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How to view your Mac screen remotely for real-time troubleshooting

Heather Gray

Sep 14, 2021

10 min read

Remote view is a term that most people within the IT sector have already come across. It helps IT admins to view a Mac screen remotely and troubleshoot any issues end users are having. A macOS device just like devices from any OS, can at times be prone to issues of their own, leaving users frustrated especially if they are in the brink of a deadline to get an important job done.

Enabling remote view for a Mac device is not a complicated, drawn-out process. You could either choose Apple’s built-in tools or use a reliable UEM solution to get it done.

Remotely manage your devices with Hexnode UEM

Although offices around the world have already started opening up, some employees still prefer working from within the confines of their own home, where they feel they are most productive. Remote work is just something that organizations will have to continue implementing in the future. Keeping this in mind, your IT team should have adequate measures in place to ensure the safety of corporate assets when employees access them from a remote location.

Remote device management helps to do just that. In addition, to letting admins seamlessly view the screen of remote employees, they can also ensure the managed devices are protected with stringent password policies, have all the essential applications installed and are compliant with all the requirements set by their organization.

How Apple help admins view a Mac screen remotely

Prior to the commencement of the pandemic, if anyone within the office or at home had a Mac that was acting out of sorts, they could simply pop in and see what the issue was. Now, with a majority of the people working remotely, this doesn’t seem to be a practical option anymore. Apple has its own in-built functionalities that guide users to share their screen with others. Here are a couple of ways in which this can be done.

Mac Screen Sharing

The whole process starts with initiating a connection. It can be hard to locate Screen Sharing within the Application folder in Finder; searching with spotlight makes it a lot easier (just hit Command-Space and type in ‘Screen Sharing’). Once the app is launched, a dialog box will appear on the screen prompting the user to enter the Apple ID of the remote user whose screen you want to connect to. Click on ‘Connect’ to initiate the connection.

Apple is always known for being wary. So, it’s pretty obvious the remote user immediately gets a notification on their end with a request to either accept or decline the connection. This would appear on the right-hand portion of their screen. After the remote user accepts the connection, a blue icon will appear on the menu bar. Clicking on it will display the name of the person viewing your screen. The icon will continue to flash as long as the remote view session remains active.

Once when you’ve got the issue fixed and everything is good to go, you can terminate the session by either selecting ‘End Screen Sharing’ from the app menu or simply quitting the Screen Sharing app from your macOS device. The remote user can also pause or terminate the session by clicking on the Screen Sharing icon from their screen. This is a handy approach to view or control any Mac device remotely, however there can be a bit of a lag on the screen (this would depend on the speed and stability of your internet connection).

Remote Login with Secure Shell (SS) connection

Remote Login is another reliable built-in feature of Apple that allow users to remotely login to their Mac from any other computer using SSH and SFTP. This first needs to be enabled from ‘System Preferences’:

  • Hover over to the Apple icon on the top left corner of the menu bar and select ‘System Preferences’. Click on ‘Sharing’ and select the box next to ‘Remote Login’.
  • To the right, a green button will be displayed with the message ‘Remote Login: On’.
  • Below that, you’ll find the address the other user would need in remotely accessing your device.

Once you’ve given them the address, they would have to open a terminal window on their device and type in the SSH command followed by the address you’ve given. This will set up the connection.

First time users will have to accept an authenticity warning and type in their account password to continue establishing the connection. Remotely logging in with an SS connection can be a bit daunting at first as it can get quite complicated and time consuming for users who are not used to it.

Back to My Mac

Made available with the introduction of Mac OS X Leopard, Back to My Mac was disabled in 2019, and the decision to do so was announced by Apple in May of that year. Users with Mac devices running on macOS versions Lion to High Sierra can still use this feature to view a Mac screen remotely.

Being a part of iCloud, an iCloud user account will be required to establish a connection between the Mac devices. (Back to My Mac only works between Macs) Both the Mac devices should be logged in with the same iCloud account. The following steps apply to both the Mac devices you would like to establish the connection with:

  • Click on the Apple icon on the upper left-hand corner of your screen.
  • Select ‘System Preferences’ and click on ’iCloud’.
  • Enable ‘Back to My Mac’, if the option is disabled.

If you want to initiate a remote connection to a Mac device that is not yours, you can create a new user account on the device and log in to it with the same iCloud account you’ve used earlier.

Back to My Mac allows users to access files, share, view and/or control screens. File Sharing and Screen Sharing need to be enabled on the Mac device in which the remote connection needs to be established. These settings need not be configured on the device that is being used to access the remote computer, it would be sufficient enough to just enable Back to My Mac.

The remote computer will be listed under ‘Shared’ at the left-hand side of the Finder. Selecting the remote computer will automatically grant the user permission to share files as a guest.

In order to get full access of to the remote Mac, the user can click on the ‘Connect As’ button located at the top right-hand side of the Finder and enter the login details.

These details should be that of the remote Mac. Click on the ‘Screen Share’ button to start the screen sharing session and type in the username and password of the remote Mac. Apple recommends enabling UPnP or NAT-PMP to ensure better connectivity. These can be configured from your router.

Apple Remote Desktop

The options listed above are more suited for remotely accessing a single screen. Apple Remote Desktop is Apple’s version of a remote management tool that provides admins the convenience to manage multiple devices. In order for the application to work, ‘Remote Management’ within the sharing preferences must first be enabled. Here’s a breakdown of the process:

  • Click on the Apple icon and select ‘System Preferences’.
  • Click ‘Sharing’ and enable ‘Remote Management’ from the service box displayed on the left-hand side.
  • Choose either ‘All users’ to permit anyone with a user account on your Mac to share your screen or ‘Only these users’ to restrict the number of users.
  • You can click on the + (plus) or – (minus) icon to add or delete users.

Once ‘Remote Management’ is enabled, you can define further restrictions to limit the amount of access users can have on your Mac. Click on the checkbox next to the features in which remote access needs to be authorized. Press on ‘OK’ to grant remote access to those features.

Prerequisites

  • Requires mac OS X 10.10.5 and above.
  • The Mac client computer should have a version of 3.6 and above of the Remote Desktop app for full control.
  • Non-Mac client computers should have VNC compatible software.

Apple Remote Desktop’s expensive pricing does not make it a viable choice for businesses looking for a tool with more flexible pricing options to remotely manage their endpoints.

Are third-party tools necessary to remotely view a Mac screen?

“Using third party tools to remote view a mac device
Using third party tools to remotely view a Mac device
 

Users can opt for third-party tools to remotely view and manage a macOS device. Hexnode UEM’s remote management capabilities coupled with a centralized web portal where devices from various platforms can be managed, takes away the need for IT admins to be physically present to resolve any technical issues.

Enabling remote view on a Mac device with Hexnode UEM

Admins can start the remote view session by logging on to the Hexnode portal and selecting the device from the device list found within the Manage tab. Click on the required device to fetch the device details page; to the right of the device summary pane, a remote view widget will be displayed for admins to initiate remote view  for that particular device.

The end user will receive a prompt to grant permission to begin the remote view session. Users can even grant permission and terminate the session from the Hexnode Remote Assist app. The app can also be used to choose an alternative display screen for devices connected to multiple displays.

Once the admin has started the remote view session from Hexnode’s web portal, the app will begin to run automatically and its icon will appear on the systems menu bar. Users can click on the ‘Open Hexnode Remote Assist’ to open the application. Admins can terminate the session on their own from the Hexnode portal.

Prerequisites

  • Requires macOS 12.1 and above
  • Hexnode MDM app v7.0.0+
  • Hexnode Remote Assist app v4.1.0+ (the app should be installed within the device before starting the remote view session)

Benefits of using Hexnode UEM for remote view

  • Troubleshoot devices remotely.
  • Eliminate device downtime.
  • Improve workplace collaboration and productivity.
  • Ensure the safe access and security of sensitive corporate data.
  • Multi-platform support.

Conclusion

Remote employees are always at a higher risk of being targeted by cybercriminals. This could either be due to the consistent usage of weak passwords or cleverly disguised phishing scams. Whatever the case may be, having remote access to end user devices can give organizations the assurance that devices stay secure at all times.

With the number of phones and tablets steadily rising in workplaces, relying on a UEM solution that works across different platforms can help bring in long-term benefits to businesses with regards to productivity and security. The basic requirements that most regulatory bodies insist on can easily be met by bringing in a UEM solution like Hexnode on board.

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Heather Gray

Technical Blogger @ Hexnode. Reading and writing helps me to stay sane.

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