Do you want to remotely access your Mac so you can open applications and edit files on it? This is an increasingly common request. Here’s a quick overview of a few ways to remotely access your Mac.
Back To My Mac
Apple’s iCloud service includes a feature named Back To My Mac. While Back to My Mac doesn’t work in all circumstances, it’s a powerful and free option that lets you remotely access your Mac. MacLife has written a succinct overview of Back To My Mac. Apple has written articles about troubleshooting Back To My Mac and related security considerations. I should note that Back To My Mac requires that you use a Mac to remotely access another Mac. In other words, you can’t use an iPad, iPhone or PC to remotely access your Mac with this feature.
[Update 6/21/19: Apple will discontinue Back to My Mac on July 1, 2019]
LogMeIn is one of many products which offers remote access services for both Macs and PCs. LogMeIn offers a free version as well as a paid version called LogMeIn Pro that offers more features. LogMeIn supports remote access of Macs from a PC and vice versa. Additionally, there is a LogMeIn iOS application which works on both iPads and iPhones, though I can’t imagine using it on the iPhone’s tiny screen. The iOS application lets one remotely access either Macs or PCs.
I use LogMeIn to provide remote support to many of my clients. One can download and install the free LogMeIn client software from my web site to give me remote access to their computer.
[Update October 2014: LogMeIn has stopped offering the free version. All versions require payment now.]
Apple Remote Desktop and VPN
Small business clients often prefer to set up their own VPN (Virtual Private Network) and use Apple Remote Desktop or Apple’s free Screen Sharing application to remotely view and manipulate Macs on their office network. Setting up a VPN requires purchasing a router which supports VPN capabilities. Screen Sharing is a free tool built into the Mac operating system starting with OS X 10.5. Apple Remote Desktop costs $80 and provides advanced features to install upgrades and created detailed reports.
Messages’ Screen Sharing
The first three methods listed above require the remote Mac to be awake, but nobody needs physically to be at the remote Mac. If, however, you have a friend or family member at your remote Mac then you could use Messages’ Screen Sharing application. Messages used to be named iChat, which offered this feature for a number of years. Messages was introduced in OS X Lion and works in OS X Mountain Lion. If both of your Macs are using Lion or Mountain Lion then this Apple article gives you an introduction on how to initiate screen sharing.