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I am trying to help a friend organize his computer remotely over the internet. Screen sharing through macOS Messages is far too laggy to be efficient. I've been searching and reading about macOS's native remote file sharing options (File Sharing, Remote Login, Remote Management, Apple Remote Desktop, etc), but I can't for the life of me figure it all out or quite understand how it all works.

Is it possible to set up his computer so that I can remotely log into it from my own computer over the internet, through Finder, and organize his files for him, using a native macOS feature/protocol?

We are both running the latest version of High Sierra and running MacBook Pros.

EDIT: Well I've determined that the answer is no, there is no way to access my friend's files over the internet using a mounted disk in Finder, as you might over a local Wi-Fi network. The alternative is some deep Terminal usage and router set-up, which is a bit more than I can devote my time to, but I've marked it as the solution, as it does answer my question.

  • yes, it is called Remote Login. – Ruskes Sep 27 '18 at 1:00
  • I can't seem to get Remote Login to work over the internet. I've tried using Terminal and typing in the string it says in the Remote Login settings in System Preferences (beginning with "ssh") with no luck. Plus, the name in that string is slightly different than the username, and the text after the "@" is words, rather than an IP address. – etudes Sep 27 '18 at 3:12
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    I personally use Team Viewer app to help some people in Europe. – Ruskes Sep 27 '18 at 3:14
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Using ssh in Terminal would be my preferred way to achieve this but your friend will likely need to setup a rule on their firewall/router to let you make inbound ssh connections to their Mac.

Once you're in it's the same as being in a Terminal locally on their Mac so you have full control over their filesystem (assuming you login with their credentials). Your friend could create another account for you to login with but you'll need Administrative rights on that account to use sudo to manipulate files in their home directory.

IPV4 with NAT will require a port 22 forward on their router to the internal IP address of their Mac. If IPv6 is available to you both then it will likely just need a hole poked in your friends firewall/router to allow return traffic to your own IP. If your friend's Mac is not in a fixed network location and is moving around and changing networks then this method won't work.

If you're new to this I would suggest trying this out on the same network first before you try doing it over the internet and have their firewall/router in the way.

To enable ssh login on your friends Mac go to System Preferences -> Sharing and enable Remote Login.

To ssh to your friends laptop in a Terminal you'll want something like:

ssh username@ipaddress

in a Terminal on your machine where username is their 'shortname' on their Mac and ipaddress is their public IP. Typing

id

into a Terminal on their Mac is a quick and easy way to determine their 'shortname'. It's the name in brackets after the uid.

The password required will be the same as their normal desktop login password.

Once you're logged in via ssh you have access to all the tools you would be able to use in Terminal on their local machine (like cp, mv, rm etc).

If you use this method and get things working and you want to leave Remote Login on all the time you should consider generating and using ssh keys and disable ssh password based logins altogether. Open ssh ports tend to attract lots of attention.

Ideally you should also make the firewall rules on their firewall/router specific to your public IP, though that can be a pain if your public IP is assigned dynamically by your ISP or you move network locations a lot.

  • Op wanted to use finder – Mark Sep 27 '18 at 8:57
  • Yes, but there's nothing 'native' in macos to do that easily apart from what they've already tried. It is possible using a VPN and Samba file sharing, but it'll be dog slow over your average consumer internet connection. – Dan Alderman Sep 27 '18 at 13:48
  • There are several things in there I'm not too learned on, especially router/firewall adjusting, but I do get the gist of this, thanks much for the info. This brings up a big question though — I thought Remote Login would be a way for me to login and "mount" my friend's filesystem in my Finder sidebar, much like I can do using File Sharing with local Wi-Fi network shared Mac computers. Is that incorrect? I can only move his files around using Terminal? That probably isn't a very efficient system to organize hundreds and hundreds of files. I think I need drag-and-drop functionality. – etudes Sep 27 '18 at 21:46
  • ssh is terminal only I'm afraid, no mounting. Mounting the traditional network file protocols like NFS/Samba over the internet is painful at best. Using a Terminal can actually be way more efficient than using drag and drop but there's a steep learning curve if you want to get more fancy than just simple move/copy/delete. That's where the find/rsync commands come in. – Dan Alderman Sep 29 '18 at 6:09
  • Ok, well this does answer my question for me — it's essentially a "no", but the alternative way is really learning Terminal and doing some pretty in-depth setup. In the end, I just dealt with the slow, laggy nature of screen sharing over Messages, but thanks for clearing this up for me. Will mark this answer as a solution, but if anyone knows of another solution, please do add it as an answer. – etudes Sep 30 '18 at 20:33
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I would highly recommend the Team Viewer app.

Have been using it for years now to help some people over in Europe.

https://www.teamviewer.us/

It is free for personal uses...

Of course both sides have to install it

team viewer

  • That looks like another way to simply view and control my friend's screen, which I am already able to do using macOS messages. As I said in my post, I'm really looking for a way to just access the file system and make edits to it without the extra lag and bulk of viewing and controlling his screen. – etudes Sep 27 '18 at 3:24
  • so you want to make changes without seen what you doing ? – Ruskes Sep 27 '18 at 3:35
  • If I had access to my friend's file system as a mounted drive, as I imagine Remote Login works, that would certainly let me see the files and changes I am performing. – etudes Sep 27 '18 at 3:42
  • Well as said, I use Team Viewer to fix problems on other people computers. – Ruskes Sep 27 '18 at 3:56
  • Thanks for the suggestion, I appreciate the effort. This doesn't answer my question though. (And I already can do exactly what you are suggesting, natively). – etudes Sep 27 '18 at 4:14

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