We apply two different strategies for solving unsteady distributed optimal control problems governed by diffusion-convection-reaction equations. In the first approach, the optimality system is transformed into a biharmonic equation in the space time domain. The system is then discretized in space and time simultaneously and solved by an equation-based finite element package, i.e., COMSOL Multiphysics. The second approach is a classical gradient-based optimization method to solve the state and adjoint equations and the optimality condition iteratively. The convection-dominated state and adjoint equations are stabilized using the streamline upwind/Petrov-Galerkin (SUPG) method. Numerical results show favorable accuracy and efficiency of the two strategies for unstabilized and stabilized numerical solutions. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.