I hope you had the chance to follow along last week’s Android customization post, where we used Tasker to put one-click action buttons and custom system info right on your Lollipop lock screen. We are shifting gears dramatically this week, we want to look at two of my favorite apps to remotely access and control a PC from Android phones and tablets.
The apps I am about to share with you today may not be the most full functioning, feature rich or friendly to use, but they are simply the overall two best remote desktop apps that I’ve ever used. I might add that I use them frequently, perhaps not every day, but at least three times per week as I am on the road often, with my PC back at the house.
The apps today are Google’s own Chrome Remote Desktop, which is a fairly new player in the Android remote desktop game, only releasing about a year ago. The second app on deck is called TeamViewer, which is the PC to PC remote connection tool I’ve been using for the better part of the last decade, with a newer Android app that has been around for a few years now itself.
Before we begin
Both of our apps today are free to install and use. While Chrome Remote Desktop remains just as free as most Google products are, Teamviewer offers several tiers of service. Don’t worry, TeamViewers paid offerings are focused on business users, the personal use tools are are free and more than capable.
Also, and I hope I can get by without much explanation here, you will need a PC up and running, with the matching apps installed and configured, to be able to remote in from your Android device. I’ll have links to the sites and apps in the sections below.
Chrome Remote Desktop
Let’s start right from the beginning, you need to install and configure Chrome Remote Desktop on your PC before you can access from your Android device. Let me say straight up that this tool is an extension of the Chrome web browser, which you will then also need to have installed on your PC.
Head on over to the Chrome Web Store to grab the extension.
Once installed, fire up the app. You will see two sections, the Remote Assistance section that allows you to give control of your PC or take control of another. The second section is the My Computers section, which offers a shortcut method of accessing your own personal PCs, this is the one you should use for your Android device access.
If you are working with friends or family, or otherwise do not intend to keep full time access to the PC, use the Remote Assistance tool. It creates a one-time use access code that you can use to access the machine from another. This requires that a human be at both devices every time you want to get up and connected, but isn’t really the tool for your Android connection needs.
If this is your PC, and you want to generate a permanent access PIN so that you can access your machine without needing a human to click the buttons on the PC, use the My Computers tool. This requires that your PC and your Android device be logged in using the same Google Account, but the benefits are worth it.
Follow the on screen steps on your PC to start either a temporary or dedicated remote access session, then pick up your Android device and fire up the Remote Desktop app.
Once the app is fired up you will be presented the list of all of your available connected computers. Indicating which are online or not.
Tap on the desired PC.
Enter your PIN and decide if you want your Android device to remember it for later use.
Enjoy your connection, which even supports multiple monitor configurations, as you can see I have in use.
For more info, hit up the Chrome Remote Desktop support pages.
One of the first remote desktop applications I had ever touched after giving up on Microsoft’s built-in tools in Windows, was TeamViewer. I started on the free personal account to manage my web and file server at home while I was at work all day. This was several years before I purchased my first Android phone.
To get started, head on over to the TeamViewer website to download the application for your PC. There are two versions available, the full release allows you to both accept incoming connections and to take control to connect to others from your PC. It is installable and allows you to create a static password for access any time.
The other version of the TeamViewer application is called QuickSupport, this is a simple .exe that does not install on your PC, it simply runs to allow an incoming connection, nothing more.
Fire up either of the TeamViewer applications on your PC and you will be presented with a unique ID for your PC, and a one-time use passcode to connect.
The two versions of the app have migrated to Android as well, you’ll want the one called TeamViewer for Remote Control. I should note that the QuickSupport app for Android is only available for Android 5.0 Lollipop and newer devices.
Open TeamViewer and enter the ID number from the PC you wish to control and click the Remote Control button.
Enter the provided PIN from the PC, or the dedicated passcode if you set that up.
TeamViewer handles multi-screen PCs a little differently, providing a toggle button to control one display at a time. This may sound a little less convenient, but it certainly helps reduce your overall data usage and required connection strength.
While there is so much more that you can do with these two remote desktop applications, and even more that can be done with all of the other apps out there, we will basically call it quits for today.
You can try out file transfers, presenting to more than one other user and more, just for fun.
I hope this week’s Android customization post opens up a new world of mobility for you. Next week will be a toss up folks, I really want to talk about a new feature of the recently updated Tasker, but I’m not ready to commit to that yet. I also want to talk about some of the cool new things you can do with Android M, but I’m not ready for that just yet either. I may not talk about either. Sorry to keep you guessing.
Do you frequently utilize remote desktop software? What app is your favorite?