Google's Chrome Remote Desktop sheds beta tag, adds new features

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Google’s Chrome Remote Desktop, a free browser add-on for Chrome is officially out of beta, and to celebrate, the search giant has added two new features to the service.

Chrome Remote Desktop provides exactly what it sounds like—the ability to gain full access to another desktop PC running Windows (Vista and above including Windows 8), OS X (OS X 10.6 and above), or Linux (including Chrome OS) operating systems via the Internet. Chrome Remote Desktop is not available on the Android oriOS versions of Google’s browser.

Mac and Windows users can grab essential files stuck on a PC back at home through Remote Desktop, and all three PC platforms can use the add-on to provide tech support for a family member or friend living far away.

As part of Chrome Remote Desktop’s official release, Google added the ability to copy and paste between two remotely connected computers; Windows users can now share audio in real time. It’s not clear if the audio feature will be coming to Mac and Linux users in the near future, but Google says it has more functionality planned for Remote Desktop.

The search giant peeled off Remote Desktop’s beta tag on this week after first introducing the feature in October 2011.

Getting started

If you’d like to give the service a try, install Chrome Remote Desktop from the Chrome Web Store on every computer you want to access remotely. Once it’s installed, you need to set up Chrome Remote Desktop by opening an empty tab and clicking on the Remote Desktop icon. You will then be asked to give Chrome the permissions it needs to access your desktop via the Internet. If you have multiple Google accounts, you will also be asked to tie all your personal Remote Desktop machines to one of those accounts.

Chrome Remote Desktop’s start screen

After you’ve clicked through the permissions, you’ll see the service’s default start screen with two options: Remote Assistance and My Computers (Mac and Windows only). Remote Assistance lets you start a screen sharing session by either accessing a friend or family member’s desktop or letting someone else access your desktop.

If you choose to share your desktop, you’ll be provided with a 12-digit access code to give to the person you’re sharing with. If you are accessing someone else’s desktop, the other person will have to give the access code to you.

My Computers lets you gain remote access to your personal machines for those times when you need to grab files from a PC at home or work. This feature may take a few minutes to set up; it requires you to set a PIN for each machine. Once the set-up is complete, you will see a list of all your computer’s names whenever you are signed in to Chrome from a PC. Don’t forget that remote access to personal machines is tied together through a single Google account. When connected, remote desktops will appear in a Chrome tab as if they were a Web page, and you also have the choice to view the remote desktop in full screen mode.

While Remote Desktop is sure to come in handy, keep in mind this service provides full access to a remote PC. You can use Chrome Remote Desktop to access and edit Control Panel settings on a Windows machine, install apps, and power down the PC remotely. That’s a lot of power to give to someone else, so choose your screen sharing partners wisely.

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