Chrome Remote Desktop provides free remote screen sharing from within Chrome

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Have you ever had a friend call you up and ask for help with something on their computer? Many of us have, at one point or another, struggled with the process of trying to lead a friend (or even a customer) through the steps of troubleshooting a program or other issue on their system, when we aren’t in the room with them.

This is tough enough even when you can ‘play along’ on your own system while you try to tell them what steps to take, but when something unexpected happens or they get a different response than you thought they would, you may need something more. You may need the Chrome Remote Desktop extension.

The free Chrome Remote Desktop extension doesn’t take up much room on your system. Once you have downloaded and installed it on two computers, you can then use one to remotely access the desktop of the other. The extension does this by using a Chrome window on your own desktop, showing the desktop of the other computer in a ‘virtual interface’.

Once in that window, you can interact with the desktop of the other computer just as you would your own. This means that you can hunt down information, system specs, and troubleshoot the other computer remotely, from anywhere as long as there is a reliable internet connection.

In order to access the ‘slave’ computer, as it’s called, the ‘master’ computer’s user first starts the extension and proceeds to set permissions for each computer so that Windows will allow them to communicate with each other. This is done step by step with instructions offered by the extension so it’s pretty easy from beginning to end. Then, after that brief set up, which consists mostly of pressing a single button, the slave computer chooses “Share this computer” while the master computer selects “Access a shared computer”. An access code is generated on the slave computer, which is typed into the master computer’s interface and viola! Simple, quick access to a remote computer through Google Chrome.

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The interface works pretty well, overall, and while I did notice an occasional spike of lag between my computer giving commands and the slave computer responding, they were pretty infrequent. Most of the time, you can expect a reasonably quick response, depending on your internet connections and the current CPU load on both machines. I would recommend that while using it, you don’t have anything else going on either system that isn’t needed.

One interesting side note here is that when I installed the extension on each computer, I didn’t get any warnings from Windows or from either of the two different anti-virus programs I was running. This is a nice feature, adding to the ease of use, but it also makes me wonder a bit about the security of the program. In general, I like this program because it’s an extension for Chrome. That means that I can basically leave it off of both computers until it is needed and download it again at that time. Uninstalling it after using it may be a slight pain in the neck but it soothes my paranoia nicely. Whether you choose to keep it installed or only install it when needed, you’ll find that you can access the slave computer pretty quickly and easily, as long as you have a person at each end of the process and a good internet connection between them.

This program’s Pros include ease of use and installation; and the fact that it’s in BETA means that you have a chance to offer feedback to the developers at a crucial stage in its development. One nice feature it offers is the ability to take your session full-screen so that you can get a better view and have to scroll less to move around the slave computer’s desktop. I was able to use the program to access things like the device manager and the start menu, but when I tried playing a game, it just gave me a blank screen, which is unsurprising, considering that it’s not set up for that purpose. It does, however, offer a great and simple solution for remote troubleshooting of another computer. It also allows for you to access your computer from a remote location so you can access files, change settings, update anything that needs updating. Another use I have found for it is logging into my home computer from a remote location to check the status of various processes, like large downloads, while I am away. The only real downside for that particular feature or usage is that you must turn on the extension and set up an access code before you leave your computer. The extension must be running the whole time you are gone, it won’t just sit in the background waiting for an access request.

A mobile app would be a nice feature, but so far there isn’t one available that I could find and it didn’t want to install properly on my Android, it just forced a close of the program when I attempted it. This may be just an issue with my particular Android or it may be a lack of functionality on the part of the extension itself. In either case, it would be nice if there was a mobile application for it on either Android or iOS, or both. However, bearing in mind that the program is currently in BETA, perhaps this is a feature they will take another look at before the official release. It doesn’t have a lot of fancy bells and whistles, but that simplicity is actually a pro, in my view. It may not do a whole lot of complicated things, but what it does, it does very well so far. I am eager to see the finished program when it is released. Until next time, my friends!

Tested on: Windows 7 32-Bit Home Premium and Chrome (5.0+)

Get it at: Chrome Remote Desktop page.