Ask HTG: Remote Trouble Shooting Computers, Recording Streaming Audio, and Cloning a New PC

By Jason Fitzpatrick on March 5th, 2012

Ask-How-To-Geek-TemplateOnce a week we round up some reader submitted questions and share the solutions with you. This week we’re looking at easy ways to remote login and trouble shoot a computer, recording streaming audio, and how to clone a computer hard drive.

How Can I Easily Remote Login to Fix My Parents’ Computer?


Dear How-To Geek,

Trying to trouble shoot my parents’ computer over the phone is nearly impossible as my parents use really non-technical language like “the thingy I normally see when I…” to describe problems. Seeing what they are seeing would make things a lot easier. What would you recommend I use to remotely watch/interact with their computer?


Conscripted Tech Support

Dear Conscripted,

Of particular interest to you would be a Ask The Readers/What You Said column we ran last Fall: How Do You Offer Computer Help From Afar?  Fellow readers propose a variety of solutions for pretty much the same situation you’re describing, how to trouble shoot a computer via remote desktop. If you’re looking to jump right in, you might want to check out the free and dead-simple to use—but we recommend checking out the full reader comments on the original Ask the Readers post to make sure you’re getting the best fit for your situation.

How Can I Record Streaming Audio?


Dear How-To Geek,

I’m interested in recording streaming audio. There are a few interesting radio shows I enjoy listening to but for reasons beyond my comprehension they aren’t available as traditional podcasts! It’s 2012, who “does it live” these days? Anyways, I’d really like to record them so I could dump them onto my mp3 player to listen to while I commute. Is there a simple way to do this? If it helps solve the problem any, I’m using Windows 7 and VLC to listen to most of the radio stations.


Podcast Dreaming

Dear Podcast,

There are two good ways you could go about achieving your desired outcome. To record the streams you listen to in VLC, we’d suggest checking out this helpful HTG Forum post from reader Vistual. He outlines a simple way to use VLC to record an audio stream. If you’d like to use another tool to record (for those streams you don’t listen to with VLC, for example) we’d suggest you check out our guide to enabling Stereo Mix in Windows 7—this will allow you to record audio on the computer with any recording software.

How Can I Perfectly Copy a Computer Hard Drive?


Dear How-To Geek,

My parents are computer killers. I can’t explain it. Between my mom’s blind trust of popup windows and downloading silly games and my dad’s belief that he’s a computer fixing wizard, they are always borking their machines. Is there a simple way I can fix their computer once (by say, nuking Windows and reinstalling everything fresh) and then creating a perfect backup copy? It would save me so much time if whenever they need their computer “fixed” after they’ve done horrible things to it, I could just boot it back to factory fresh.


Tech Support Son

Dear Tech Support,

You wouldn’t believe how many “My parents break stuff” emails we’ve received in the last week—must be that breakin’-time-of-year! What you need is a simple cloning solution. It sounds like you’re comfortable doing the reinstallation and getting your parent’s computer back up to speed. What you need now is good way to back up your hard work. To that end you need an external hard drive to serve as the backup-depot and a copy of Clonezilla. We’d suggest following along with our guide here and then using the external drive as the dump zone for your drive image.

One thing you need to consider is user-controlled data like My Documents and browser settings. It sounds like your parents aren’t exactly power users but they’ll still notice if their documents are missing and their web browser looks different. You’ll want to institute a separate workflow for dealing with that kind data backup/restoration. You might want to, for example, set your parents’ up with a Dropbox account and Google Chrome so that you can sync both their documents and their bookmarks/browser settings to the cloud.

Have a pressing tech question? Email us at and we’ll do our best to answer it!

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 03/5/12
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