Chrome Remote Desktop 68.0.3440.11

A Full Review of Chrome Remote Desktop, a Free Remote Access/Desktop Program

Screenshot of the Chrome Remote Desktop remote access program in Windows 8 connected to Windows 7
Chrome Remote Desktop.

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.

Note: This review is of Chrome Remote Desktop version 68.0.3440.11, released on July 18, 2018. Please let me know if there's a newer version I need to review.

More About Chrome Remote Desktop

  • Windows, Mac, and Linux computers can install Chrome Remote Desktop
  • Works from Android devices that install the app through Google Play
  • iOS users can install the mobile app from iTunes
  • Both spontaneous support and unattended access are supported

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 with different operating systems
  • Supports multiple monitors
  • Updates often
  • Can be used in full-screen mode
  • 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
  • Can't copy files to/from the computers
  • Unable to send custom keyboard shortcuts (only Ctrl+Alt+Del, PrtScr, and F11)

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. Click or tap GET STARTED, and log in to your Google account if asked to.
  3. Use the download button to install the extension in Chrome.
  4. Click or tap ACCEPT & INSTALL on the Ready to install screen. 
  5. When Chrome Remote Desktop Host beings to install, accept any prompts and wait for it to finish to set up the computer to be a host. You'll know it's done installing when the web page no longer shows the "CANCEL" button.
  6. On the Chrome Remote Desktop page, choose a name for that computer and then select NEXT.
  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.
  8. Click or tap the START button and confirm or allow any pop up messages.
  9. The computer will be registered to the Google account, and you'll know it's completed when you see "Online" just below the computer name.

Note: 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 there 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.
    1. Note: If this section says "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.

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 does not log in discreetly like some remote access programs.

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

My Thoughts on Chrome Remote Desktop

I really like how easy it is to install Chrome Remote Desktop. While it's obvious both parties need the Google Chrome browser installed, it's really just a couple clicks away from being available for use once installed.

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 shutdown 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.

An obvious limitation with Chrome Remote Desktop is the fact that it's simply a screen sharing application and not a full-blown remote access program. This means that file transfers are not supported and there isn't a built-in feature that lets you chat across computers.