Sharing your screen - for free


Can’t find my previous thread on this - if there was one, or many.

In around 2013 I set up my dad with a 2008 iMac, whilst at the same time getting a 2009 iMac for myself. Both were running Mavericks, and I made great use of the “Back to my Mac” feature of being able to remotely access dad’s iMac when he (frequently) needed help. The app doing the actual connection was called “Screen Sharing”, and is still a standard Mac app from Apple - however they hide it away, instead of simply having it reside in the Apps folder for people to make full use of.

Whenever dad needed help, he just had to confirm his current IP address (as he is on a dynamic address that changes regularly), and then I would be able to remotely access his computer from 400km away, and see what the hell he was talking about! :slight_smile: Then I could also take control of his computer if needed to quickly fix his problem/s.

Then in around 2018 it stopped working. Bugger!!! Back to the dark ages of cryptic confusing phone calls without any visual to decipher what my father was trying to describe. Numerous visits and changing settings etc etc did nothing to get it to work again, and most of the “other” options for screen sharing tended to require lots of $$$.

I’ve just set up my dad’s new M1 iMac sigh of relief One of the biggest factors when setting it up - for me - was to get the screen sharing working again. Unfortunately - I still could not get it to work. I believe that Apple has “plugged” the option to remote in using your IP address. But, someone here (@jaysee ?) or on Mac Rumors suggested using the Messages app to share screens. It didn’t work on Mavericks… but… from the Big Sur (M1 iMac), to Catalina (my MacBookAir) -

It works!

And, it’s easier than before! I can just open Messages on my computer, go to a message I’ve sent to dad, then go to the “Buddies” menu, and “Request to share screen”. A message pops up on his computer asking if he wants to let me in - he says yes - and I’ve got access. Either to view, or control.

I just did a test run from 1km away (motel room; making absolute sure I wasn’t still on his WiFi when I made the connection from his house), and it works fine.

I did notice - it still uses the same Screen Sharing app…! But this looks like it should be easier than having to get his IP address each time.

Glad to have this feature working again. Hope anyone else who needs it can use it for their own tech support assistance.




I use Anydesk for this with my folks. It is free for personal use.

Apparently if you start connecting to too many remote devices it will challenge your use case but I’ve had no issues with 2 remote devices connected to from my Mac.

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Haven’t heard of that one. If I have issues with the Messages app, I’ll give it a go. My mum is worried that if the Messages app is always on, Dad will get frustrated with all of her messages. :slight_smile:

I wouldn’t call Anydesk a messaging app - it’s more a remote screen sharing / desktop control app so you can fix things for the family without having to visit.

Oh yes - understand what you’re saying.

I would never have excepted to find screen sharing in the Messages app! It’s actually quite good, because as well as letting you see and control their screen, you can hear / talk to them through the computer as well. Kind of like Facetime, but you see their screen on your computer. (And they don’t see you, btw!)

So - first major use of the Messages app to share my dad’s screen from 400km away… and Apple - what an absolute failure!!

At first it seemed to work, I had control of his screen, but then it started either dropping out completely, or it would change from “control” to “view”. I would then need to re-request control of the screen, and dad then had to re-accept.

Then however, after about 4-5 times of that, it just refused to make a connection. I would request control, and he wouldn’t get the request on his end.

Very disappointed that Apple have disabled this feature from just working based on the IP address (and still then needing both the Mac’s user ID and password).

@Chiateno - I’ll look into Anydesk now as not wanting a repeat of last night… 45minute conversation that could have been 15. (Love you, dad… but god, “What Message menu?” “Are you talking to me?” “Oh, that Apple menu”…)

Probably a bit of overkill, but in my family, being the go-to IT guy, I’ve over engineered my parents and sisters’ houses…

At all 3 there are Ubiquiti Unify setups and I’ve enabled site-to-site VPNs between them all. Anyone of us can get to any machine in any house regardless of where you are. It’s great. Plex lives behind the VPN, my sister can get to files on our family server at Mums and any time someone needs help, I double click their computer in Remote Desktop on my Mac.

In a previous life as an actual IT tech, we used Teamviewer quite a bit for clients that didn’t have VPN abilities.

I had a better experience with the Messages app the other day. Still couldn’t access from my Mac Pro though - had to use MacBookPro. Am guessing it’s because the Mac Pro is on Sierra, vs Catalina…?

Probably - inter or older OS things that run through iCloud/Apple servers can sometimes break without notice.