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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.
You can share your Mac screen with another Mac using Facetime and remote control Linux from Windows, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— RealVNC (@RealVNC) August 11, 2017
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.
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.
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.
Next, enter the password you added to screen sharing on your Mac.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— RealVNC (@RealVNC) September 5, 2017
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, 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.