Ron is a retired engineer and manager for IBM and other high tech companies. He specialized in both hardware and software design.
Although our congregation is not a large one, we have had as many as eleven computers at a time involved in doing the work of the church. Some are located in the church building; others are laptops we provide our volunteer workers to allow them to perform their tasks at home without having to come to the church. All are connected through a virtual cloud network using Dropbox (see How To Use Dropbox as a Free Cloud Network for a Small Church)
Functions such as installing, configuring, troubleshooting, and maintaining software, and even remotely printing documents on church printers are regular activities for these computers. But with them being physically scattered around the city, we needed a centralized way to manage them all.
Starting in 2010 we used LogMeIn Free as our remote support software to provide that centralized management. LogMeIn allowed me as the System Administrator to actually control each of those computers from my home or office, almost as if I was sitting at that machine’s keyboard. LogMeIn not only provided us with tremendous benefits for minimizing the headaches of managing our computers, it did so at a price (free) that couldn’t be beat.
LogMeIn Shuts Me Out!
But then, in January of 2014, disaster struck! LogMeIn emailed users of its free version saying that as of the date of the email, free would be free no more. From now on, only LogMeIn Pro, their paid product, would be available. (They did provide a grace period of one week before your free LogMeIn ceased to work).
Purchasing the licenses needed to manage all our computers just wasn’t in the budget. So, we needed an alternative. Some research revealed that Google had a free service that would provide us with everything we had with LogMeIn, and more. That service is Chrome Remote Desktop.
What is Chrome Remote Desktop?
Chrome Remote Desktop is an extension to Google’s Chrome browser that allows full control of a remote computer. The remote session takes place in a browser window, and you see the remote computer’s desktop just as you would if you were sitting in front of it. Almost anything you could do on that machine if you were controlling it using its own keyboard and mouse, you can do remotely through the browser.
Chrome Remote Desktop has turned out to meet our needs even better than LogMeIn did. Here are some of the features I particularly like:
- Chrome Remote Desktop is available for Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Chrome OS, and even Android using a web app.
- Once Chrome Remote Desktop is installed on a computer, that PC can be remotely controlled even if the Chrome browser is not running. Nor does the remote computer have to be logged in to your Google account. Of course, Chrome must be running on the controlling computer since the remote session takes place in a browser window.
- Unlike LogMeIn Free, you can control multiple computers at one time simply by conducting each remote session in a separate browser window.
- There’s no timeout on your remote session. As long as your remote desktop browser tab remains open, the connection to the remote computer is maintained.
- Response to mouse movements and keyboard clicks seems quicker and more seamless than with LogMeIn. Usually there is only a very minimal and hardly noticeable lag between me initiating some action, and seeing it take effect on the remote computer.
- You can copy and paste between computers just as you would on a single computer.
- Although each computer in your remote desktop network must have its own unique PIN in order to access it remotely, you can choose to eliminate the requirement for typing in the PIN. This is a great advantage. Otherwise, when you have several computers you are controlling, you would have to look up the individual PIN for each one.
- The remote computer’s screen appears with greater crispness, clarity, and color fidelity than I remember with LogMeIn Free.
Installing Chrome Remote Desktop
The first thing you’ll need to use Chrome Remote Desktop is a Google account. If you don’t have one, you can sign up for a Google account here.
NOTE: Chrome Remote Desktop must be set up on the same Google account for all the computers you want to remotely control. If you have several accounts, be sure you are logged in on the account you will use for remote operations.
Installing and Using Chrome Remote Desktop
Here’s a step-by-step process for installing Chrome Remote Desktop on each of the computers in your network.
(Note: all screenshots are my own)
1. Get Chrome Remote Desktop from the Google App Store
- Go to the Chrome Web Store. In the Search box, type in “Chrome Remote Desktop,” then hit Enter.
- Click on the +Free button for Chrome Remote Desktop.
- In the “Confirm New App” window that appears, click Add. Expect the install app to spend some time “Checking” before opening your Apps tab.
- When the Apps tab appears, you should see that Chrome Remote Desktop has been added to your list of apps. Click on it.
2. Authorize Chrome Remote Desktop to run
- When the Authorize box appears, click on Continue.
- You’ll now see a “This app would like to:” page. Click Accept.
3. Now, Let's Get Started!
- On the “Get Started” page, click the “Get Started” button in the “My Computers” block.
- The “My Computers” block now requires you to “Enable remote connections.” Click that button.
- You should now see that remote connections have been enabled. Click OK.
4. Assign a PIN to Your Computer
- Assign a PIN of six or more digits to your computer. Here’s a tip. It took me a couple of tries before I realized that a PIN is entirely numeric! So, enter only numbers.
- Next, you’ll be asked to confirm your PIN. Type it in again, and click Confirm.
That's it! You should now see "Remote connections for this computer have been enabled." Just click OK, and you are set up for remote sessions.
Now, just follow the same procedure for each of the computers that will be part of your network.
What a Remote Session Looks Like
With Chrome Remote Desktop installed on both your computer and the one you want to control, you start a remote session by opening a new Chrome browser window.
Now, click on the Apps icon at the far left of the page.
When the list of your installed apps appears, click on Chrome Remote Desktop. Now the “My Computers” block shows a list of the computers you can control. Note that any lines that are greyed out represent computers that are not online, and which, of course, you cannot remotely control until they are.
Initiate a Remote Session
Click on one of your remote computers. Then enter the PIN of the computer you want to control.
Note that you have the option to specify that you won't have to enter a PIN for this computer when you access it from the computer you are using now.
After entering the PIN of the remote computer, click Connect.
You should now be looking at the screen of your remote computer.
Note that the "Stop Sharing" button at the bottom of the remote computer's screen allows you to break the connection and end the remote session.
Controlling Your Remote Computer
As long as you stay in this browser window, you can control the remote computer just as if you were sitting in front of it.
At the top of the browser window is a dropdown bar that offers some additional useful features:
If you pressed the the Ctrl-Alt-Del key combination, or the PrtScn key during a remote session, those keys would actually be applied on your local computer rather than the remote. if you want them to take effect on the remote machine, you can send them using these menu options.
Also, you can control screen options on the remote computer:
What About Privacy and Security?
In their statement about the safety and security of Chrome Remote Desktop, Google states that “all remote desktop sessions are fully encrypted,” and that “no one can see your data, not even Google.”
In doing an internet search about the security of Chrome Remote Desktop, I’ve seen little questioning of the technical safeguards Google provides. The only real hesitation has come from people who simply don’t trust that Google, despite their statement that they can’t see our data, might be able to snoop on users.
It really comes down to whether you trust Google’s integrity or not.
Given the tremendously negative consequences to Google if they were ever found to have breached their promise not to access users' data, I trust them on this.
If you have a need to control a number of computers, give Chrome Remote Desktop a try. For our church, it’s working well and definitely makes managing our widely dispersed computers much easier than it would otherwise be.
* Which photo is from the remote computer? The one on the right.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Can I print on the "controlling" end?
Answer: If I understand your question, you're asking if you can print on your end from a document that's on the remote computer that you are controlling.
Remember that what your remote session is doing is in effect sitting you in front of the remote computer, as if you were there in person. So that computer can't do anything with you controlling it remotely that it couldn't do if you were sitting in front of it. Can you print on your end a document on the remote computer? Only if your network is set up so that you could print to your printer from that computer when it is not being controlled remotely.
© 2014 Ronald E Franklin
Lebogang Mogatwe on January 22, 2020:
I got a problem to connect for chrome replacement and update...software problem Engineer please help me
Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on May 19, 2019:
Yes, both computers must be set up on the same Google account. I'm not sure whether that could be your problem.
sheilabroderick on May 04, 2019:
Hi Ron Great article!
Wonder if you can help me understand why I keep loosing connection on CRD. My computer remains connected but when I connect to the other computer it seems to loose connection. Is there a solution for this? I wonder, do both computer have to be logged into to the same Google account?
Free Career Guide on April 22, 2019:
Nice Post thanks for the information, good information & very helpful for others.
Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on October 18, 2018:
Hi, Vichet. To answer your questions, yes CRD is pretty easy to use, and yes you can have multiple sessions (I've tried it with 2).
Vichet Sen from Phnom Penh, Cambodia on October 18, 2018:
My work needs remote control too. I use Windows remote desktop but found it slow and lag from time to time and it needs to configure windows server service. Then, I try TeamViewer free edition. It is very good. However, after several months of usage, TeamViewer requires commercial license.
I am interested to try Chrome Remote Desktop. Since, I never know about this service. Is it easy to share files? Does it support multiple sessions to a singe machine?
Pam Morris from Atlanta Georgia on October 17, 2018:
Okay, thank you so much for that information, I use Window 10.
Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on October 17, 2018:
Thanks, Pam. Remote desktop is still working well for me. The one thing that has changed is that it no longer works with Windows XP, so you have to be running Win7 or Win10.
Pam Morris from Atlanta Georgia on October 17, 2018:
Ron, what a helpful and inspiring hub. I think I will switch after reading your article. Thank you so much for sharing.
Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on March 14, 2018:
Yes, it's very handy.
Eric Farmer from Rockford Illinois on March 14, 2018:
I have used Google Remote Desktop in the past. It is nice and easy to use.
Mike on February 09, 2018:
I like use LiteManager for free remote desktop. Very simple app and usefull.
Thnks to Ronald for good news!
Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on May 15, 2014:
Hi, brendonfox. My conclusion about LogMeIn was that they didn't get enough people to voluntarily migrate from the free to their paid service. They had previously limited the number of computers you could have on a free account. So, it seems they were trying to stimulate that migration. Thanks for the info on RHUB.
brendonfox on May 14, 2014:
I am surprised why logmein discontinued the free version? It was doing good. Anyway, recently I have discovered another very good alternative; RHUB remote support servers for remotely accessing computers. It provides support up to 1000 computers.
Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on April 07, 2014:
Hi, Sean. I'm glad ScreenConnect is working for you. For us it doesn't meet our first requirement - we need our solution to be free! Thanks for reading and commenting.
Sean on April 07, 2014:
We switched over to ScreenConnect a few weeks ago. Loving it so far.
Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on April 05, 2014:
Thanks, UnnamedHarald. I tried Windows Remote Desktop a few times, but was never able to make it work, even on our LAN, let alone the internet. Now, with XP going away, we have a mix of Windows and Linux boxes. Google has promised full Chrome Remote Desktop compatibility for Linux, though it's not here yet.
David Hunt from Cedar Rapids, Iowa on April 05, 2014:
Very interesting to know. If you had all Windows PCs, could you use Windows Remote Desktop? Though it looks like Chrome Remote allows more central control. Great article, ronelfran.