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How to Remotely Access Your Mac

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Last updated: October 24, 2023

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TL;DR

To remotely access your Mac, you can use built-in tools and third-party apps. You can use macOS built-in tools for remote access, like Screen Sharing, Apple Remote Desktop, and Remote Login, or use third-party tools like TeamViewer and Google Chrome Remote Desktop.

Key Points

  • macOS Screen Sharing is VNC compatible, allowing connections from devices with a VNC app.
  • Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) is ideal for managing and accessing multiple Macs.
  • By enabling Screen Sharing on your Mac and using a VNC viewer, you can access and control your Mac from a Windows PC.
  • macOS Remote Login provides a secure, text-based interface for advanced users.

In our fast-paced, digital world, being tethered to one location just doesn’t cut it. Imagine accessing your favorite macOS tools or that crucial file from a beach in Bali or a café in Paris! With remote access, this isn’t just a dream—it’s reality.

This concise guide will show you how to remotely access your Mac from anywhere in the world. Ready to bridge the distance and revolutionize the way you work and play? Let’s dive in!

How to Allow Remote Access on Your Mac

macOS offers a variety of methods to remotely access your Mac. Some are simple, and others have more steps. In the next section, I’ll show you these methods and share the steps for each. Let’s get started!

1. Via Screen Sharing

If you have a Mac with OS X 10.5 (Leopard) or a newer version, it comes with the built-in Screen Sharing feature. This allows for effortless remote access from another Mac within the same network.

Plus, it’s VNC (Virtual Network Computing) compatible, an established standard for remote connections. This compatibility ensures you can link up using any device equipped with a VNC application.

Follow these steps to access your Mac from another Mac within the same network via Screen Sharing:

  1. Click the Apple icon and select System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click General and select Sharing.
click general and select sharing
  1. Toggle on the Screen Sharing switch.
toggle on the screen sharing option
  1. Enter your username and password and click Modify Settings.
enter your username and password and click modify settings
  1. Click the small i button next to Screen Sharing.
click the small i next to screen sharing
  1. In the Allow access for section, select the users you’d like to grant access to.
choose all users or only these users
  1. Make a note of your Mac’s name and IP address for reference.
your computer name and network address
  1. On the secondary Mac, launch a Finder window. Then, from the top menu, choose Go > Connect to Server.
  2. Input the IP address of the primary Mac and hit Connect.

Voilà! You should now see and be able to remotely operate your Mac through the Screen Sharing application on the second Mac.

How to Access Your Mac From a Non-Mac Device Over Your Local Network

The above steps work if you’re accessing your primary Mac from another Mac. But if you want to remotely access your Mac from a non-Mac device, the steps are slightly different.

Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Click the Apple icon and select System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click General and select Sharing.
click general and select sharing
  1. Click the small i button next to Screen Sharing.
click the small i next to screen sharing
  1. Click the Computer Settings button.
click the computer settings button
  1. Check the box next to VNC viewers may control screen with password and click OK.
check the box next to vnc viewers may control screen with password and click ok
  1. In the Allow access for section, select the users you’d like to grant access to.
choose all users or only these users
  1. Make a note of your Mac’s name and IP address for reference.
your computer name and network address
  1. Input your Mac’s IP address into a VNC application on the device you’re using. Then, sign in using the password you’ve set.

2. Using Apple Remote Desktop

Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) is Apple’s proprietary solution for remote administration. It’s a powerful tool for accessing your Mac remotely and managing multiple Mac computers, whether in the next room or across the globe.

Here’s how to set it up and use it to remotely access your Mac:

  1. Buy and install Apple Remote Desktop from the Mac App Store.
  2. To set it up on the host Mac, go to System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click General and select Sharing.
click general and select sharing
  1. Toggle on the Remote Management switch.
toggle on the remote management switch
  1. Click the small i button next to Remote Management.
click the small i button next to remote management
  1. Choose which users you want to grant remote access to or select All Users.
choose all users or specific ones in remote management settings
  1. Click the Options… button on the next window.
click the options button in remote management settings
  1. A new window will appear. Check the boxes next to the tasks that remote users are allowed to perform, such as controlling the screen, viewing files, or restarting the device. Click OK.
check boxes next to the tasks you want to allow and click ok
  1. To connect from another Mac, open Apple Remote Desktop on the secondary Mac.
  2. In the sidebar, your host Mac should appear. If not, click the + icon and add it using its IP address or network name.
  3. Double-click the desired Mac, and when prompted, enter the username and password for one of the allowed users.
  4. Once connected, you can control the remote Mac as if sitting in front of it. ARD also offers features like file transfer, software installation, and detailed system reports.

How to Control Your Mac From Another Mac

With Screen Sharing activated (as discussed in the previous section), it’s a breeze to manage one Mac from another within the same local network using the Finder. Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Launch a Finder window.
  2. In the menu bar, click Go and select Network.
click go and select network
  1. If your Mac is on the same network, it will appear in this Network view.
  2. To initiate a remote connection, click the desired MacBook name.
  3. You’ll be prompted to enter your username and password. Remember, these are the same details you use when starting your Mac.
  4. After inputting your credentials, the Screen Sharing tool will launch, displaying the desktop of the Mac you’re accessing.

In the scenarios I’ve covered, both Macs are part of the same local network. However, you can also achieve this from a distant network if the right routing is set up. For instance, if you connect to your office network from home using a VPN, you’ll be on that network and can leverage these complementary Mac functionalities.

How to Remote Access Your Mac From a Windows PC

Accessing your Mac from a Windows PC might seem like a challenge given the different operating systems, but it’s entirely feasible with the right tools.

Here’s how to remotely access your Mac from a Windows PC:

  1. Enable Screen Sharing on your Mac by going to the Apple menu and selecting System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click General and select Sharing.
click general and select sharing
  1. Toggle on the Screen Sharing switch.
toggle on the screen sharing option
  1. Click the small i button next to Screen Sharing.
click the small i next to screen sharing
  1. Make a note of your Mac’s name and IP address.
your computer name and network address

Next, set up a VNC viewer on your Windows PC. There are several VNC viewers available for Windows, such as RealVNC, TightVNC, or UltraVNC. Once you’ve downloaded and installed a VNC viewer, follow these steps:

  1. Launch the VNC viewer and enter the IP address of your Mac.
  2. You’ll be prompted to enter the username and password of your Mac.
  3. Once the credentials are entered, click Connect or the equivalent button.
  4. You should now see your Mac’s screen on your Windows PC and be able to control it remotely.

Best Remote Access Tools for Mac

Below, I’ve shared some of the best tools to remotely access your Mac. Each of these tools offers unique features catering to different needs. Whether you’re an individual user, a small business, or a large enterprise, there’s a remote access solution on this list that’s perfect for you.

1. Apple Remote Desktop

Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) is Apple’s official remote management tool designed for Macs. It’s robust, offering a suite of features beyond just remote access. ARD allows for screen sharing, software distribution, remote assistance, detailed system reports, and more. It’s particularly useful for IT professionals managing multiple Macs.

Use Case: Ideal for businesses or educational institutions where centralized control and monitoring of Macs are required.

2. TeamViewer

TeamViewer is a globally recognized remote access and support solution that works across multiple platforms, including Mac, Windows, Linux, and mobile devices. It offers file transfer, VPN functionality, remote printing, and even whiteboard capabilities. It’s encrypted for security and allows for spontaneous and unattended access.

Use Case: Perfect for IT support teams, collaboration between teams, or individuals needing to access their devices from anywhere.

3. Device Management Software

These are comprehensive tools designed for businesses to manage, monitor, and secure devices, including Macs. They often include remote access, software deployment, security protocols, and inventory tracking.

Use Case: Large enterprises or organizations with a fleet of devices that require consistent monitoring and updates.

4. macOS Screen Sharing

A built-in feature of macOS, Screen Sharing allows users to view and control their Mac remotely from another Mac. Simple screen sharing without the need for additional software. It offers a straightforward interface and easy setup.

Use Case: Ideal for individuals or small teams needing basic remote access without additional features.

5. Google Chrome Remote Desktop

A free tool by Google, Chrome Remote Desktop allows you to remotely access your computer via the Chrome browser or a Chromebook. It’s cross-platform, easy to set up, and doesn’t require any software installation if you already have the Chrome browser. It’s secured through a PIN.

Use Case: Suitable for individuals or businesses on a budget, needing a quick and easy remote access solution.

6. macOS Remote Login

Remote Login is a macOS feature that allows users to connect to their Mac using SSH (Secure Shell). It provides a secure, text-based interface to manage and control your Mac remotely. It’s ideal for advanced users familiar with command-line operations.

Use Case: Best for IT professionals or advanced users who need to run specific commands or scripts remotely.

Why Would You Want to Remotely Access Your Mac?

Remotely accessing your Mac is about breaking geographical barriers, enhancing productivity, and ensuring you’re always connected to your personal or work-related resources, no matter where life takes you.

Some common reasons to remotely access your Mac are as follows:

  1. 🌍 Work Flexibility: In the era of remote work and digital nomadism, accessing your primary computer from anywhere ensures you can work efficiently, regardless of your location.
  2. 📂 Retrieve Files: Forgot an important document at home? Remote access eliminates the panic, allowing you to fetch any file from your Mac without physically being in front of it.
  3. 🖥️ Software Access: Some software or applications might be exclusive to your Mac. Remote access lets you use these tools from any device, whether a Windows PC, tablet, or smartphone.
  4. 🛠️ Technical Support: If you’re the go-to tech person in your family or circle, remote access allows you to troubleshoot issues on the Mac without being physically present.
  5. 🔒 Security: Accessing sensitive files through a direct connection to your Mac can be more secure than transferring them over email or cloud storage, especially if the connection is encrypted.
  6. 🔄 Monitoring: If you have processes, downloads, or updates running on your Mac and want to check their progress while away, remote access provides a real-time view.

Remotely Access Your Mac From Any Device

The ability to access your Mac from anywhere is not just a perk—it’s a game-changer. With the methods and tools I’ve explored, you’re now equipped to bridge the distance and make your Mac’s resources available at your fingertips, no matter where you are.

Here are a few more tips to help you redefine the boundaries of your digital workspace:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is Mac remote access?

    Mac remote access refers to the ability to connect to and control a Mac computer from another device, regardless of distance. This feature allows users to view files, run applications, and perform tasks on their Mac without being physically present, facilitating flexibility and remote work or support.

  2. Should I use Apple Remote Desktop?

    Yes, you should use Apple Remote Desktop if you’re a Mac user seeking a robust, official tool for remote management. It’s especially beneficial for those managing multiple Macs, offering features like screen sharing, software distribution, and detailed system reports. It’s a top choice for centralized Mac control.

  3. Can I use VNC over the Internet?

    Yes, you can use VNC over the Internet. VNC (Virtual Network Computing) allows for remote access and control of a computer from another device, regardless of location. Ensure a secure connection, preferably via VPN, to maintain safety when accessing your computer from a distant network.

  4. How can I remote control my Mac if it’s not turned on?

    To remotely control your Mac if it’s not turned on, you need to enable Wake for network access in Battery settings. This allows your Mac to be awakened remotely. However, if it’s completely shut down, you can’t access it remotely until it’s powered on manually.

  5. Can I use SSH to access my Mac remotely?

    Yes, you can use SSH to access your Mac remotely. SSH (Secure Shell) is a secure method for remote access to your Mac that provides encrypted connections, ensuring data safety. However, it’s text-based and best suited for users comfortable with command-line operations.

  6. How do I send Ctrl+Alt+Del to a remote computer?

    To send the Ctrl+Alt+Del command to a remote computer, use the remote access tool’s built-in function. For example, in TeamViewer, click Actions in the top menu, then select Send Ctrl+Alt+Del. This triggers the command on the remote machine just as if you pressed the keys directly.

Hashir Ibrahim

Author

I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.

Ojash

Reviewer

Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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