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control computers remotelyLike many other tech nerds, I am often called upon to seize control of some system remotely and rescue its user from some evil manifestation of technology. This isn’t my job (I don’t do this “commercially”), so my free tool of choice is TeamViewer TeamViewer - Be A Remote Support Superhero! TeamViewer - Be A Remote Support Superhero! Read More . It’s free for non-commercial use, fast, and very easy to use even for people who don’t know very much about computers. But when I heard Google released something called Chrome Remote Desktop, my curiosity was piqued, so I decided to give it a try. This add-on is interesting because you set it up within Chrome, but you can use it to control the entire computer remotely, not just the Chrome session.

For a Chrome add-on, Remote Desktop is positively huge – it’s a 20MB download, so if you don’t have a fast connection, it might take a minute or two. Just for comparison, the latest version of TeamViewer weighs in at 4MB, so Chrome Remote Desktop is five times as big. Once you’re done downloading it, the add-on appears as a new button on your New Tab page. Clicking this button shows a somewhat-scary “extra permission” authorization page. Not a big deal for users who know what they’re doing, but if you’re guiding someone through the setup process over the phone, this might be a little stressful. You basically need to hit the Continue button:

control computers remotely

… and then the allow access button:

control computers remotely for free

And that’s it. Now you’re set up to remote control the computer, or use it to control other computers. When I guided a user through this setup process remotely, the trickiest part was actually getting them to see the Chrome Remote Desktop button on the New Tab page:

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The user was looking for a button for an add-on (by the address bar), so I had to guide them to the New Tab page. Other than that, it was a fairly smooth setup process.

You can now either Share This Computer or access another computer:

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When you click Share This Computer, you will get a single 12-digit PIN code, which you can copy and paste into a chat session or even dictate over the phone:

computer control remote

This is a nice simplification over TeamViewer, which uses a system of two codes (a user ID and a session password). With Chrome Remote Desktop, you have just a single number. To gain control over the computer, the other party needs to click the “access a shared computer” link on their Chrome Remote Desktop, and enter the PIN code:

computer control remote

Once you click Connect, the remote desktop instantly materializes, and if the connection is fast enough, it even keeps Windows’ Aero interface on, with drop shadows and transparency:

control computers remotely

There’s a positively huge “Close Remote Desktop BETA” window that is always set on top, so that both you and the user sitting in front of the remote computer can terminate the session at any time. In fact, the window is so very large, that it sometimes gets in the way and needs to be moved around.

Is It Better Than TeamViewer?

In a word – no. Chrome Remote Desktop is a larger download, and provides less options than TeamViewer (for example, it doesn’t support file transfer). But it does have two very important advantages that might make you use it instead of TeamViewer. The first is that it is entirely free, not just for non-commercial use, but for all use. The second key advantage is that it is fully cross-platform – it works on Windows, Linux, Mac, and even Chromebooks. In fact, I believe it is currently one of the only ways to remotely control a Chromebook computer.

As a beta and a tech experiment, it is certainly impressive. I usually tend to see the browser as a sandbox of sorts – i.e, what happens in the browser stays in the browser. Chrome Remote Desktop definitely breaks that perception, and shows that Chrome can reach deep into your system if you only let it.

What is your preferred remote access solution? Will you be giving Chrome Remote Desktop a spin? Let us know your thoughts below!

  1. Kyle
    March 29, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    I wonder if these types of operation can be performed anonymously?

  2. Companies House
    November 2, 2011 at 9:59 am

    This sounds like a really good extension, especially since everyone in our office is using Chrome as their browser. We often need help from our remote IT workers, and sometimes it is just quicker for them to take control of our computer, show us what, or how something needs doing, and they go about their business. I shall be recommending both of these options and let them decide on the best one. Cheers!

    • Erez Zukerman
      November 2, 2011 at 10:48 am

      I'm glad you like it! :)

  3. Whabligone
    November 2, 2011 at 6:29 am

    I personally love Ammyy, it is basic, have remote control and file transfer, and it is portable

  4. Smumdax
    November 2, 2011 at 5:33 am

    I will try this... I personnaly use Mikogo.

    • Erez Zukerman
      November 2, 2011 at 9:01 am

      I really like Mikogo, too! It's a great solution. They've recently polished up their client and it's really nice now.

  5. Rikhardur
    November 1, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Im using Screenconnect, Im a full time tech and have tested all the big brands but none of them is close to ScreenConnect in features, stability and speed.

    Its a one time fee which is great.

    • Erez Zukerman
      November 2, 2011 at 9:01 am

      That's interesting! Do they have a non-commercial option, too?

  6. Charles Rachor
    November 1, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    unfortunately, you can control a computer from a chromebook, not vice versa. I set this up on my laptop and cr-48 and could only control my laptop from my chromebook, not the other way.

    • Erez Zukerman
      November 2, 2011 at 9:02 am

      Very strange... I thought the whole point was to be able to control a chromebook! Otherwise why go through the browser at all?

      Did it pop up an error message? What did it say? (Thanks for updating the comments on this -- I had no way to test it)

      • Charles Rachor
        November 2, 2011 at 2:44 pm

        "Sharing is not currently supported on Chromebooks."
        that's the message that's displayed under the spot where the Access Code can be entered when i start the app on my cr-48. 
        The whole point of this app so far seems to be able to access a non-chromebook from a chromebook. With a few tweeks for instance, i could set up a session to connect my cr-48 to my home computer when i'm not there.

        • Anonymous
          November 3, 2011 at 4:00 pm

          Hey, that's a cool use, too! :) Even though it's "not officially supported" just yet. :) Cutting edge.

        • Justin Schlueter
          January 30, 2012 at 2:24 pm

          What tweaks did you need to do to be able to share your chromebook and view on your desktop computer? Thanks

        • Charles Rachor
          January 30, 2012 at 6:34 pm

          no tweeks were necessary to start this app on my cr-48 and desktop. i essentially just did what the article stated to view my desktop from my cr-48.
          i was referring to my internet connection when i said tweeks. where i live, i'm forced to use a virgin mobile mifi for internet. if i had a wired connection with a router, like most people have, then i could leave my internet on 24/7 and leave my desktop connected online, and take my cr-48 out with me.

  7. Wht2doorlx
    November 1, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    ShowmyPC.  Hands down one of the best on the market.  The free offering is better than most commercial offerings.  It utilizes SSH AES 265 bit encryption.  My customers love to see that.  It puts them at ease knowing that my remote access solution is not opening them up to an attack.  I've used the free version for years and now use the paid version which offers even more features.  There probably are better solutions out there but not at the price.

  8. segan63
    November 1, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Once you set up an extension, does it expire at some point? In other words, can I set it up to access my own computer remotely(without someone at the other computer)?

    • Erez Zukerman
      November 2, 2011 at 9:03 am

      AFAIK, it doesn't expire. But they specifically say that they are not yet ready for the "control my own computer remotely" scenario, so I wouldn't count on it yet. They do say it's coming in the future.

  9. Meena Bassem
    November 1, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    the only reason for me to use teamviewer is that it's got a smaller download size and portable.got some nice features as file transfer and stuff......

    • Erez Zukerman
      November 2, 2011 at 9:03 am

      Those are all very good reasons, and I tend to agree. Especially for non-commercial use. Still, from a technology viewpoint, it's very interesting to see what can be done with a browser these days.

  10. Kishore2u
    November 1, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    using chrome extension, you cannot restart your remote client. Teamviewer is installed as service so you can restart the remote computer,

    • Erez Zukerman
      November 2, 2011 at 9:00 am

      TeamViewer is definitely a more powerful option, but that "non-commercial" clause can be problematic.

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