Control a Mac from a PC with Chrome Remote Desktop

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.
Written by Lance Whitney, Contributor

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.


Chrome Remote Desktop is a handy way to control a Mac from your PC.
(Credit: Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET)

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 it 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 on your Mac, and then running a VNC client on your PC.

But Chrome Remote Desktop can connect you, no matter what 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:

  1. Install Google Chrome on both your PC and Mac if it's not already installed.
  2. Download the Chrome Remote Desktop extension from its page at the Chrome web store, and install it on both computers.
  3. 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 authorisation; click on the Continue button.
  4. The next screen will ask for the necessary permissions for the extension to run; click on the Allow Access button.
  5. The next screen will prompt you to share the computer; click on the Share This Computer button.
  6. You'll then receive an access code that must be entered on your PC in order to control your Mac; write it down.
  7. 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.
  8. At the Chrome Remote Desktop Beta Connect screen, click on the link to access a shared computer.
  9. Type in the access code generated on the Mac, and then click the Connect button.
  10. 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 minimise Chrome on the Mac, but don't close it, otherwise the connection will be lost.
  11. Once you're finished, you simply click on the button that says Disconnect.

The initial process seems lengthy, because you have to grant permission on both sides, but the process runs quicker once you get past that first hurdle.

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 we often rely on when we want to control a Mac Mini without leaving the PC.


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