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How to Use iMessage and Other Mac Apps on Windows or Linux

Lori Kaufman 22-09-2017

Do you use both a Mac and a Windows PC? Getting tired of switching between the two? Well, now you don’t have to, at least for small tasks. Maybe you need to use Windows for something but you want access to your text messages, contacts, and notes on your Mac at the same time.


You can log in to your iCloud account in a browser, but that’s not quite the same thing. You can’t send or receive text messages using iCloud, though iOS 11 is going to finally sync your messages across your iOS and Mac devices What's New in iOS 11? The New Features Coming to Your iPhone Here's everything coming to your iPhone and iPad with the arrival of iOS 11 later in 2017. Read More .

You can share your Mac screen with another Mac using Facetime How to Share Your Mac's Screen Using Messages (You Don't Need FaceTime!) Here's how to share your Mac's screen using Messages: no online accounts, software downloads, or unnecessary ads. Read More and remote control Linux from Windows How to Remote Control Linux From Windows Need to remotely access your Linux desktop computer from Windows? Here's what you need to know about RDP, VNC, and SSH to Linux. Read More , but today we’re going to show you how to access your Mac from Windows or Linux, so you can use iMessage and apps like Notes and Contacts on your PC.

Note: Your Mac must be on for this to work, connected to the same local network, and logged into your account. This is different from using macOS in a virtual machine How to Run macOS on Windows 10 in a Virtual Machine Unsure if you will get along with a Mac? Learn how to run macOS on Windows 10 with the help of a virtual machine. Read More .

Enabling Screen Sharing on Your Mac

Before you can access your Mac on your PC, you must enable screen sharing on your Mac. To do this, go to Apple > System Preferences and then click Sharing.

mac enable screen sharing preferences


On the Sharing screen, your Mac is assigned a default name in the Computer Name box. You can change that name if you want. Make a note of the IP address or the name below the Computer Name box. You will be using that to log in from your PC.

Check the Screen Sharing box in the list of services to turn it on.

The Allow access for options provides a way to limit which user accounts will be accessible from other Macs or PCs. That doesn’t mean that other people can’t access your account on your Mac from another machine. It’s a good idea to add a password to screen sharing so only you can access your Mac. Click Computer Settings.

mac enable screen sharing preferences


Check the VNC viewers may control screen with password box. Enter a password (and remember it) in the edit box and click OK. Your Mac is now all set up for remote control.

mac add password for vnc preferences

The screen sharing icon is added to the menu bar, providing access to the Screen Sharing Preferences screen in the System Preferences. This icon also allows you to Disconnect from your PC.

mac enable screen sharing preferences


Installing RealVNC Viewer

Now we need to install a program on our PC to make it possible to connect to our Mac. We’re going to use a free virtual network computing (VNC) client called RealVNC Viewer. The viewer program is half of the RealVNC system. Normally, you would install the RealVNC server (the other half) on the remote computer. We’ve discussed using the RealVNC’s server and viewer when remotely accessing a Raspberry Pi device from your PC or phone Setup VNC on Raspberry Pi to Remotely Control It with Any PC or Phone You can have a full Raspberry Pi desktop interface with ever connecting a monitor, keyboard or mouse. Now that the latest version of Raspbian includes RealVNC server, it's easier than ever. Read More .

In our case, we’re using Apple’s own screen sharing feature instead so we don’t need RealVNC Server. Download RealVNC Viewer and install it.

Note: This article shows you how to install and configure RealVNC Viewer on Windows. If you’re accessing your Mac from a Linux PC, download the Linux version of RealVNC Viewer and install that instead. The instructions should be the same as the Windows version.


On the Custom Setup screen during the setup process, you can choose to add a shortcut to your desktop. To do this, click the Desktop Shortcut dropdown box and select Will be installed on local hard drive from the menu.

realvnc viewer install windows

Setting Up RealVNC Viewer

Once RealVNC Viewer is installed, run the program. In the box at the top of the VNC Viewer dialog box, enter the name or IP address you noted from the Sharing screen in System Preferences on your Mac.

Then, click on Connect to address or hostname below the box.

install realvnc viewer windows

Even though you added a password to screen sharing on your Mac, you’ll see the following message saying your connection is unencrypted. The password prevents access to your Mac, but any data exchanged between your Mac and PC is not protected. If you need to access private data on your Mac, it’s best to do that directly on your Mac.

Click Continue.

install realvnc viewer windows

Next, enter the password you added to screen sharing on your Mac.

install realvnc viewer windows

Sending a Text Message on Mac From Windows

You’ll see the login screen from your Mac. Even if you are logged in on your Mac and the session is not locked, you’ll have to log in to your Mac account in the VNC Viewer window.

Click on the icon for the account in which you set up screen sharing and log in. You’ll see a red circle with a check mark in it next to any account that is currently logged in.

mac realvnc viewer imessage windows

You’ll see the desktop of your Mac just how you left it. You can access all your apps and use them like you would directly on your Mac. Some actions might be slower than others, but you can easily perform simple tasks like send and receive text messages, view and edit your notes, and access your contacts.

mac realvnc viewer imessage windows

Changing Settings and Using Features in RealVNC

RealVNC Viewer has some options and features you can access by moving your mouse to the top of the VNC Viewer window. You’ll see features like Full screen mode, Scale to 100%, and Close connection. When you hover over a button on the toolbar, a tooltip displays.

Notice that you can close the connection between your Mac and PC from either the Mac (on the menu bar) or from your PC (click the X on the RealVNC Viewer toolbar).

Click the gear icon on the toolbar to access additional options for RealVNC Viewer.

mac realvnc viewer imessage windows

RealVNC also offers a product called VNC Connect that adds some features, including 128-bit AES session encryption. Their Home subscription is free and has plenty of features for standard home use, but does not allow you to transfer files between your Mac and PC or print remotely from your Mac.

The Home subscription allows you to have a maximum of five remote computers and three users.

The Best of Both Worlds

Now, you don’t have to keep switching between your PC and Mac. You can use your PC and have access to your Mac all on the same machine. It’s not quite the same as using your Mac directly, but you can get small tasks done like sending text messages and accessing your notes and contacts without having to log into your iCloud account in a browser.

What else can you use a VNC for? We’ve talked about four creative ways to use a VNC server 4 Creative Uses For A VNC Server Other than just using VNC clients to connect to a remote computer, what can you really use VNC servers for? When you stop and think about it, the ability to connect to and control a... Read More , in addition to just connecting to a remote computer.

What do you find most useful about accessing your Mac on your PC? Have you found any other ways to do this? Let us know your findings and thoughts in the comments.

Related topics: iMessage, Remote Control, VNC.

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  1. Daisy
    September 27, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    I use Splashtop, would this work with that as well?

    • Lori Kaufman
      October 3, 2017 at 8:34 am

      Yes. I tried out Splashtop today to connect to my Mac from my Windows PC. It worked well, but there is one limitation. You must keep the screen active on your Mac. You cannot activate the screensaver or close the Mac. When using RealVNC and screen sharing, you can have the screensaver on or close your Mac.

      Hope this helps. Thanks for reading!

  2. Carl petronis
    September 25, 2017 at 10:53 am

    Click bait. Why would you not say, how to vnc to a mac?