Microsoft Remote Assistance and Service Desk Express

Out of the box Service Desk Express supports a number of remote control solutions that allow support analysts to take control of the user’s desktop and support them. Recently, I was asked if Service Desk Express would support Microsoft’s Remote Assistance tool. After a day of messing about, I finally managed to deliver a rather elegant (well at least I and the customer thought so) solution that I thought I would share:

For those of you who have never seen Microsoft Remote Assistance, it is, believe it or not, included out of the box with Windows XP. The problem is that it is incredibly hard to find! To use it from your desktop, create a shortcut pointing to:

%WINDIR%Explorer.exe "hcp://CN=Microsoft%20Corporation,L=Redmond,S=Washington,C=US/ Remote%20Assistance/Escalation/Unsolicited/UnsolicitedRCui.htm"

Rolls off the tongue doesn’t it?!?

Now once you actually find it, it works rather nicely providing complete auditing, handshake etc. So now I needed to get this launched from inside Service Desk Express. This was where the fun started.

I knew that the solution lay with the Program Launcher application that comes with Service Desk Express beyond patch 9.12 (many thanks to David Sullivan for posting the URL to the documentation for that in the MagicSolutions forum ( However, it wasn’t quite as simple as I had hoped.

For some reason I couldn’t get the link to work with the Program Launcher application due to all the quote marks, forward and backward slashes etc. That was probably my lack of knowledge…

However, after much ado I discovered (thanks to Google) that you can launch the Windows Help Center itself passing a URL for the hcp file mentioned above. So to get this to work:

Log onto the Service Desk Express application server and run builder.exe that lives in C:Program FilesBMCService Desk ExpressTools. You should be greeted with a screen that looks like the example below:

Program Launcher

In the Filename textbox enter: RemoteAssistance.asp

In the Command line textbox enter:

C:WINDOWSPCHEALTHHELPCTRBinariesHelpCtr.exe -url hcp://CN=Microsoft%20Corporation,L=Redmond,S=Washington,C=US/ Remote%20Assistance/Escalation/Unsolicited/UnsolicitedRCui.htm

and click Build Launch File.

Now using Form Customisation you can add a Customised Toolbar Button of type link to, for example, your incident form, specifying a URL of:

http://<SDE ServerName>/SDE/RemoteAssistance.asp

The elegant bit came from hacking the Microsoft Remote Assistance htm page to accept a querystring parameter such that I can prefill the Machine Name with the machine name of the asset selected on Incident form. I’ll explain how to do that in the next post.

As always, comments gratefully received – thanks for reading.

6 thoughts on “Microsoft Remote Assistance and Service Desk Express

  1. Awesome. This functionality actually was just brought up in a meeting we had yesterday. I knew there was the VNC button but our support personnel use Remote Assist more than anything. I will look into this and get it up and running. Again, thanks.

  2. Your very welcome – it is always great to hear that something posted has provided something useful. The other issue with the VNC button incidentally, is that it is supposed to be used with VNC Enterprise Edition.

  3. Alan,

    I’ve been trying to get this to work but “C:WINDOWSPCHEALTHHELPCTRBinariesHelpCtr.exe -url hcp://CN=Microsoft%20Corporation,L=Redmond,S=Washington,C=US/ Remote%20Assistance/Escalation/Unsolicited/UnsolicitedRCui.htm” does not work for me, says that the page is unavailable or wrong address. What does work for me, though, is “”%ProgramFiles%Internet Exploreriexplore.exe” hcp://CN=Microsoft%20Corporation,L=Redmond,S=Washington,C=US/Remote%20Assistance/Escalation/Unsolicited/Unsolicitedrcui.htm” — but as soon as I try to add the machinename code from your other post into the URL string, bam — breaks.

  4. Hi Brian,

    Sorry for the delayed reply – I think this may be an issue with me trying to make things look reasonable on my blog site! Two things to check – 1st – I made a mistake on the posting; there is no need to have the ” at the end. 2nd – in order to get the URL to wrap nicely I falsely added a space to both URLs on the page after the C=US/. Try removing these spaces and see how you get on. Sorry for any confusion caused.



  5. Alan,
    We’ve been using the MSRA program launcher thanks to your column for about a year, so many thanks. I’m now trying to use the program launcher to open vncviewer from a shared network drive(not the enterprise edition) and not having any luck. Looking for any advice, or documentation on creating the string command.

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