Apple Remote Desktop Overview – How to Remote Access Mac

By Staff Contributor on June 12, 2019

Imagine this: an employee at the satellite office across the country is having computer trouble, but they use an Apple device. Or maybe you have dozens of Mac end-user devices to reach, update, troubleshoot, or otherwise manage, but you don’t have time to find each device and manually address the issues. Since many IT professionals work from a Windows workstation, it can be a concern how they will effectively reach Mac devices.

Thanks to remote desktop control software Mac users can use as easily as Windows users, there’s no need to be physically in front of a computer when it needs your service. Remote desktop control to Apple, specifically Mac devices, requires special consideration—IT professionals must be able to control end-user devices for purposes of troubleshooting and maintenance. Numerous solutions exist, but they don’t all work for Macs, so you may need to be prepared with a method for reaching Mac devices, even if you’re not working from a Mac yourself. Typically, that means investing in a software solution with all the functions you need.

Why Do IT Admins Need Apple Remote Desktop Access?

Remote desktop access is the ability to operate a computer or components of a network from a different computer or part of the network. Apple remote desktop access is unique in that most built-in functions on Macs require a Mac on both ends, but there are solutions that allow cross-compatible access for troubleshooting. This is crucial for IT professionals, who may be called on to troubleshoot remotely, regardless of operating system.

File Sharing and Access

Remote desktop access was once widely used to access files and software when away from another Mac computer. Cloud computing has made this easier in many situations, as files can be easily kept in Dropbox or similar cloud drive option. If a worker wants to access all their files from home, they can simply log in to those accounts from a different device, and this is typically possible across various operating systems. However, using a program with a file transfer protocol (FTP) is crucial for businesses—an internal solution can make it faster and more secure when sharing larger files, staying behind the firewall, and generally ensuring functionality without relying on cloud storage.

IT Troubleshooting

Apple remote desktop access is vital for IT troubleshooting and support. The ability to share screens and take over an end user’s device can save hours when trying to resolve performance issues. This is especially true for IT departments managing users all over the country and world. Instead of going back and forth trying to diagnose and fix a problem by phone or video chat, you can see and control exactly what the end user is seeing and doing. For businesses, it’s crucial to have a Mac remote access solution that will keep all users up and running.

Maintenance and Updates

Remote desktop access can also be used for network updates and maintenance. The best methods and software enable access even when a device is powered down or off. Also, your remote desktop access interface should ideally allow you to manage multiple devices at the same time. This makes after-hours updates easy, limiting downtime and intrusions into the workday.

How Does Apple Remote Desktop Access Work?

Some built-in options for Mac remote access may work if you’re simply connecting between two Macs. For a more robust solution, you’ll need to consider business-grade software.

Apple Screen Sharing

Screen sharing is the fastest and easiest of the two built-in options from Apple in terms of setup but has drawbacks that make it less than ideal for IT professionals in the long-term.

To enable screen sharing on the Mac you want to share, choose Apple menu > System Preferences > Sharing > Screen Sharing. Write down the name and address of the Mac. The name is alphanumeric, while the address contains the IP address.

Then, on the other Mac, you can connect using either the name or the address:

  1. Connect using the name: Open Finder. In the Locations section of the sidebar, click Network, double-click the Mac you want to share, then click Share Screen.
  2. Connect using the address: In the Finder, choose Go > Connect to Server, enter the address of the Mac you want to share, then click Connect.

If both computers are logged in using the same Apple ID, the screen sharing session starts. If they’re not, you’re prompted to enter the username and password of a user who is allowed screen sharing access on that computer, or you can request permission to share the screen if the computer allows it.

Screen sharing is convenient because it is built into Macs and can be done without much forethought or setup. But you’ll likely notice a lag as you work remotely in this way. Screen sharing can be helpful for short tasks and quick fixes, but it’s not ideal for long-term remote needs.

Apple Remote Desktop

This is a more thorough option than screen sharing as you won’t get the lag present with the latter. But it requires permissions or admin privileges on the computer allowing remote desktop access.

There are two ways to enable Remote Desktop: using System Preferences or using the command line prompt. To enable using System Preferences, click on the Apple menu and choose System Preferences. Click Sharing. If prompted, log in as an administrator on that computer, and select the Remote Management box.

Enabling remote desktop with the command line also requires admin privileges. If you have these already, enter this command in the prompt:

sudo /System/Library/CoreServices/RemoteManagement/ -activate -configure -access -on -restart -agent -privs -all

Remote Desktop seems to have been made with IT professionals in mind, offering a “Curtain Mode” to hide work in progress, remote administration, and automation. Remote Access works from Mac to Windows and Linux.

Choosing Software for Remote Support

For businesses, it’s important to choose a remote desktop access option that keeps data and users secure while allowing high levels of functionality. You’ll want to choose a software solution that allows compatibility between various operating systems, no matter if you or the end users have the Mac device.

Besides compatibility, the most important features are the encryption and authentication methods the software uses to protect your connection. You should also consider built-in troubleshooting and screen-sharing features, along with in-platform communication tools (like chat) that can streamline the process. In some cases, remote desktop support software allows IT professionals to connect to a device even if it’s powered down, so you don’t necessarily have to interrupt end users.

For quick fixes and sudden issues, having a built-in remote access Mac solution can be helpful. But IT professionals in need of ongoing remote desktop access for troubleshooting and maintenance should invest in a secure, high-functionality solution that will allow for quick access, file transfer, tuning capabilities, and communication between any two devices, regardless of who is using a Windows device and who is using a Mac. Dameware® is a good tool to try out since they have either a cloud-based remote access solution or on-premises remote support software that can help you remotely troubleshoot a Mac (and even from a Mac if you choose the cloud version).

Selecting the Right Solution for MSP Business

The solutions mentioned above are excellent options for IT managers. But what if you’re an MSP trying to streamline remote desktop access tasks for hundreds of different clients?

In this scenario, you might want to go looking for a more specialized tool. A great place to start with is N-able Take Control. This solution was created for services providers that need to support a large number of customers in a way that’s both fast and effective.

Take Control offers remote desktop tools designed to help make quick connections and resolve issues in a timely manner. It’s also highly customizable, and comes with a full set of handy options, such as full session recordings and chat transcript searches.

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