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I was wondering if there was a way to remote login with a visual client to a macbook , for example, with a higher resolution than the LCD attached.

Currently I tried vnc (with screen sharing) but that was limited to the resolution of the lcd, I also tried logmein but that had the same problem. I tried to use ssh+xming to the macbook but that didnt seem to work either running applications seemed to start the displays on the remote machine rather than my client machine.

Im used to using RDP with windows which lets you specify whatever resolution you want since the server resolution doesnt matter if you are accessing remotely.

Anyone do something like this?


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3 Answers 3

VNC is an interesting beast on OS X. In Lion, OS X finally gained the possibility of having truly virtual sessions, meaning that they aren't displayed on the console. This is accomplished by enabling VNC, and logging in as a user that is not logged in at the console. That new user will have a private session to work in, and the console user will go uninterrupted.

If you're unsure of what I mean by "console", the console is the one and only session that a user directly attached to the computer via keyboard/mouse/monitor can use. That is commonly referred to as the "console" or "physical" session.

Note that on all previous versions of OS X, logging in as an allowed user could only put you on the console session, possibly colliding with a console user if they were actively working on the system at the same time.

On any other operating system, you can set up a private VNC session using almost any resolution you want, within a certain realm of feasibility. This is unfortunately yet to be the case on OS X. VNC still seems to hook into the physical capabilities of the system, perhaps this happens because the video card is used to render the desktop session even when you're using it remotely. Rendering the OS X animations is very intensive, so offloading them to the video card and freeing up general CPU time is an ideal situation for pretty much anybody.

So the answer? I don't believe you can. You can turn it down via the System Preferences like usual, but the highest resolution you'll get is that which is supported by your video card.

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+1 Excellent answer. –  trojanfoe Aug 30 '13 at 10:01

I've found that I can attach my 1920x1200 resolution monitor momentarily to my normally headless MacMini, and it adds that resolution as one of the available ones. It will retain it in the list where it is accessible to VNC (Real VNC from Win7 PC), at least until you reboot the mini :(.

So, it doesn't seem like there's any reason why one should have to attach a physical monitor to get higher resolutions. There must be a place (a plist somewhere?) to add this resolution to the list? Perhaps where the default 3 resolutions are stored?

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This doesn't really address the need to change the resolution higher than the attached display. –  bmike Nov 28 '12 at 23:42

The two popular RDP servers for OS X do exactly what you are asking for. iRAPP / iRAPP Terminal Server and Aqua Connect Terminal Server are RDP servers for OS X that allow you to connect to a Mac remotely from any system running an RDP client. For example: you can remotely connect to your Mac from Windows by running Windows' built-in Remote Desktop application.

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