Monday, October 10, 2011

Remotely Access a Computer With Chrome Remote Desktop Extension

We first reported about "chromoting" more than a year ago. Chromoting is a feature, akin to Microsoft's Remote Desktop Connection, that allows the Chrome browser or computer running the Chrome OS to remotely connect to another computer and access applications running on it. At that time it was little more than a concept. Now with the release of a Chrome extension, the chromoting feature has reached fruition.

The Chrome extension Chrome Remote Desktop BETA allows users to remotely access another computer through the Chrome browser or a Chromebook. The extension is fully cross-platform, so you can connect any two computers that have a Chrome browser, including Windows, Linux, Mac, and Chromebooks.

The goal of this beta release is to demonstrate the core Chrome Remoting technology and get feedback from users. This version enables users to share with or get access to another computer by providing a one-time authentication code. Access is given only to the specific person the user identifies for one time only, and the sharing session is fully secured. One potential use of this version is the remote IT helpdesk case. The helpdesk can use the Chrome Remote Desktop BETA to help another user, while conversely a user can receive help by setting up a sharing session without leaving their desk. Additional use cases such as being able to access your own computer remotely are coming soon.

How to use Chrome Remote Desktop

In order to allow remote access you need to install the extension on both machines that needs to be connected, and then authorize the extension to access your computer. The authorization is carried out through your Google account. You can use the same Gmail account if you own both machines or use two different accounts. You can also revoke access to your Google account at any time from your account settings under your Google+ profile.


After the authorization, click on ‘Share this computer’ button on the remote machine.


This generates a one-time authentication code.


On the ‘control’ machine, click on ‘access a shared computer’ link just below the ‘Share this computer’ button and enter the authentication code.


Once connection is established, the system that is remotely being accessed will receive a notification that the connection is made and the Gmail address of the user/machine that is connected to the computer. The notification window remains on top of all other windows. To disconnect the session simply click on the Stop Sharing button in Chrome or the Disconnect button in the notification windows.


From the ‘control’ machine you can now fully access and interact with the remote target machine. The interaction is played out in almost real-time, depending on the network lag, inside the Chrome browser on the control machine and you can see the same actions on the remote machine as well.

For those who want to take a look behind the scenes, the source code of the chromoting feature is available here.


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