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Even your PC can be a Mac.
Though Apple’s share of the computing market is continually growing, it’s still largely a Windows world. For many of us, that means we sit in front of Windows machines at work, at school, while visiting family, or when traveling. But that doesn’t mean we have to be out of touch with our Macs altogether. In fact, with a couple pieces of completely free software and a few easy steps, you can take full control of your Mac from just about any Windows machine, whether it’s on the other side of the room or the other side of the planet.
1. Make Your Mac Receptive
If your Mac and PC are on the same network, this is all you have to do on the Mac side.
Download Vine to your Mac and drag the Vine Server into your Applications folder. When launched, it configures itself to allow control of the main display over port 5900. If you’re looking to control this machine from a PC on the same home network, you’ll need to do little else on this end except set a password: Go to Vine Server > Preferences and enter one in the Connection tab. While you’re there, take a look at the Device tab and make sure you’re fine with the default settings there; if the Mac has a screen of its own you’ll probably want to check the Allow Display Dimming and/or Allow Screen Saver To Start boxes.
2. Get In The Numbers Game
Write down your external (blurred in the screenshot) and internal IP addresses.
Now head back to Vine Server’s main menu. In the middle of the screen you’ll see two IP addresses; one is the number your Mac uses to identify itself on your local network, and the other is the number it uses to identify itself to the Internet. Write both numbers down. (A note about the external IP address: This is something you don’t want made public, so guard it carefully, unless you want to open your machine up to Internet attacks.)
3. Bare Your Soul
Portforward.com can direct you to instructions that will enable your router to work with RealVNC.
If you’re looking to access your Mac from somewhere other than a PC on the same network, you’re going to need to take one more step to allow VNC Viewer to reach your Mac. This involves diving into the settings of your network router—trouble is, every router is different, so we can’t tell you exactly how to do that. Luckily, the Internet can! Head over to portforward.com/english/routers/port_forwarding/routerindex.htm and select your router from the list. On the following screen, select RealVNC as the program and follow the directions.
4. Make Your PC More Outgoing
Your IP address (internal or external) goes in the Server field.
Now, on your PC, download the standalone VNC Viewer. Extract it if necessary and save it someplace memorable. Start it up, and you’ll be presented with a screen asking you to input the server info. If you’re on the same network as your Mac, enter the internal IP address. If you’re trying to access your Mac from anywhere other than your home network, enter the external IP address. A note about the external IP address: Chances are, unless you’ve negotiated a static IP address from your Internet provider, this number will change on a regular basis. So you’ll want to double-check the external IP frequently. A service like Dynamic DNS (free, www.dyndns.com/services/dns/dyndns) will map your dynamic IP address to a hostname you can use instead.
5. Fine-Tune Your Setup
If you’re connecting to your Mac over the Net, dial down the colors.
Before clicking OK, let’s make sure VNC Viewer is set up correctly for your connection. Click Options and choose the Color & Encoding tab. Make sure the Auto Select box above the Preferred Encoding field is checked; this will ensure the client and host talk to each other as efficiently as possible. The one thing you may want to change here is Color Level. If both your PC and Mac are connected to the same network with wired connections, set Color Level to Full. If both machines are on the same network but one or both has a slow wireless connection, you probably won’t want to go above Medium or you’ll experience some frustrating lag. And if you’re connecting over the Internet, try either Low or Very Low, depending on your connection speed.
6. Behold the Cross-Platform
Running GarageBand inside a window on a PC—that’s Mac-tastic!
Once that’s set, go ahead and click OK. You’ll be prompted for a password; enter the one you set in Step 1. Hey, look, a Mac window! On your PC! You can right-click the program name in your PC’s taskbar to switch to full screen (hit F8 to switch back to window view) or to adjust options like Color Level, in case your connection’s not quite what you thought it’d be. And there you have it: Now you don’t have to be away from your Mac ever again.