How to Use a Remote Desktop for an iMac


Although most people are unaware of it, Mac OS X comes with Remote Desktop software included. Once enabled, all that you need to connect to the iMac is a VNC (virtual network computing) program. The only tricky part comes if you are trying to connect to the iMac through a router.

Things You'll Need

  • iMac running OS X
  • Client computer
  • VNC client software
  • Local network or Internet connection
  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Enable VNC on the iMac host computer. OS X comes with a built-in VNC server. This allows you to connect to your iMac remotely. To do this, go into the "System Preferences," then "Sharing." You will be given a list of services on the tab. Check the "Apple Remote Desktop" listing, then click "Access Privileges." You will now be able to turn on VNC and specify a password.

  • Find the IP address of the iMac. Open up the "System Preferences" and then go to the "Internet and Network" section. You will be presented with a list of your current network connections. If you are connected by Ethernet, for example, click on "Ethernet." On the "Network" screen that pops up, select "TCP/IP." This will show your IP address. Write this down.

  • Download a VNC client. This will depend on your operating system on the computer you want to use to connect. For Macs, try "Chicken of the VNC." If you're on a PC, "Tight VNC" is a good choice. Both of these programs are open-source and free software. Install the VNC client software. Follow the prompts from the programs installer.

  • If you are trying to connect to the host iMac from the Local network, go to Step 5. If you are trying to connect across a wide area network (WAN), such as the Internet, go to Step 6.

  • Remote Desktop on a LAN: Start the VNC program on the client computer. When VNC prompts you for a computer name, type in the IP address of the host computer. You will then be presented with the login screen of the host computer. Log in as normal.

  • Remote Desktop on a WAN: Configure the router used by your network to allow the Remote Desktop connection. Start by logging into the router with the administrator name and password. Look for an "Expert" or "Advanced" section and click this. Look for the "Port Forwarding" section. Setup a new service. Call this "Remote Desktop" or something easy to remember. For the "Starting Port" and "Ending Port", type in "5900" (no quotes). Then for the "Server" or "Computer" name, type in the IP address you found above in Step 2. You will have to do this for both the "TCP" and "UDP" connections (although some routers let you do both at the same time).

  • Locate your router's IP address. This can usually be found on the startup screen of the router when you login. Or check under the "Properties" or "System Status" section. Write down this IP address.

  • Go to the remote machine. Start up your VNC client. When prompted for a computer name, type in the IP address of the router you found in Step 7. When prompted, enter your name and password to log in to the iMac.

Tips & Warnings

  • Many routers allow you to make a backup of the configuration file. Take advantage of this.

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  • Photo Credit Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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