I have a number of FreeBSD servers, and I'd like to put VNC server software on them, then access them from a Mac running OS X 10.9.5.

I really don't want to have to access them from a virtual windows machine running on the MAC :-(

A web search for "mac vnc client" produces zero useful hits. (I don't want remote access to the mac.)

My memory is that Apple had a built in client with a non-obvious name, perhaps "screen", which they "fixed" a few releases ago to only work if the VNC server was itself from Apple, running on a Mac. Perhaps they have since unfixed it.

I once used "chicken of the vnc", which was flaky on whatever OS X release I had 2 years ago. I also used another non-apple client from that Mac, which was flaky in different ways. (The built in app was unusable.)

IIRC, I was using "Tightvnc" or "Realvnc" on my servers at that time, which had worked fine with the first random windows-based VNC client I tried.

All I've heard about so far are

  • "screen sharing app" from apple, possibly pre-installed on the mac, name and location unknown
  • a client from realvnc that runs in the chrome browser (ugh!)

When referring to OS X releases, please use release numbers in your answers, not just names of cats - or else link to a page that translates the cat names to release numbers. I don't have Apple's release code names memorized.

[Update, after first answer received: alternativeto.net is a great source for finding software of this type. I now have tigervnc running on one server and on the Mac client. No flakiness so far, but the Mac client for tigervnc seems unwilling to let me connect to multiple servers at the same time, and Mac's GUI interface seems unwilling to let me launch multiple copies of the client program. So still looking for alternatives, but making progress.

Still trying to figure out how to invoke the client built into OSX - it's not at the path I found on the net, /System/Library/CoreServices/Applications Looks like I need to know the right invocation to feed to Finder, which doesn't have anything like a button labelled 'screen sharing'. I did find a menu item labelled "connect to server", but that just gives me connection failures, perhaps because it's defaulting a URI type of afp:// which probably has nothing to do with vnc - or perhaps because the tool is unrelated to vnc.]

  • Managed to create an alias, usable from the shell, which allows me to launch additional copies of the viewer. Too bad Mac's Dock wont let me do that. Jun 24, 2015 at 23:34
  • I'd still like to know how to use the built in app, and any additional recommendations would also be welcome. Jun 24, 2015 at 23:34
  • I've hit a semi-showstopper with tigervnc - no cut and paste. I can copy from the freebsd screen with <cmd>c, and paste to Mac windows with <cmd>v, but neither <cmd>v nor anything else I've tried work to paste into the freebsd desktop. Also, when I use <cmd>c, the character is also delivered to the freebsd window. Jun 25, 2015 at 0:16

7 Answers 7


The built-in VNC client with OS X works just great with most VNC servers I've tried on FreeBSD. I've mostly been using TigerVNC from ports (seems to be the fastest with OS X's VNC client), and the only issue I have is when I restart the VNC server while connected to it. The OS X VNC client will reconnect (great!) but it sizes the window oddly, and I can't resize it. Since scaling is turned on, this usually results in a small screen that cannot be read. Just restart the VNC client (or close the window and open a new connection, if you've got multiple connections open), and it's all OK again.

Since I have xterms open all the time on my mac, I generally do it like so:

open vnc://<host>:<port>

where <port> is the TCP port on which the server is running.

E.g. if it's :1, you'd use 5901 as <port>. You can even install the avahi port, and set up a service, so the VNC session shows up in Finder (although there's a Finder preference to change to make them show up since OS X 10.8, IIRC), just like a Mac that has "screen sharing" enabled (i.e. it's running a VNC server).

  • 3
    The problem with Apple's vnc client is that it doesn't open an SSH tunnel on its own like the Vine Viewer. This is not a problem if you connect to another Mac running Apple's own built-in "screen sharing server", but if you connect to some other VNC server, e.g. tightvnc on Linux, you'll not automatically get an encrypted (=secure) connection unless you take extra steps. Jun 13, 2016 at 19:01
  • 1
    I could not get the macOS builtin VNC to work for me for a VNC session forwarded over SSH. But the VNC Viewer by RealVNC worked seamlessly. Just a data point for future readers. Feb 10, 2020 at 18:01
  • Be careful, the integrated MacOS client does not work to connect to a VNC server as exposed by a Qemu virtual machine. You will have to use TigerVNC or another for this use case. Oct 29, 2020 at 22:42
  • Apparently, built-in client doesn't support RANDR extensions...
    – Dims
    Oct 25, 2021 at 17:41

You can connect to remote Linux machines with your Mac's built-in vnc client.

  1. Setup the vnc server on the remote Linux machine.

  2. On your Mac, go to Finder. Press cmd+K or Go > Connect to Server.

  3. In the Server Address, enter vnc://{HOST}:{PORT}. For example vnc://linux.myhost.com:5901.

A VNC session will be connected to the remote Linux machine with the Screen Sharing application.


Real VNC or VNC Viewer are the same client (aside from platform) as used on Windows PCs for decades. OS X is designed to work with VNC protocol out of the box.

As an added bonus, Real VNC is available as a free iOS app.

The only real concerns you should have in using it are security hardening, ie restricting access to specific IP addresses or users.

  • 1
    security's not a significant concern, fortunately - everything's either inside the corporate firewall, or tunneled. So basic password security should be adequate. Jun 24, 2015 at 22:26
  • True, some are more paranoid about using VNC than others, and if you're on a tunneled connection you wouldn't really have to worry about binding.
    – Rampant
    Jun 24, 2015 at 23:04

What you are looking for is the built in Screen Sharing app which resides in System/Library/CoreServices. It can connect to most VNC servers and is slightly faster than other options such as RealVNC.


If you go to the RealVNC website and choose "Download > Viewer" you get a native OSX app that works nicely for me. I'm not exactly sure about the licensing terms, but going through "Products > Product Selector" on the homepage seems to indicate that the Viewer is free (while the Server is licensed).

The built-in Apple Screen Sharing works nicely too, although I experienced hangs with xterm on the remote (tracked as "linux xterm problem" in Apple Support Communities). The built-in is accessible from Safari through vnc://hostname in the address bar. If launched once, you can right-click on the icon in the dock and choose Options > Keep in Dock for easy access.

The "Chicken" VNC did not work for me at all.


I don't have a lot of recent experience with VNC on the Mac but if you look at this (on stackexchange.com) it will explain how to connect to another client via the O/S X VNC server.

Apple's version is called Remote Desktop, the commercial version is just Apple Remote Desktop and really designed to manage Macs. I've used the latter but never tried to connect to a strictly VNC client. Not sure if it is possible.

  • Thanks. That gave me the magic string - I needed vnc://host:port - not sure if the port is the protocol port, or the specific x server to be connected to. Unfortunately, no joy, with either version. Perhaps it assumes everything is on x desktop 0? Jun 25, 2015 at 0:22

The best explanation I've seen for how to use apple's "screen" as a vnc client is at http://www.davidtheexpert.com/post.php?id=5

He seems unaware of the period when apple had broken compatibility with non-apple VNC servers, but other than that his instructions seem great, and work beautifully on OS X El Capitan Version 10.11.6. (I'm no longer on 10.9.5)

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