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Tech how-to: Control your computer using your phone

Have you ever found yourself digging for a file in class or a work meeting, only to realize what you need is on your home computer? That problem can feel insurmountable — especially during a time crunch.

You might be able to get someone else to locate and send it to you, or if you’re a computer whiz, you may know some complicated method to retrieve it. But there must be an easier, safer way. After all, choosing the wrong remote desktop app could spell disaster (and hard-to-remove ransomware).

There are many reasons you’d need to access your desktop when you’re not in front of it. You could have files stored on the hard drive instead of the cloud, or you could need access to a media file that isn’t saved elsewhere. There are ways to safely access and control your computer via your phone — you just need to know what they are and how to use them.

Chrome Remote Desktop

Google Chrome Remote Desktop is one of the options for accessing and controlling your computer remotely. This free service makes it easy to access what you need on your computer from your phone.

You’ll only have to add the Remote Desktop extension to your computer to make it accessible from another device, and all remote desktop sessions are fully encrypted.

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You can use Google Chrome Remote Desktop if you need to sign in to your personal or work computer from another location, and you can also use it to sign in to someone else’s computer. This can be helpful if you’re the family computer genius and need to fix an issue plaguing someone else.

You can use the Chrome browser and the Remote Desktop extension. And you can download the Chrome Remote Desktop app for iOS or Android.

To set up Remote Desktop on your computer:

Before you use Remote Desktop, you’ll need to add the extension to your computer to allow access from your other devices.

  1. Open Chrome.
  2. In the address bar, type
  3. Tap the download button that looks like a downward arrow under Set up remote access. 
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions to download and install Chrome Remote Desktop.

To access a computer remotely:

  1. Open Chrome on the secondary device you’re using to access your computer.
  2. In the address bar, type
  3. Click Access to select which computer you want.
  4. Enter the PIN required to access another computer.
  5. Select the arrow to connect.
  6. Close your tab or toggle to Options > Disconnect to stop your remote session when you’re finished.

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Microsoft Remote Desktop

Microsoft Remote Desktop works similarly to Chrome Remote Access. If you need to access a different computer from a remote location, Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection tool allows you to do that.

You can use this service to grab a file, open an app, or do anything else you need to do. This service allows you to access multiple computers over the same network and works with VPNs.

This service is built into Microsoft Office. You can also access and control a computer from a non-Windows device if you download Microsoft’s RDC app. The app is available for Mac, iOS, and Android.

To set up Remote Desktop:

  1. Make sure you have Windows 10 Pro or the app downloaded.
  2. Select Start > Settings > System > Remote Desktop.
  3. Tap Enable Remote Desktop.
  4. Note the name of the PC under How to connect to this PC.

To use Remote Desktop on your mobile device:

  1. Open the Remote Desktop app.
  2. Add the name of the PC that you want to connect to. 
  3. Select the remote PC name you added, then wait for the connection to complete.


TeamViewer is another good option for remotely controlling another computer from your phone, and in most cases, it’s free for noncommercial users. This software allows for Internet-based remote access and support, and you can connect to any PC or server to control it from wherever you are.

To install the TeamViewer software:

  1. Install the TeamViewer app on your Android or iOS device.
  2. On the computer you want to connect to, download TeamViewer QuickSupport.
  3. Enter the ID from the QuickSupport app into the ID field and connect.

To remotely connect with TeamViewer:

  1. Launch TeamViewer from the secondary device and log in.
  2. Choose the computer you need to access from the My Partners list.
  3. Close the window to end the session.

Being without critical files when you need them most can be super inconvenient. But don’t panic. Use one of these helpful remote access tools and you’ll have the files you need in front of you in no time.

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