Chrome Remote Desktop

A full review of Chrome Remote Desktop, a free remote access/desktop program

Chrome Remote Desktop remote access program in Windows 8 connected to Windows 10

Chrome Remote Desktop is a free remote desktop program from Google that runs as an extension that's paired with the Chrome web browser.

With Chrome Remote Desktop, you can set up any computer running the Chrome browser to be a host computer that you can connect to at any time, whether the user is logged in or not, for full unattended access.

Google recommends using Chrome for both the client and host, but you might still have luck going between browsers (e.g., using Firefox to remote into a computer that has Chrome set up).

More About Chrome Remote Desktop

Chrome Remote Desktop: Pros & Cons

A number of other free remote access tools are more robust but Chrome Remote Desktop is certainly easy to get going with:

Pros:

  • Quick install
  • Works between operating systems
  • Supports multiple monitors
  • Updates often
  • Works even when the host user is logged off

Cons:

  • Requires a particular web browser
  • Unable to print remote files to a local printer
  • No chat capability

How to Use Chrome Remote Desktop

Like all remote access programs, Chrome Remote Desktop works where there's a client and host that are paired together. The client connects to the host to control the computer.

Here's what the host needs to do (the computer that will be connected to and controlled remotely):

  1. Visit Chrome Remote Desktop from the Chrome web browser.

  2. Select GET STARTED, and log in to your Google account if asked to.

  3. Use the download button to install the extension in Chrome.

    Chrome Remote Desktop Remote Access setup page
  4. Choose ACCEPT & INSTALL on the Ready to install screen.

    Ready to install page for Chrome Remote Desktop
  5. Accept any installation prompts and wait for Chrome Remote Desktop Host to finish installing. You'll know it's done when the web page no longer shows the "CANCEL" button.

  6. Choose a name for that computer on the Chrome Remote Desktop page, and then select NEXT.

    Chrome Remote Desktop choose a name page
  7. Choose a PIN that'll be used to connect to the host. It can be any string of numbers at least six digits long.

    Chrome Remote Desktop choose a PIN screen during setup
  8. Select START and confirm or allow any pop up messages. The computer will be registered to the Google account you signed in with, and you'll know it's completed when you see Online just below the computer name.

    Chrome Remote Desktop this device page

If you want to use Chrome Remote Desktop for unattended access to a friend's computer, you'll need to log in once with your credentials on their computer to set it up. You won't need to stay logged in after the initial installation—you can log out completely and the program will still run in the background as an extension.

Here's what the client should do to connect to the host to remotely control it:

  1. Open Chrome and visit Chrome Remote Desktop.

  2. Open the Remote Access tab at the top of that page, and login to your Google account if you need to. This needs to be the same Google account that was used when setting up remote access like described above.

  3. Select a host computer from the Remote devices section.

    If this section shows a device under This device, then you probably shouldn't log in to that computer since it's your own, which can cause some really weird visual problems.

  4. Enter the PIN created on the host computer to start the remote session.

    Chrome Remote Desktop client login

When the client connects to the host computer, a message displays on the host that says "Your desktop is currently shared with <email address>," so Chrome Remote Desktop doesn't log in discreetly like some remote access programs.

The client can also install the Chrome Remote Desktop extension to enable copy/paste functionality between the two computers.

Another way to use Chrome Remote Desktop is through temporary access codes. If you need someone else to connect to your computer, even someone who didn't set up the access in the first place, this is the route you want to go.

Open the Remote Support tab on this page and choose Get Support to get a one-time access code that you can share with the person who will connect to your computer. You'll be asked to install the Chrome Remote Desktop extension if it's not already on your computer.

Remote Support page from Chrome Remote Desktop

All they need to do is enter the code in the Give Support section of the same page on their computer. They can log in under any Google account to control your computer, so long as they enter the correct code.

Thoughts on Chrome Remote Desktop

We really like how easy it is to use Chrome Remote Desktop. Once installed, the menu is easily accessible with all the important actions you can take, but otherwise its hidden from view to make room for the screen.

Because Chrome Remote Desktop is run entirely from the browser, it's great that nearly all operating systems can use it. This means you're hardly limited to who you can provide support to.

Also, given that Chrome Remote Desktop is installed in the background, the remote user can shut down Chrome and even log off their account, and you can still access the computer (given you have the user's password). 

In fact, the client can reboot the remote computer and then log back in once it's fully powered back on, all from Chrome Remote Desktop.

While it's too bad that there isn't a chat function built-in, you can always use a third-party tool to communicate while you're connected to the other computer. Lots of mobile messaging apps can be used from computers, too.