How to replace Back to My Mac now that Apple has killed it

Mac users are spoilt for choice.

Apple, macOS, Mac OS, OS X, Catalina, Back to my Mac
Apple

Now that macOS Catalina public beta testing has begun, Apple today made good its promise to disable its Back to My Mac remote access feature for all versions of its Mac operating systems. What alternatives exist?

What has Apple done?

Back to My Mac allowed users to connect directly to one or more Macs to get things done.

Introduced in 2007 with Mac OS X Leopard, Back to my Mac users could access files, share screens, and control/access remote devices.

It was useful, but implementation was sometimes a little buggy as network security setups differed and enterprise firewalls frequently forbade remote connections of this kind.

Apple announced its intention to disable the feature in May:

"As of July 1, 2019, Back to My Mac service is not available in any other version of macOS," it announced on a support page.

Apple has now made good its promise and switched Back to my Mac off.

With the closure, an Apple tech support note suggests we use iCloud Drive for file access and sharing and Apple Remote Desktop to manage Macs remotely.

What can we replace these services with?

Use Mac’s built-in Screen Sharing tools

It is already possible to use screen sharing to view and control another Mac remotely. You just need to set the system up first.

This is explained in more detail in this tech support note, but here’s a very brief version. (Refer to the note if it’s not clear or your configuration differs.)

  1. Open System Preferences > Sharing on your Mac.
  2. Check the Screen Sharing tickbox.
  3. You’ll need to define who can share the screen: All users or only these users.
  4. To add a user, tap the Plus button and select the user there – only existing Mac users will be listed.
  5. You can also set options for controlling your screen using the Computer Settings button.

You can also use Messages to share the screen

Another way to share the screen is through Messages. This app has had the capacity to share Mac screens since before it was called Messages, way back when it was iChat.

Both you and the person you wish to share the screen with must be using Messages on a Mac.

  1. Begin a Messages chat with someone you want to share your screen with. You should see the blue Screen Share button appear in the interface. It looks like two rectangles superimposed above one another. Tap the icon.
  2. You can then choose to share your screen, or ask to see the other person's screen. Messages will send a sharing request and, once it is agreed to, will launch the Screen Sharing app and open up an audio conversation.
  3. Once you are finished, tap the sharing icon again to end the session.

This feature also lets you control each other's screen, as explained here.

What can we use for remote file access?

Apple has taken massive steps in terms of remote file access with deep integration between iCloud Drive and all Apple devices.

It’s now easy to access and use documents, images, videos and other data created on a Mac from any other Apple device logged into the same user ID.

Apple’s Files app lets iOS users access almost everything – you just have to turn on Desktops and Documents in iCloud Drive.

You can also use popular third-party online file storage and sharing services, such as Box, Dropbox or OneDrive to store and share data across all your devices.

You aren’t confined to consumer services: Egnyte, Tresorit, SpiderOak and most proprietary enterprise sharing systems should now be compatible with Apple devices.

In most cases, all of these are also accessible via a web browser.

In fact, when it comes to file sharing, sync and collaboration, Mac users are now spoiled for choice.

What can we use to control a Mac remotely?

When it comes to remote access and control, there are many third-party tools available, though cost and security may differ. For example:

TeamViewer

Available for multiple platforms (including Android), TeamViewer software lets you control remote computers, share desktops and files, enjoy web conferencing and more. You can use platform-specific apps, or a web browser to do this. More information.

LogMeIn for Mac

Very much a business-focused solution, LogMeIn for Mac is extremely easy to use, connects fast and even lets you access your Mac remotely from your iPhone (using an app). You get 1TB online storage, a free LastPass account, and a range of collaboration and other features. More information.

Screens

There’s usually an app for that, and Screens is that app. This is an iOS app that lets you access your Mac, and also your Windows, Linux or Pi device. The app automatically scans for Macs and iOS devices on the network you are on, and you can access those machines almost immediately with a password. More information.

Additional solutions include: Jump Desktop, GoToMyPC, NoMachine, Parallels Access, and Microsoft Remote Desktop for Mac.

Given so much choice, it really comes down to what kind of service you need.

I do hope this report helps if you need to find a solution with which to replace Back to My Mac.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

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