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I have a few family members with Macs that I'd like to be able to help if they have questions or get stuck, and I've been looking into various solutions to be able to remotely connect to their computers over the internet. In the past I've mainly used iChat, but it sometimes just doesn't work (and I do have a few members in my family that have a bit of trouble accepting the screen sharing invitation). My typical fallback is Skype which nearly always works, but I don't have any control over the screen so I have to walk them through what they need to do.

Now that Apple Remote Desktop is available in the Mac App Store for $80, I'm wondering if it does what I need. Namely, I'd like to be able to automatically connect and control a remote computer over the internet without having to configure the router it's connected to. Does Apple Remote Desktop have this capability?

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5 Answers

Although Apple's Screen Sharing/ARD works well over the internet, Google's Chrome Remote desktop is the best cross-platform solution I have found so far.

Pros:

  1. It is faster than stock VNC.
  2. Works from/to Mac/PC/Linux (Cross-Platform)
  3. Encrypted (unlike stock VNC)
  4. Works with any NAT situation, most firewall situations
  5. Helper mode to work on other people's PCs

Cons:

  1. Requires Google Account login (Big brother and all that)
  2. Not Multi-User, only works when user is logged into the machine already
  3. PIN Authentication

In-Between:

  1. Requires Chrome? But only requires rights on viewer PC to install Chrome plug-ins
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I've never heard of Chrome Remote Desktop. How about a link to info? –  Jason Salaz Apr 11 '13 at 8:32
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ARD works better for remote support than other VNC solutions since it seems better at controlling the bandwidth needed to send a view of the screen over a slow connection.

Other than that, it's a plain old VNC wrapper if you only care for keyboard, mouse. It is fully featured in terms of shuttering the remote screen (to hide what you are doing) as well as can be set to remotely poll lists of hardware, script and control updates to tens, dozens, and hundreds of machines.

It doesn't do any sort of location brokering, though so you'll still need to manage the routers, port forwarding, client configuration and such as well as use dynamic DNS or BackToMyMac or Screens connect.

For most people doing light support, I'd recommend the Screens program over ARD due to cost, better integration and testing of NAT and how it provides DNS tracking to let your Mac know what IP your family's Mac is using at this very moment.

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ARD/Screen sharing works super great to servers with static/public IPs. Not so great behind a NATed home router with port blocking on a dynamic IP. It can be done, but you will have to go there first to set up the port forwarding, etc.

If you have an outside server hosted somewhere, you could set up VPN on your machine and the machine you want to admin too. (That's easy to tell your parents to click the VPN icon in the menu bar).

Also, I think you can use "back to my mac" to make all this easier, but I don't know much about the details.

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Actually, those behind a firewall don't have to set up port forwarding manually if you meet some conditions: 1. Your router supports NAT-PMP and you aren't double NATted. 2. You use iCloud and the same account on both machines. In that case, you can use BackToMyMac, which essentially sets up a VPN automatically for you. –  Noah Apr 11 '13 at 8:06
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Apple Remote Desktop will involve either having a VPN or open ports and static IPs. I think you will be much better off with LogMeIn.com's free version, which will require zero intraction from your family members and open ports are not necessary. You will need to know a user's credentials on their computer. If they require more privacy they can disable LogMeIn from the menu bar item, as it will always be on as long as they are connected to the Internet. I suggest adding a user to each computer with your name and one password—that will be one less thing for you to remember and if they change their password or don't remember it you can still help them.

I use both ARD and LogMeIn daily, but ARD is more than you need.

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Thanks for the tip about LogMeIn, wasn't aware they had a free version –  Kyle Cronin Jan 19 '11 at 4:52
    
Another app I use is the free TeamViewer. My mom simply has to type in a code I generate on my end and I am connected. LogMeIn is great too. –  bispymusic Mar 4 '13 at 4:07
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It appears that it does do this, with little setup required.

See the Apple Remote Desktop 3 Remote Assistance tutorial here.

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I know ARD has screen sharing, but I'm wondering if it works over the Internet –  Kyle Cronin Jan 19 '11 at 4:55
    
Yes, with a VPN or open ports on the firewall. support.apple.com/kb/TS1882 –  ridogi Jan 19 '11 at 5:00
    
@ridogi Ah, OK, so VPN or firewall configuration. Unfortunately, neither is feasible, but it's good to know. –  Kyle Cronin Jan 19 '11 at 6:31
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