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Everything You Need to Know About VNC and Your Mac

written by: JLachkovic•edited by: Michael Dougherty•updated: 9/1/2011

Do you ever need to set up and use a virtual network computing (VNC) session but are unsure how on Mac OS X? You can create cross-platform VNC sessions using Apple Remote Desktop, read this guide to find out how.

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    Virtual Network Computing

    Virtual Network Computing (VNC) is a system for sharing desktops between computers. One computer - the master computer - controls the keyboard and mouse of another computer - the slave computer. VNC was developed in the Olivetti Research Laboratory in Cambridge, England, in the late 1990s. VNC was created so that a computer or network administrator could assist an amateur or non-technical user with a problem. Instead of guiding the user through the process, which can often be lengthy and tiresome with some users, the administrator can connect via VNC and complete the task for them.

    The Apple client for VNC utilizes both the VNC protocol, along with its own inbuilt Mac-based protocol.

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    Apple Remote Desktop

    Apple Remote Desktop is the inbuilt VNC client for the Apple Mac OS X operating system. Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) was first introduced in 2002, during the release of Mac OS X 10.2, and it is now in its third program version. ARD replaced Apple Network Assistant, an earlier variation of the program that is now wholly incompatible with Apple Mac OS X.

    Apple Remote Desktop has, since its first version, featured the ability to lock the screen, restart the computer, perform simple file transfers, and put the computer to sleep. With each update, new features were added that made use of the Max OS X framework, such as remote tasks. With version 2 of Apple Remote Desktop, Apple introduced the cross-platform capabilities by opening support for the VNC protocol, along with the default Apple protocol ports.

    Apple Remote Desktop can be installed remotely from server computers, which is useful when operating a large-scale network with new computers added all of the time.

    ARD 3 introduced many new tasks including remote spotlight searches, using the dashboard, using Automator, using Power Copy, remote drag and drag, and much more. With ARD you can perform the tasks expected of all typical VNC software.

    Along with the third-party VNC support for Windows, Apple Remote Desktop fully integrates with the Linux VNC client x11vnc.

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    Setting Up Apple Remote Desktop

    Apple Remote Desktop 3 needs to be set up on an administrative server computer and a client computer. The client setup is needed for each individual client machine throughout the network. While on the administration server, you must actually install the server-side component, the client side application is inbuilt into the operating system, and only needs to be activated.

    Administration Computer

    Install Apple Remote Desktop 3 administration software on this computer. If you have downloaded this, double-click the disk image and then installer application. If you have this as an extra on you server disk, insert the disk, browse through the extra applications and then double-click the installer file. Click "Continue" throughout the installation to use the default installation instructions.

    Client Computers

    Open System Preferences. Click "Accounts," and then unlock the Accounts page. Click ~ezentity_quot+ezentity_quot~ to create a new user, this will be the ARD user. Ensure that the 'administrate' box is checked.

    Click "Sharing" in System Preferences. Enable Apple Remote Desktop and then select your newly created user in the access list. Enable all of the access privileges that you want to grant for this computer. Click "Apply," and then close System Preferences.

    You have now set up the Client computer for use with Apple Remote Desktop.

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    How To Use

    The Client Connection Screen in Apple Remote Desktop On the administration computer, open Remote Desktop. Click "Scanner" on the left and then click the sources drop-down menu. Click "Local Network" if the client computer is on a local area network. If it isn't, select Network Range from the list.

    A large list of available network computers appears in the main dialog window. Select the client computer from the list or, if it is not available, enter that computer's Internet Protocol (IP) address in the search field at the top and press "Enter." Double-click that computer name to connect to it.

    Enter the user details for that user computer as set up on client computer and then click "Add." This adds the computer to the quick find list on the left.

    Select the computer and click "Observe." This lets you observe what that client is doing. When you are observing a client computer, the client does not know that you are doing so and therefore this is useful for monitoring. Click "Control" to take control of that computer. A window will open with that user's desktop, you will now have overriding power of the mouse and keyboard. Fix the problem for the user and then press "Esc" to close.

References

  • "Apple Tutorials - Remote Desktop 3", http://www.apple.com/remotedesktop/tutorials/easysetup.html
  • "Apple - Remote Desktop 3", http://www.apple.com/remotedesktop/