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What is Apple Remote Desktop and How to Use it?

Helga York Article author
Apple remote desktop application

What is Apple Remote Desktop

Developed by Apple Inc., Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) is a Mac app replacing Apple Network Assistant. Initially released in March of 2002, it’s one of the preferred methods around how to access Mac remotely.

Similar in behavior to a VNC, it’s meant to support administrators overseeing many Macs at once—as well as team members needing remote assistance or group demos.

Note: the Apple Remote Desktop for PC version is called Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol, as Apple Remote Desktop is only available on the Apple Mac App Store.

Below this Apple Remote Desktop review and guide will describe how Apple Remote Desktop works, and how it enhances workflows, and how to set up Apple Remote Desktop correctly.

Apple Remote Desktop Price: $79.99

As shown above, paying the Apple Remote Desktop cost won’t break the budget, but it was mainly developed for large organizations with many devices to manage on a network.

Apple Remote Desktop App

How to use Apple Remote Desktop?

Apple Remote Desktop allows you to control other computers remotely over a network without any extra hardware. With its help, you can access other computers’ Finder menu, exchange files and folders with it, or even set up task automation.

    How to set up Apple remote desktop

    Here is the list of requirements your administrator and client computers must meet to use Apple Remote Desktop successfully:

    • – MacOS X 10.10.5 or later.
    • – Remote Desktop client software 3.6 or later.
    • – VNC–compatible client app (for non-Mac clients).

    Follow these steps to set up Remote Desktop:

    1. Download Remote Desktop from the App Store and use the setup assistant to finalize the configuration.
    2. Enter your Task Server address and click Continue (skip this step if you don’t have one).
    3. Check if all your client computers have the Remote Desktop client software (in macOS, it’s installed by default).
    4. Using the sidebar Scanner, add all the client machines to your list of controlled computers.

    How to add clients

    To add a client to the list of computers controlled by Remote Desktop, click on the Scanner on the left-hand side to see a dropdown menu with several options you can use to scan the network for hostnames, IP addresses, and other essential information:

    • • Bonjour – finds all the computers in your default Bonjour domain with enabled Remote Desktop.
    • • Directory server – lists client machines organized in computer groups in the directory known to your Task Server.
    • • Importing a file – imports a list of IP addresses from a file.
    • • Network addresses – displays devices connected to a specific IP.
    • • IP addresses – adds a client directly to the list, its IP address or hostname.
    • • Local network – lists all possible clients on the same subnets as your machine.
    • • Network range – displays client devices in-between a specific IP range.
    • • Task Server – shows the list of the devices added by other Remote Desktop administrators.

    In most cases, you will find your home devices in Bonjour (Mac devices only) or Local Network (all your network devices).

    Connecting to the machines

    Once your machines are on the list, you can connect to them by clicking on their hostname and entering your administrator credentials. After that, the client machine will be listed on the left under All Computers.

    Controlling remote screens

    You can use screen control to assist a user with a tech issue or operate a machine with no display. The client machine must be added to your Remote Desktop computer, have configured Remote Management, and a logged-in user (or pre-enabled control and observe privileges).

    Apple Remote Desktop allows you to control the keyboard, trackpad, or mouse so that you won’t need a KVM switch device. Your control will be limited to one computer at a time with no access to special keys (e.g., volume, screen brightness, etc.)

    Remote file installation

    To install a file remotely, you need to copy an installer package (.pkg or .mpkg ) to the client’s computer. Remote Desktop will automatically run the installer without invoking any windows or prompting user interaction and delete the packages once the installation is complete.

    Please note that there is no way to terminate the installation process, but clicking the Stop button will cancel copying other packages in the line.

    Creating and viewing reports

    With a click on the Reports button, you can create reports showing system info for all your Macs, including the list of installed apps and their usage, hardware specs, file comparison, login history, and more. If needed, you can save a report to a file and review it later.

    Sending remote commands

    The Manage menu offers you a whole array of commands to control a remote machine, such as Open Application, Sleep, Wake up, Log Out, Restart, and Shutdown. Please, be careful with the last one, as there is no command for turning a remote machine back on.

    Another way to send remote commands is via the Unix button. You can send bash shell commands as the current user or as root. (See the Display all output box for the command output and History for its results.)

    How to Enable Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) Remotely

    1. Step 1: While operating the Mac, open the Apple menu > System Preferences
    2. Step 2: Hit Sharing
    3. Step 3: Choose the Remote Management checkbox

      Configure Apple remote access

    4. Step 4: Select the tasks a remote user can perform if prompted

      Apple ARD

    Note: If there is no prompt, users can define tasks by opening Options

    Follow the steps below:

    • Option 1: Choose “All users” to allow anyone with a user account on your Mac to share your screen
    • Option 2: Choose “Only these users”, then hit the Add button—then specify which users can share your Mac
    • Option 3: Hit Computer Settings, then choose options for the Mac— if other users connect with a VNC viewer, you must set a password.

    The features that make the Apple ARD Mac app a must-have

    Convenient remote assistance

    Using Apple Remote Desktop app allows users to easily control a remote end-users screen when assisting with troubleshooting or system management tasks. Users can even manage computers without displays, meaning that KVM switch (Keyboard Video Mouse) isn’t needed.

    Users can even see if a specific computer has a Remote Management configuration, and whether it has (or has not) been added to the list of Remote Desktop computers.

    Efficiently control the screen of a concurrently logged-in user, or any user with control and observe privileges enabled with Apple Mac Remote Desktop.

    Apple Remote Desktop support allows users to manage another computer’s mouse, trackpad and keyboard—as well as transmit files, folders, and documents between Mac devices with the Drag and Drop feature. They can also copy and paste data between any two machines, regardless of their OS/platform.

    Note: Client computers using Apple Remote Desktop are not impacted by elements such as sound volume, special keys, screen brightness, or Media Eject keys.

    Remote administration, management, and control

    Apple Remote Desktop installations offer an exciting number of commands for sleep, wake, restart, shutdown, remote screen-locking, and more… users can even execute UNIX shell scripts/commands on the client machine.

      Use Apple Remote Desktop to manage computer lists

      Within the main window, Remote Desktop displays your computer lists, add additional computers to a list, monitor the entire group, or execute other managerial priorities.

      Conveniently, when a management task is performed on one computer, it is reflected upon every computer on the same list.

      Default computer lists are called All Computers lists. This lists outlines all potential clients that have been found and authenticated. Users can create an infinite number of lists, and add one computer to multiple lists at a time.

      Enjoy automation for your Mac computers

      Apple Remote Desktop’s Automator action makes time-consuming tasks a breeze, All users must do to implement Automator actions is drag and drop actions into a workflow.

      Apple Remote Desktop offers over 40 Automator actions, including options for Energy saver preferences, default time zone preferences, desktop wallpaper preferences, Finder preferences, and so much more

      File installations are easy with Remote Desktop

      Quickly and easily install files and folders with the installer packages, 3rd-party installer apps, or dragging and dropping data onto the client.

      When will the Apple Remote Desktop be useful?

      • • Great for office workers, educators, startups, and business admins
      • • Use the app to distribute, upgrade, and maintain all software on Macs connected to your network
      • • Collect important system information and store it on a database
      • • Use the app to assist fellow users sharing your network (especially useful for education professionals who must demonstrate how to use a specific program to students—as well as organizations providing live customer support)

      Additionally, Apple Remote Desktop lets users interact with each other in engaging new ways.

      • • Send messages
      • • View each other’s desktop screens
      • • Compare screens
      • • And more

      This Apple Remote Desktop app is equally helpful in business-oriented affairs. Remote users can access their onsite office computers from home, allowing employees to utilize important programs and documents no matter where they are.

      Educators can enjoy oversight and control over shared network computers, and admins can manage entire remote systems at once, adding to productivity and expense benefits.

      The pros and cons of Apple Remote Desktop

      The Pros

      The Cons

      Automator Actions is an exciting and cost-efficient feature that automates task workflows that reduces user effort

      Only available on Mac and is not cross-platform-compatible

      Curtain Mode allows users to block their local user's view of the desktop while executing administrative processes

      No mobile device UI—can only be obtained from the Mac App store, thus Apple Remote Desktop iPad or iPhone iOS isn’t available

      Spotlight Search saves time by performing ultra-quick searches on machines using the OS X spotlight search feature

      Apple Remote Desktop free versions aren’t available, making the app more expensive than alternative tools and software