will almost certainly get one or more programs warning you that you are adding to the networking infrastructure of your PC - you need to allow them to take effect for Hamachi to work.

This first prompt does NOT need you to remember the choice/setting.

The Hamachi installtion should then complete and you can then click 'Next'.

It is good to launch Hamachi straight away as there are some tasks to do before you can use it, so take the default and you can then click 'Next'.

The welcome screen is nothing more than a brief description of what you are about to experience so following the advice below should be better than what is said here.

The picture to the left is how Hamachi will appear just before you 'go online' by clicking the (blue) button in the very bottom left of the window and clicking on 'Restore'.

Please choose a short name by which I would identify your PC and you.

You will almost certainly be prompted by various pieces of software highlighting the fact you are extending the network of your PC.

As this is a regular prompt when starting Hamachi then you can select 'Remember this choice' if it is a tool that you want to have started automatically with Windows, OR, if not - i.e. you start Hamachi manually - then you might prefer to leave the 'Remember this choice' selection blank.

At some point you will need to set a Master Password - this CAN be a password that you use elsewhere but obviously don't use the same one as you use for very sensitive or private communications such as online banking.

IF YOU WANT TO JOIN AN EXISTING NETWORK then you can skip the next 3-4 actions as they are to CREATE a network of your own

You MAY want to return to this point if you have someone or a group of people that YOU want to share information etc. with using these same facilities. You can be an owner or member of multiple (16?) networks and can choose which you connect to (or not) at any time.

To the left is what Hamachi will look like prior to creating your own private network assuming that you have not yet joined another.

Click on the bright blue button indicated (bottom of window, 2nd from right) and then choose to 'Create a new network' - see image to right.

The name you give to your network needs to be unique amongst the 20-30 million other users of the Hamachi software but on the other hand it needs to be something which you can easily tell those with a need to know over the telephone.

Do NOT use a PASSPHRASE that you have ever used elsewhere because you will need to share this with anyone that you invite to join your network. An unusual phrase of 3 or 4 words would be a good choice - especially if there would be a mixture of lower and upper case characters as well as a few punctuation marks.

This is how Hamachi will look after you have created your new network. All you need now is someone to join the network to whom you can then send a remote assistance request. That has to be done manually based on the name and password you entered on the LAST SCREEN. However, if you need to change the password you can do so by right-clicking on the Network name and choosing 'Change Password'.

When you HAVE got someone to join your network then Hamachi will look like this - the entry below your network name should have a small green 'blob' to the left and be indented below the network name. The example shown is our primary PC for support work.

The image to the left illustrates a 'HEALTHY' Hamachi condition although it is not very functional because the network only has one member!

This last set of instructions is only for use WHEN YOU WANT TO JOIN A NETWORK that has already been SET-UP by SOMEONE ELSE

When you want to join someone else's network then you click on the same 'Create or join networks' icon - as described above - bottom right - left of two - triangle shape.

You then click the 'Join an existing network' option - see image to right.

You will then be asked for the NAME of the NETWORK (I believe this is case-sensitive) and the password.

If the network has been set-up without a password it will almost certainly have been set-up such that your access to it will have to be approved manually by the owner so if Hamachi accepts your request to join such a network the next step of gaining access will be to contact the owner of the network who can grant it to you.

Common problems / FAQs

Hamachi doesn't always make it obvious when there are problems connecting to other PCs / users so just be aware of the following, starting with the most obvious:

  1. Hamachi needs to be 'turned on' - that is indicated by the BOTTOM LEFT ICON being BRIGHT GREEN - see left for an ON-LINE example. When you hover over it the colour turns Blue - see images to right.

  2. The NETWORK you are connecting-to needs to be 'on-line' which is indicated by a small green blob to the left of the NAME OF THE NETWORK - 'UNIQUE BUT...' in the example to the left. The opposite (i.e. OFFLINE) is a grey equivalent - both are shown to the right.

    All of the icons below refer to those to the left of the (IP) address / name i.e. left of '5.152...' in the image to the LEFT.

  3. The PC you are connecting-to needs to be 'on-line' which is indicated by a small GREEN STAR.
  4. You are having problems connecting to a network AND IT WILL BE VERY, VERY SLOW, it is indicated by a small LIGHT BLUE downward ARROW.
  5. You have FAILED to CONNECT to a network, indicated by a small ORANGE BLOB.
  6. The PC you are connecting-to must not be blocked - this is indicated by a small RED STAR. This can easily happen if you have chosen the option in 'Configure Hamachi - Preferences - Security' to 'Block new network members by default'.
  7. The NETWORK you are connecting-to must not be offline - this is indicated by a small GREY BLOB

All but the first of the items above are changed by right-clicking the offending line item in Hamachi. The images to the right in the text above are full-sized although you can hover over them to see a bigger 'blob' - they certainly would not be suitable for someone who was colour-blind and with poor eyesight.

You are now ready to issue a Remote Assistance request - please follow the much shorter instructions at: Assistance by NetMeeting OR Assistance by e-mail & online.

I hope the information above has been useful, let me know if not! Any Comments, suggestions or corrections to: Contact us please. This would be especially useful if the software environment you have is different to mine and the headings, text or prompts are different.

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