Back to My Mac lets anyone with an Apple ID connect remotely to their home or office Mac over the Internet and control the keyboard, pointer and file system. Hit play on the video above to learn how to use this feature for yourself.
The immediate benefit to this consumer-grade VPN application is that it lets you retrieve forgotten files by emailing them from your Mac to whichever machine you're using to control it. You can also use it -- at a push -- to run apps remotely, although the effectiveness of working this way is determined to a large extent by the speed of the broadband connection at both ends of the operation. Hit play on the video above or read on to learn how to use this feature for yourself.
Enable Back to My Mac
1. Back to My Mac is enabled through System Preferences. Navigate to the iCloud pane and check the box beside Back to My Mac. After a few seconds the progress spinner will disappear and the service will be up and running. If you experience a problem, uncheck the box and reboot your Mac. Re-checking the box is usually sufficient to fix it.
2. If you still can't get it to work, you'll need to make some adjustments to your router to grant the service access to the net. Find your router's IP address through System Preferences by clicking Network > Advanced > TCP/IP. Take a note of the four blocks of numbers that sit on the Router line -- in our case, 192.168.1.1, and the similar block beside IPv4 Address, which is your Mac's locally assigned IP address.
3. Type this address into your browser to open your router's configuration pages. These should be password protected, but if you haven't set the password yourself and have lost the documentation, check the extensive list of default passwords at routerpasswords.com for your make and model. If you gain access this way you should subsequently change your password to something other than the default.
4. Depending on the terminology, look for either Ports or Virtual Servers on your router configuration pages and add an HTTP server, specifying your Mac's IP address as the server location, and 80 for both the internal and external port. If necessary, reboot your router to apply the changes. Also enable UPnP and NAT-PMP if supported by your router.
5. Finally, return to System Preferences and open the Energy Saver pane. If you're using a MacBook, ensure it's plugged in and, from the Power Adapter tab, check the box to enable 'Wake for network access'.
6. Open System Preferences > Users & Groups on both the remote Mac with which you plan to travel and the Mac that will stay at home and ensure that an Apple ID is set on each for your user account.
Access your Mac remotely
7. Your Mac will now periodically check in with Apple's servers to update them on its location on the Internet. Set your other energy saver settings to allow the computer to sleep after a few minutes, but don't switch it off. You can now leave home with another Mac and access your home machine remotely.
Open a new Finder window on your second Mac and your home machine will appear in the sidebar's Shared subsection. If you don't have this section on your own sidebar, click Finder > Preferences > Sidebar and ensure the box beside Back to My Mac is checked.
8. Click your home Mac, followed by the Connect As... button. Select Using an Apple ID as the connection method and, if you have more than one Apple ID on your machine, select the appropriate one from the drop-down menu and click connect to access the files on your remote Mac.
9. Alternatively, if you want to control your computer from your mobile MacBook, select it in the sidebar and click Share Screen... After a few seconds of negotiating the connection your remote Mac's display will be replicated in a window on your local machine.
By default this is intelligently scaled to fit your local display if it's larger than your current resolution. This can be disabled from the View menu, at which point the remote display will scroll within the local window. It's also worthwhile enabling the screen toolbar, which allows you to copy the remote clipboard to your local machine, and vice-versa.