How To Remotely Access Your Mac From Your iOS Device

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Before I started using VNC (Virtual Network Computing) software on my Mac and iPhone, I can’t count how many times I needed to connect with my home office computer to access a file, launch an application I needed to use over Wi-Fi or 3G, or simply shut my computer down. Up until recently, VNC software has been pretty expensive and often clumsy to use, but since the emergence of the iPhone and other mobile devices, virtual network technology has become easier to set up with improved interfaces and features for remotely connecting to your home or office computer.

While there are several advanced mobile VNC programs costing $30 or more, there are a few free options in the Apple and iTunes Music Stores that work quite well to remotely access your Mac.

PocketCloud Companion

PocketCloud Companion is a VNC program for remotely accessing your Mac from your iPad and other iOS devices. Due to the large size screen of the iPad, viewing the desktop of your Mac is three or four times better than on the iPhone and iPod touch.

remotely access mac

PocketCloud Companion remotely connects to your computer over Wi-Fi and 3G using your Gmail account. After you download the PocketCloud Companion app from the Apple Mac Store, and the remote PocketCloud client version from the iTunes Music Store, you can have both programs connecting in less than five minutes.

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mac remote access

To set up on your Mac, launch System Preferences > Sharing > Remote Management. Click the Computer Settings button and check “VNC viewers may control screen with password“. Enter a password. Then launch PocketCloud Companion to set up your account.

mac remote access

On the mobile client side, you will be taken through the process of adding your Gmail account and password security. It’s about a two-step process. With my computer setup, PocketCloud on my iPad enables me to view both my main and secondary monitors. Anything on my desktop and in my computer can be launched, viewed, and used.

mac remote access

PocketCloud Companion includes a handy little Touch pointer that helps you navigate items on the computer desktop. It’s almost like using your mouse. Of course, navigation on the smaller iPhone and iPod touch screens will be more challenging.

As with other VNC programs, there is typically a delay between what you see on your desktop and what you see on your iOS screen device. So for example, if you click to close a window on your desktop, it may take about five seconds before you can see the window close on your iOS device. So be patient and keep trying if it doesn’t work at first. VNC computing does not provide the same experience as actually working on your computer, but it’s a useful resource for when you really need it.

RDM + Desktop Lite

Another VNC program similar to PocketCloud is RDM + Desktop Lite. The free version is ad-supported, but you might find its interface more handy than PocketCloud”˜s.

mac remote access free

RDM + Desktop Lite is optimized for the iPhone and iPod touch, although it can be used on the iPad as well. After downloading RDM + Desktop Lite from the Apple Mac Store and the remote mobile client on your iOS  device, the setup is even easier than PocketCloud. You need to set up an account, add the given computer number in the client app, and you’re good to go.

remotely access mac

With RDM + Desktop, you can remotely access your Mac just like you would with any other VNC program. But its client app also includes navigation and action buttons which keep you from having to point your remote cursor to menu bar items on your desktop. You can, for example, quickly shutdown, log off, or close and quit windows and applications with the touch of a button.

Both PocketCloud Companion and RDM + Desktop include a virtual keyboard if you simply need to do some typing on your computer via their remote clients. I found extended typing using the programs too slow and cumbersome. But it’s great for when you’re in a pinch and need to make changes to a document on your computer and then perhaps remotely email that document to yourself or someone else.

These free programs are a great introduction to VNC technology for mobile devices. If you have never tried using virtual computing, you’ll be amazed at what it can do. If you give them a try, let us know what you think.  Or if you have another favourite app, let us know all about it.

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