Monday, March 21, 2016

Chrome Remote Desktop - A Better VPN and RDP Solution

About Chrome Remote Desktop

Remote desktop is one of the great ways to access data from offsite because it not only gives you access to your data, it also gives you access to your applications. So, if you've got applications which you don't have at home, on your laptop, phone, android or ipad, then remote desktop is the answer.

Unfortunately, the key to remote desktop is (usually) having a good VPN.  VPNs rely upon infrastructure and they need to be secure. For example PPTP VPNs are so insecure that they typically last under a minute in the wild.

The more secure VPNs, like Shrew, are more robust but offer little compatibility for other types of devices, like Macs, iOS, Linux and Android.

There's a few good point to point remote desktop solutions about though and these don't need a VPN. Even better, some, like the Google Chrome Remote Desktop are constantly being updated (as if simply being "free" wasn't good enough.

The other thing that I like about Chrome Remote Desktop is that it has three factor authentication;

  • You have to be logged into your Google Account in order to see the remote PC
  • You have to enter a pin number
  • You have to enter the password for the PC or Domain.

Sure, there are some limitations, such as sloppy copy and paste between the systems, some less than intuitive controls and some refresh delays but overall it's a quick and easy way to get a remote session going.

Getting Chrome Remote Desktop

To get Chrome remote desktop, use the Chrome Browser and browse  to the Chrome Web Store. Type in Chrome Remote Desktop and it should be the first item you see.  Click Add to Chrome and follow the prompts.

You'll want to install it on the computer to be controlled AND the computer you'll be controlling from. If you're using a phone or a tablet, you'll want to get it from the relevant App Store or Google Play store.

Enabling Your Computer for Remote Desktop

On the computer to be controlled, click on the Google Apps Bar.  If you have a lot of apps, you might have to do some scrolling.

Locate the Chrome Remote Desktop App and choose it.

It will open to a dialog screen.

If you're doing a one-off share, perhaps helping a family member, then you should teach them to get to that screen and click Share this computer.  They'll be able to do a temporary share (it will generate a pin and ask the remote user to enter it).

For a permanent share, you need to put your own pin in. I'd suggest that it should be more than 4 digits long.




Enabling Curtain Mode

One of the troubling things about Chrome Remote Desktop is that by default it shows your screen to others while you are working. This is by design because it's primarily an instructional screen-sharing tool.

One your home computer, this probably doesn't matter.  In fact, you're probably using C.R.D. to help the less computer literate members of your family.  In the workplace however, this is a different matter altogether.

In order to use Chrome Remote desktop in the workplace, you really need to enable "Curtain Mode". Unfortunately the instructions for this aren't very clear -- hence this post.

First of all you'll need admin rights to your Windows computer.

Next, fire up the Registry editor (if you don't know that you can click Start, Run  and type Regedit, then maybe you shouldn't be in the registry -- it's a dangerous place to be).

Navigate to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Google\Chrome

Chances are, you won't find it. In fact, you'll probably only get as far as

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies

That's okay.  We can create it from there.


Right-click on Policies and Choose New, Key.  Name the Google (and press Enter).
You now have a Google Key.

Click on the Google Key.
Right-click on the Google Key and choose New, Key.  Name the new key Chrome (and press Enter).
Now we need to create the DWORD Value. 


Find some space in the right hand pane and right click on it.
Choose New, DWORD Value.
If you're running on a 64 bit system, it will probably say DWORD (32-bit) Value.

This creates a new value.
Name it.  RemoteAccessHostRequireCurtain

Now, double-click on the new DWORD value and a dialog box will appear.
Type 1 as the value and click Okay.

Now, you'll just need to reboot your machine and it should all work.




2 comments:

Wayne Guth said...

Thanks for the clear instructions. I
t does seem a bit difficult to use the curtain mode. I Wonder why Google has not made it easy?
At any rate, I appreciate your time.

Amit Misra said...

Yeah, chrome remote desktop is good. Additionally, you may also try alternatives such as R-HUB remote support servers http://www.rhubcom.com/v5/remote-support.html. It provides a simple and easy to use interface and works on all platforms viz Windows, MAC, Android, iOS etc.