Best ways to remotely access and control your Mac from any device and location

Remotely accessing a Mac is designed to be easy. You can use several third-party tools and apps, and Apple has spent time to ensure anyone can access their Mac - desktop and laptop devices - from any other Mac device, anywhere.

Not only that but now you can access - even control - a Mac using a Windows device. There are several choices for remote controlling and connecting to a Mac. How you connect, what you want to do when connected to another Mac and how you are connecting determines how you set up and use the remote access.

How to access your Mac from another location

There’re two ways: you can allow remote login to your Mac from another computer, or allow others to access your computer using Remote Desktop (it’s available from the App Store).

To allow remote login to your Mac from another computer

For devices both using same macOS, you can allow remote Mac login using a Secure Shell (SSH). This enables Mac remote desktop access using something known as a secure File Transfer Protocol (FTP).

  • To setup: System Preferences > Sharing
  • Select Remote Login.
  • Now you can select which users can have remote access or the ability to control your Mac.

Either select, All Users, which means any other device on your network, or Mac you own, can access and connect, or Click +, which gives you the ability to select who can have remote access and/or control.

Remote login settings

When you want remote Mac access from another device, you need to know your username (the name that appears when you login) and computer’s IP address. Write them down and keep them safe if you think you are going to need remote access or control of your device from another Mac.

Gaining access is fairly easy, which is why you ought to consider security preferences and security software on your Mac since remote access does potentially make your Mac less secure, especially when the connection is being made across a public cellular or Wi-Fi network. You can remote Mac access, control or view, using Terminal or another SSH app when you input your username and IP address. Once you have these, you can gain remote access.

To allow others to access your computer using Apple Remote Desktop

With macOS Sierra remote Mac access and control is even easier.

  • To setup: Menu > System Preferences > Sharing
  • Select Remote Management - it should appear as a checkbox. You may need to perform other tasks as prompted.
  • Now you can select who has remote desktop access. Either select, All Users, which means any other device on your network, or Mac you own, can access and connect, or click the Add button(+), which gives you the ability to select who can have remote access and/or control.

Remote management utility

If people are accessing, or you want to access remotely using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or VNC viewer, you will need to setup a password first. It is also possible to access using an Apple iOS devices, such as an iPhone or iPad, which you can do through the Apple Remote Desktop, available from the App Store.

Do you need to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)?

No matter how you access your Mac or allow someone else remote access or Mac desktop sharing and control, you can do this using Wi-Fi or across public cellular (mobile) networks.

However, for extra peace of mind and security, especially if you are sharing sensitive files, financial records or customer data, you might want to ensure access and control is only granted through a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Not only must you consider what is being shared, but what you have on your Mac. With remote access - even in the View Only mode - someone can see every file and document on your Mac, except those that are password protected. Unfortunately, if you leave passwords in a document and that isn’t protected, then you leave yourself vulnerable to the other person accessing.

With full remote access and Mac remote control, the other person - or yourself, when accessing another Mac - can have the same level of control as the person using that device. Except for Admin level access, since that is password protected. But this does leave you with the real danger that someone could login to emails, bank accounts and access documents.

For remote access and control, you don't need to use a VPN; however, this is something worth considering especially when giving someone else access and control.

Download, or have the other person gaining access, a remote VNC app from the App Store or Setapp, such as Jump Desktop to gain remote access to a Mac.

Jump Desktop app

Within Jump Desktop - either yourself (gaining access) or the person you are giving a remote view or control access to your Mac, needs to add details of the device, then the password. 

Select remote computer

Once permission is granted at the other end, either to view or control, remote Mac screen sharing or control (whereby you can use the iOS device as a remote mouse) is possible.

How to use your Apple iOS device as a remote mouse

Apple iOS devices, such as an iPhone or iPad can be used to control a Mac remotely, much like a mouse can control a desktop or laptop. 

Apps that make this possible work across a VNC (Virtual Network Connection).

Remote Mouse is the easiest, most effective way to turn your iOS device into a wireless remote control for your Mac.

Remote Mouse on Setapp

The closer you are the device, the quicker the connection works and more accurate, which is why remote access through a local network is most effective - but remote access is possible from anywhere in the world, providing the network connection is secure and fast enough.

Setting up and granting access is the same process as when someone wants to access using another Mac device. Except you need to give them access to anyone who wants access through a VNC. Give them a password. Make sure it is different from your primary Mac or iOS (App Store) password.

Other useful tips to get more from remote access

With Setapp, you can get a suite of tools specifically designed to ensure you get more from remote access or make remote access easier, such as:

Screens: Access any other computer using your Mac. Remotely work with any computer regardless of your location. With this robust screen sharing tool for Mac, it becomes possible.

ChronoSync Express is an efficient and powerful tool for sharing and transferring files from one Mac to another or another Apple device. One of the most useful features is Synchronizer Document, whereby you select two files, then they are automatically synchronized and shared unless someone breaks the sync.
Chronosync Express app

Shimo is a secure VPN Client for Macs. Well worth using if you are concerned about security and want to add an extra layer of protection when sharing your screen or granting remote access to someone else.
VPN settings

Explore Setapp today: the first subscription for Mac apps. Get all the apps you need in a single subscription. No ads or in-app purchases. And the collection keeps growing. Find out more.

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