If you’re in front of your computer and need to access a different machine, Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection tool will let you access everything from afar.
As long as the computer is turned on and set up for remote connection, you can grab a file, open an application, troubleshoot a problem, or just work remotely.
Through RDC, you can remotely access multiple computers over the same network, whether they are elsewhere in your household or at the office.
If you remotely log into your employer’s network through a VPN, you can also use it to connect to other PCs in your office or business.
Remote Desktop Connection is built into Windows but also exists as a Windows 10 Universal app in the Microsoft Store. If you want to access and control a computer from a non-Windows device, Microsoft’s RDC app is available for Mac, iOS, and Android.
Set Up Remote Desktop Connection
First, you or someone else must physically sign into the PC you want to remotely access. Turn on Remote Desktop on this computer by opening Settings > System > Remote Desktop. Turn on the switch next to “Enable Remote Desktop.” Click Confirm to enable the setting.
It’s easier than ever to share your desktop, with many free remote access tools available. Here are the best remote screen sharing tools for Windows.
The Coronavirus of 2020 saw Zoom shoot to prominence in homes and businesses around the world. Friends used it to keep in touch, businesses used it to keep their employees on track and schools used it to provide education in the absence of physical classroom time.
One of the major features of Zoom is its support for screen sharing and remote access. If you are running the Windows desktop app, participants can take control of each other screens in order to provide support or show guidance (it’s just one of many cool features on the Zoom platform).
To take control of someone else’s screen in Zoom, go to View Options > Request Remote Control > Request and wait for the other person to accept.
Zoom is free to download and use up to a maximum of 100 meeting participants. You don’t even need to make an account on Zoom to join in, simply enter the meeting code when prompted.
To learn more about Zoom, check out our Zoom vs. Houseparty comparison and our list of top Zoom alternatives.
Download: Zoom (Free)
TeamViewer is perhaps the most well-known of all the third-party tools available. It’s over 10 years old and has a loyal base of users.
It doesn’t just specialize in screen-sharing and remote-access. The software also lets users transfer files between connected PCs, conduct web conferences, and make online presentations.
By default, you need to enter a PIN code to connect to someone else’s machine. However, if you regularly connect to the same group of computers you can create a group within your account, thus allowing one-click access.
Unlike some of its competitors, the software also allows group sessions. When in a group session, you can easily pass control of a machine between users, rather than only allowing a one-way session.
As well as working on Windows, TeamViewer is also one of the best screen sharing apps for Android and iPhone.
Download: TeamViewer (Free)
Chrome Remote Desktop
Chrome Remote Desktop has one glaring drawback—both computers need to have the Chrome browser installed. If you use an alternative browser, you should look elsewhere.
However, if you use Chrome and you’re looking for an easy-to-set-up, no-frills remote access tool, you would struggle to find a better option. Google has aimed the software at home users who need to share computer screens for some quick troubleshooting or file access; it lacks the advanced features of some of the other options on this list.
Install the extension from the Chrome Web Store, connect the two PCs using the automatically-generated access code, and you’ll be up and running in seconds. You can permanently link together two computers if you need regular access.
Alternatively, you can head to remotedesktop.google.com and make the connection via the web app. The extension has slightly more features, such as an extended list of supported keyboard shortcuts.
Download: Chrome Remote Desktop (Free)
Microsoft Remote Desktop
Microsoft Remote Desktop is the native Windows screen-sharing solution. It uses the propriety Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) technology.
Even though Microsoft has built it into the OS, it’s not the easiest (or best) option for screen sharing on Windows. Its biggest problem is that RDP servers are only available on Windows Professional and above; you won’t be able to connect to anyone who is running the Home version of the operating system.
Beginners might also find the app difficult to set up. If you want to connect to machines outside your home network, you need to know the IP address of the person you want to connect to and configure their router to accept incoming remote desktop connections.
Ultimately, it’s important to understand Microsoft Remote Desktop is designed for office use, not home use. If you want to troubleshoot a family member’s PC, look elsewhere.
Download: Microsoft Remote Desktop (Free)
Other Useful Screen Sharing Apps
Some chat apps let you share your screen with other users. For example, did you know you could share your screen on Skype?
You can also do screen sharing via Google Hangouts, Discord, Facetime, and more. If you already use one such app, you might not need to download any of the separate software we have discussed in this article.
A Warning When Using Remote Access Software
Firstly, hackers often use these types of apps in tech support scams. Someone will call your house and encourage you to install their app of choice. As soon as you do, they have complete access to everything on your machine. As such, make sure you only give access to people you know and implicitly trust.
Secondly, if you use an account to log into the app, it is hackable. TeamViewer was a victim of such a hack in mid-2016