There was a time, not terribly long ago, when gaining remote access to a computer was a complicated task that involved pricey software that took time to install on both machines (not always possible in a remote scenario) and would frequently fail for a number of reasons. Today, there are plenty of options, but one of the most convenient is Chrome Remote Desktop.
Whether you want to offer remote IT support to your team or connect your home PC and work PC, Google's tool is worth a look. It's free and available on all major platforms, including Windows, Mac, Chromebooks, and Linux.
Here's a rundown of how to get started with Chrome Remote Desktop. [Interested in remote PC access software? Check out our best picks for small businesses.]
Setting up Chrome Remote Desktop
One of the best features of Chrome Remote Desktop is its ease of installation. Simply go to the Chrome Web Store in the Chrome browser. Click the Add to Chrome button in the upper-right corner and then Add App in the following pop-up, which gives the app the proper permissions.Credit: Google
You're almost done. Now the app will launch and present you with two options: Remote Assistance and My Computers. The first option allows you to share the device you are currently on with another user or to connect to another user that is sharing their device with you. The second option is for the computers that you regularly access remotely, which allows you to establish a permanent PIN associated with accessing that computer.
The device that is to be shared requires one additional install. When you click Enable Remote Connections, the Chrome Remote Desktop Host software will automatically download, and you will need to follow the instructions to finalize the installation.
When providing assistance to another user, this will be the option you'll want to use. Remote Assistance gives you two further options: The first is to share the device that you are on with another user. The second option allows you to view and control a shared computer.Credit: Google
When you click Share, a temporary, 12-digit access code is generated. This code then needs to be shared with the individual controlling the computer. They will then click Access and enter that code.Credit: Google
The host computer will then be prompted with a message asking whether they would like to allow the user to see and control their computer. This is the final safety check involved. Once they click Share, the remote computer can then "see" the host computer's screen, and the user can control it exactly as they would as if it were their own computer.
Throughout a screen-sharing session, there is a pop-up message displayed at the bottom of the host computer's screen that says, "Your desktop is currently shared with [name of Google account]" with a button to stop sharing. To end the session, the user clicks the Stop Sharing button in the Chrome Remote Desktop app window or the pop-up window at the bottom of the screen, and the remote user is disconnected.
Devices that you register in this section always remain accessible by you as long as they are powered on and the Chrome Remote Desktop Host app is running. When you first set up a device in My Computers, you will create a PIN (which must be at least six digits long), and this is the permanent PIN unless you change it.Credit: Google
To access your device, simply click on its name and enter the PIN. As this is intended for devices that you own and wish to access when you are away, it doesn't provide any additional prompts on the host computer (other than the pop-up that allows the host computer to stop sharing, which is still present).
Once your PIN is confirmed, you have complete access to the software and files of the host computer until you end the session.
Finally, the Chrome Remote Desktop app allows you to access your desktop when you are on the go. This is limited to the devices that you have registered in My Computers, so keep in mind that this function is geared toward accessing your own software and files rather than providing remote assistance sessions.
When you open the app, you'll see your devices listed, and as with the desktop app, you simply tap on the device you want to access and then enter the PIN. The app defaults to a touch interface with pinch to zoom and tapping in place of the cursor, but you can enable cursor mode at the top of the screen for finer control as well as the keyboard for text entry.
With a modern high-resolution smartphone or tablet, it is surprisingly easy to navigate, and while you won't want to work this way for long, it's adequate for quickly accomplishing a task or accessing a file you forgot.