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How to Remotely Control a Computer with Chrome Remote Desktop

Access a remote computer from your laptop or Android mobile device



Chrome Remote Desktop

Screenshot by Melanie Pinola

Ever wish you could connect to your computer at home or work when you're out and about? Or troubleshoot a family member's tech problems without leaving your home? Remote access software lets you do that. One such app, Google's Chrome Remote Desktop, now lets you do all this from your Android device. Here's how to get started. ~ May 12, 2014

Chrome Remote Desktop Basics

Chrome Remote Desktop works on both Windows and Mac computers, and the new mobile app runs on Android versions 4.0 and up.

After installing Chrome Remote Desktop, you'll be able to remotely connect to your computer and see its screen, run programs, manipulate files (e.g., email yourself a file from your PC or save it to cloud storage so you can access it from your other device), and pretty much anything else you could do if you were sitting in front of the machine. You can even send special keyboard combinations, like Ctrl+Alt+Delete to restart a computer or open the task manager.

You can also share or access others' computers for remote assistance--perfect helping a faraway friend find out what's wrong with their computer.

A PIN secures the remote desktop connection, which is fully encrypted by Google with SSL encryption so no one else can see the datat that's being relayed (including Google). Also, session data isn't recorded either.

How to Install Chrome Remote Desktop

  1. Install the Chrome app. From your Chrome browser, visit the Chrome Remote Desktop page in the Chrome Web Store. Click the green "Add to Chrome button" and then click Add to confirm. Note that after you do this, you won't have to use Chrome as your main browser if you don't want to; the app runs on your computer.
  2. Authorize the Chrome app on your computers. Finally, you'll need to enable the Chrome Remote Desktop app once on the computers you want to allow remote access to. Open a new tab in Chrome, and click the "Show apps" button in your address bar. Click the Chrome Remote Desktop app to launch it, then click "Enable remote connections." On Windows, you'll need to allow the Chome Remote Host Service to be installed, and on Mac, chromeremotedesktop.dmg will be downloaded automatically, which you'll need to double-click to install. On both OSes, you'll enter a PIN (at least 6 numbers, but longer for more security). 
  3. Repeat steps one and two for other computers you want to connect. For example, if you want to remotely control a desktop PC with your laptop (and vice versa), install the Chrome app on both.
  4. Install the Android app. Here's the link to it on the Google Play store.



How to Use Chrome Remote Desktop

Finally, let's put this to work.

For PC-to-PC connections:

  1. Open a new Chrome tab, click the apps button on the address bar, and open Chrome Remote Desktop
  2. Click the computer you want to access from the list shown
  3. Enter the PIN you set up.
  4. Click Connect.

For Android-to-PC connections:

  1. Open the Chrome Remote Desktop app on your mobile device.
  2. Choose the computer to remotely control.
  3. Enter the PIN you set up.
  4. Click Connect.

Once connected, you'll see the computer's screen and can remotely control the computer. Click the "end sharing" button on the bottom of the remote computer's screen to end the session and disconnect. 

Remote assistance connections:

You can also share your desktop with someone else or remotely control a computer shared with you--but only on Windows, Mac, and Linux (not Android). To do that, both users have to have Chrome Remote Desktop installed, and the person sharing his/her computer simply clicks the "Share" button in the app to generate a code for the other person to enter.

Final Thoughts

While other remote access tools have more bells and whistles, Chrome Remote Desktop works simply and well. It's also easy to install and free.

Depending on your Android device, it might be a little tricky nagvating around the screen, but you can zoom in. This is really best to set up as a "just in case" precaution so you can access desktop PC programs or accessing files from afar.


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