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ISSUE 17.39.F • 2020-10-05

 

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The AskWoody Newsletter
FREE EDITION

In this issue

REMOTE ACCESS: How to use Chrome Remote Desktop

BEST OF THE LOUNGE: Get the September 2020 patches installed

Additional articles in the PLUS issue

LANGALIST: Updated: A textbook-perfect Win10 reinstall

SHORTS: An audio problem in Win10, a forgotten app, and a Dropbox update

INDEX: AskWoody Plus Newsletters: January through September

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REMOTE ACCESS

How to use Chrome Remote Desktop

Lance Whitney

By Lance Whitney

There are plenty of apps for connecting two devices. Google’s Chrome Remote Desktop offers a simple, free, and no-frills approach to remote access.

As you might expect, Chrome Remote Desktop (CRD) is cross-platform; there are versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can also connect to a “host” system from an iPhone, iPad, or Android device via mobile apps. Use the app to remotely access your home or work machine, or to provide someone else with support and/or troubleshooting help.

Setting up Chrome Remote Desktop

To use CRD, you need two things: the Chrome browser and a Google account. (No surprise there.) The setup process starts with installing the CRD app and Chrome extension on the host computer (the machine you want to access.) Launch the Chrome browser and open the “chrome remote desktop” page. If prompted, sign in to your Google account. You should now see the window shown in Figure 1. Click the download button.

Set up remote access
Figure 1. Installing Chrome Remote Desktop starts with pressing the download button.

The next window displays the message: “Ready to install.” Click the Accept & Install button shown in Figure 2.

Ready to install
Figure 2. The second window in the CRD installation process

The next window (Figure 3) requests that you give the host system a name, which will eventually show up on the remote (aka “guest”) device. You can stick with the default name, if it makes sense. (It won’t if you have several identical systems.) Click Next.

Choose a name
Figure 3. Each host system will need a unique name.

You’ll now be asked to enter a PIN that remote systems will use to access the host (Figure 4). The PIN must contain at least six digits.

Choose a PIN
Figure 4. Be sure to uncheck the “Help improve Chrome Remote Desktop … ” box if you don’t want telemetry data sent back to Google.

Now segue to the remote/guest computer you wish to use to access the host. Sign in to your Google account and open the CRD access page. Here, you have two options: 1) Immediately launch a remote-access session with the listed host, or 2) install CRD on the guest system (repeating the steps above). Figure 5 shows a prompt to set up CRD on the second PC. Installing CRD on each machine gives a better remote-computing experience. It also allows both systems to be either a guest or a host.

Install CRD on remote machine
Figure 5. You can skip setting up CRD on the remote system and connect immediately to the host.

The view from the host system is shown in Figure 6. In this case, CRD was installed on the second remote system, so it can act as a host, too.


Figure 6. The main CRD screen showing two systems online

Start a remote-access session

When you launch Chrome Remote Desktop, the main screen will display available hosts. Important: You’ll see only guests and hosts that are signed in under the same Google account.

To start a remote-access session, click a listed remote device and enter its PIN. To save time with future sessions, you can tick the checkbox to remember the PIN. That’s okay if both host and guest are in the same secure location. Otherwise, leave that option unchecked for better security.

You should soon see the host system’s desktop in a new Chrome browser tab, and your local keyboard and mouse will now control the host system: navigate windows, launch programs, and work with files.

If someone is sitting at the host machine, they can continue to use it as well. That’s useful when you’re trying to help someone with a computing issue or when troubleshooting system problems. (They can also click a “Stop Sharing” button to end the session.) Here’s a bonus: If you’re playing audio (say, music) on one machine, it’ll also play on the connected system.

To enhance your view of the host system, CRD offers various options for tweaking connection and display elements. Move your mouse to the right edge of the browser screen and click the blue circle with the left arrow. An options dock appears on the right (Figure 7).

Session Options
Figure 7. The Session options box offers a robust collection of customization settings.

You can, for example, switch to “Full-screen” mode, which hides Chrome’s toolbars and tabs. Or toggle “Scale to fit” on or off to better see the size of the remote session. The “Resize to fit” option changes the resolution of the remote session to match that of the guest. Uncheck “Smooth scaling” if you’re having trouble reading the host’s text.

If you want to share items copied to the clipboard between the two computers, click Begin under “Enable clipboard synchronization.”

“Input controls” lets you send command keystrokes such as Ctrl + Alt + Del and Print Screen. You can also configure key mappings in order to remap a local key to a different host key.

I recommend ticking “Press and hold left shift to access options” for faster access to the Sessions options box. “Relative mouse mode” limits mouse activity to the remote session screen, which might be necessary for certain types of programs.

CRD supports hosts with multiple screens. Under Displays, you can switch between all screens or specific screens. That can be a big help if your guest device is a notebook. Under “File Transfer,” you can upload or download a file between the host and guest systems.

Back at the top of the options dock, click the left arrow to move it to the left side of the screen. If you want to make Session options always visible, click the pin icon (see Figure 8). To disconnect the remote session, just close its Chrome tab.

Pin dock option
Figure 8. The Session options box can be moved to the left edge of the screen and pinned in place.

Support options

You can give someone else permission to access your machine. To do so, go back to the home CRD screen (where you start new sessions) and click Remote Support. Under Get Support, click the GENERATE CODE button (Figure 9).

Generate code button
Figure 9. Use GENERATE CODE to give another system access to your local machine.

Share that one-time code with the person you wish to grant access to your computer. That person must also launch Chrome and open the page for Chrome Remote Desktop. They then click Remote Support and enter the access code under “Give Support (see Figure 10). To start the session, click the Connect button. On your machine (the host), you’ll get a popup box requesting your permission to complete the link. Click Share, and the connection is established.

One-time access code
Figure 10. A one-time access code lets others connect to your host system.

The process for setting up and using Chrome Remote Desktop on a Mac or Linux machine is essentially the same as for Windows. To use Chrome Remote Desktop on a mobile device, download the app from the Apple App Store (iPhones and iPads) or, for Androids, from Google Play. Open the app and sign in with your Google account. You’ll then see the names of your host computer(s). Tap the name of the machine you wish to access.

Questions or comments? Feedback on this article is always welcome in the AskWoody Lounge!

Lance Whitney is a freelance technology reporter and former IT professional. He’s written for CNET, TechRepublic, PC Magazine, and other publications. He’s authored a book on Windows and another about LinkedIn.


Best of the Lounge

Get the September 2020 patches installed

Da Boss woody has given his stamp of — if not approval — at least assent on September’s updates. At this point, they’re safe enough to install. Fellow Loungers report no major issues on their PCs.

And a couple of forum members are happy to note that the updates were flawless — on their Windows 8.1 machines.


Distance Learning

Kindergarten teacher Kendra Capen gave a first-hand view of this new era in Internet schooling. Forum members contributed their thoughts on the difficulties of distance learning. How are you coping with this challenging task?


Windows 10

Patch Lady Susan Bradley posted a link to a tweet by SwiftOnSecurity, who asked that deceptively simple question. Forum MVP Ascaris responded with a lengthy list of desirable changes to Microsoft’s pre-eminent OS. Do you agree? Tell us what sort of Windows you’d like to see.


Apple

MVP Nathan Parker gives us the highlights of the recent Apple virtual conference. September is always an interesting and eventful month for Apple aficionados.


Security

Da Boss woody points us to an Ars Technica article about new peril when paying to recover your encrypted data — fines from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. This truly adds insult to injury.


Windows 2004

When Plus member WSlavoro‘s HP installed Win10 2004, system performance went severely south. Rolling back to the previous version was one recommendation. But the culprit wasn’t Windows … it was out-of-date backup software.


Linux

MVP Microfix is looking for input on packaging formats Snap, Flatpak, and AppImage. Which do you use?


If you’re not already a Lounge member, use the quick registration form to sign up for free.

Stories in this week’s PAID AskWoody Plus Newsletter
Become an ASKWOODY PLUS member today!

 

Fred Langa

LANGALIST

Updated: A textbook-perfect Win10 reinstall

By Fred Langa

Here’s a fresh look at a from-scratch, “down to bare metal,” manual reinstall that goes far beyond Win10’s built-in Reset options.

In fact, it’s the best way to virtually guarantee that your Windows setup is 100 percent pristine and as close to perfect as possible.


TB Capen

SHORTS

An audio problem in Win10, a forgotten app, and a Dropbox update

By TB Capen

Controlling audio in Windows has always been one of those things that should be really simple — but aren’t.

On a typical PC, there are often separate volume controls for Windows, apps such as Spotify and iTunes, and websites such as YouTube.

Recently, I ran into another audio problem that really had me flummoxed.


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INDEX

AskWoody Plus Newsletters: January through September

Looking for an AskWoody Plus Newsletter article from this year? You’ll find it in our quarterly index.


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