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need remote support solution for Mac

Thomas Anthony
Last Modified: 2014-08-08
We have over 20 clients that have Mac computers in their work environment. Most are in a mixed environment; Windows and Mac. For Windows, we have been using TeamViewer and been very pleased with it's remote support capability. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to work as well for Mac.
Our clients ask us to work on their machines after hours so they are usually logged off. Their systems don't hybernate so we are able to access their machines at any time. Unfortunately, with TeamViewer, it has to be logged in to the user to access.
Is there another remote solution that is cost effective that works with Mac and is easy to deploy? LogMeIn and GoToMyPC are not solutions we are willing to look at.
Thanks for your help.
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Joshua GrantomSystems Administrator
Top Expert 2014

VNC Viewer and VNC Server

It allows you to interact with logon screen
Thomas AnthonySecurity Administrator


Thanks for the quick response. Will the free VNC work?
Joshua GrantomSystems Administrator
Top Expert 2014

It should work, We had a few Mac's in our mainly windows environment and that's what I used to support them.

You will just need to know the ip address of each mac, Ive never tried to use hostnames with it.
MontoyaProcess Improvement Mgr

you can also try teamviewer.com works great
I also use VNC from time to time
Joshua GrantomSystems Administrator
Top Expert 2014

He has already used teamviewer and listed his issues in original post

If you are logged in with a VPN you can also use Apple Remote Desktop on one of the remote macs and do all kinds of actions to multiple macs at the same time. It is great in my opinion.
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Eoin OSullivanConsultant

In the past I've used Vine VNC Server for OSX as it is easier to configure a unique port for each Mac .. then a simple port-based NAT on the router allowed me to target VNC on each mac from an external VNC Viewer application.

Nowadays I use TeamViewer to remote support OSX.

Use SSH command line instead.

All the free, non Apple default, screen sharing software requires the user to be logged in to have access.  The changed that during Leopard or Snow Leopard, when the changed the login screen to be a different type of window entity and you can't remotely start 3rd party VNC or remote desktop connections remotely when it's displaying that login window.

I actually prefer Vine Server over the built in VNC because I could easily tunnel that through SSH and also create multiple VNC connections for simultaneous logins of multiple users.  Unfortunately, since Leopard, you have to get each user to actually sit at the console, log in, and start VNC, connect to it, switch to the login screen, then reconnect, then log in another user on the console, before they could all connect remotely to their own sessions on different ports.

Apple Screen Sharing is unencrypted VNC, so you should only use it on a local secure LAN or VPN.  You have to purchase a commercial version to have encryption.  If you have Snow Leopard or newer, you can use Apple Remote Desktop, which is encrypted, but you'll have to forward the Remote Management ports 5900 & 3283 if you don't have VPN.  It's $79 from the App Store.  If you have Leopard or older, you only have access to unencrypted VNC.  I would disable this when it's not in use.

What is it that you're configuring on the remote Macs?  Your description suggests that you're mostly doing software updates or install after hours.  You should learn to do all that via the command line and save yourself hours of tedium of going to each Mac one by one through the GUI.  You should be able to do almost everything via command line scripts through SSH and manage 10-30 times as many systems in the same time that it takes you to do it through the GUI.  SSH is the only service I leave enabled. I change or forward the port to non-standard ports to keep the script kiddies from brute forcing passwords and filling log files with password attempts.  You can enable/disable the other Sharing settings, as needed, from the command line.

With SSH, you can even install software while the user is logged in and working.  You don't have to wait until the end of the day for the user to log out.  They won't see any changes until they quit their programs or reboot, depending on what you've done.  You can also configure settings via the command line.  It's a bit tedious to visit each Mac one by one for system configurations or software installs.  Script them and you can run them unattended and save yourself time.  This goes for Windows systems too.  I rarely connect to the screen unless someone's asking for remote user support and needs to be shown the step-by-step.  Except for a few software packages that require screen prompts, the majority of non-App Store software for OSX are installable via the command line.

If you can't configure VPN or route external ports, I would suggest connecting to a windows system via Teamviever and using putty to ssh to the locally connected Mac or running a VNC client from the Windows system.  Putty can be either installed or copied into place.  I usually just unzip the zip package into c:\putty\.

Here are the commands that will do the vast majority of the software updates and installs.
You can mount any dmg file via the command line.
hdiutil attach INSTALLER.DMG

if it's an app that you drag and drop, just copy it.  You can use cp -r instead of ditto now that Apple stopped using resource forks.
sudo ditto /Volumes/INSTALL_FOLDER/App_name.app /Applications/App_name.app

If it's a package with either a .pkg or .mpkg extension,
sudo installer -pkg /Volumes/INSTALL_FOLDER/App_name.mpkg -target /

You can unmount or eject the DMG file when you're done.
hdiutil detach /Volumes/INSTALL_FOLDER

If you're installing all system updates/patches
sudo softwareupdate -l
sudo softwareupdate -i -a

Some other useful commands

Start Apple Remote Management
sudo /System/Library/CoreServices/RemoteManagement/ARDAgent.app/Contents/Resources/kickstart -restart -agent
Stop Apple Remote Management
sudo /System/Library/CoreServices/RemoteManagement/ARDAgent.app/Contents/Resources/kickstart -deactivate -configure -access -off

Enable Screen Sharing
sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.screensharing.plist
Disable Screen Sharing
sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.screensharing.plist
Thomas AnthonySecurity Administrator


Teamviewer 9 isn't exactly those options but was exactly what I needed. Thanks!
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