Need to connect to and control a Mac from your PC? One quick and easy solution can be found in Google's Chrome Remote Desktop feature.
Released as a beta early last month, the Chrome Remote Desktop extension lets you connect to one computer from another directly through the browser. From there, you can control the other computer using your mouse and keyboard.
Of course, remote desktop software is nothing new. Microsoft includes its Remote Desktop Connection in Windows. It also offers a Mac version of the software, but that one only lets you connect to a PC from your Mac, not the other way around. There are certain options for going from PC to Mac, such as setting up a VNC (virtual network computing) connection in your Mac and then running a VNC client on your PC.
But Chrome Remote Desktop can connect you no matter which computers reside on both ends. And as such, it's an effective way to control a Mac from your PC without having to configure a variety of settings and download other software.
You can set up such a connection by going through the following steps:
- First install Google Chrome on both your PC and Mac if it's not already installed.
- Next download the Chrome Remote Desktop extension from its page at the Chrome Web store and install it on both computers.
- After installation, launch Chrome on your Mac and click on the + button at the top to open a new tab. You should see a page displaying any software and extensions that have been installed in Chrome. Click on the one for Chrome Remote Desktop. The first time you do this, you'll receive a message asking for authorization. Click on the Continue button.
- The next screen will ask for the necessary permissions for the extension to run. Click on the Allow Access button.
- The next screen will prompt you to share the computer. Click on the Share this Computer button.
- You'll then receive an access code that must be entered on your PC in order to control your Mac. Write down that code.
- Next launch Chrome on your PC. Click on the new Tab button and click on the icon for the Chrome Remote Desktop. Again, the first time you run the extension, you'll need to grant permission for the extension to run.
- At the Chrome Remote Desktop BETA Connect screen, click on the link to access a shared computer.
- Type in the access code generated on the Mac and then click the Connect button.
- You should now see your Mac displayed in the Chrome browser on your PC. As with any remote desktop application, you can use your mouse and keyboard to move around, open applications, access features, create documents, and do virtually anything else you want. You can also minimize Chrome on the Mac but don't close it otherwise the connection will be lost.
- Once you're finished, you simply click on the button that says Disconnect.
Chrome Remote Desktop can connect any two computers over the Internet, not just on the same network. So, for example, you can use this to remotely connect to the computer of a friend or family member to help troubleshoot a problem. Of course, since it does run over the public Internet, there are always security concerns. People who may not want this accessible all the time can uninstall the extension and reinstall it when needed, but of course then you have to repeat the initial process each time.
Overall, Chrome Remote Desktop works smoothly. It doesn't offer some of the bells and whistles and advanced options found in other remote control programs. But it's a quick and simple solution for PC and Mac users and one I often rely on when I want to control my Mac Mini without leaving my PC.
Lance Whitney wears a few different technology hats--journalist, Web developer, and software trainer. He's a contributing editor for Microsoft TechNet Magazine and writes for other computer publications and Web sites. Lance is a member of the CNET Blog Network, and he is not an employee of CNET.