Back to My Mac debuted on Leopard as part of MobileMe and has migrated over to iCloud. If you have Lion-based machines, it’s never been easier to set it up. The service is a simplified remote access tool that lets you share screens and files with designated Macs running Lion. (The old, MobileMe version of Back to My Mac still works, but not concurrently with the updated edition.)
Once enabled, you’ll be able to use a Mac out on the road – a MacBook or office machine – to access any other Back to My Mac device with the same Apple ID. It’s ideal for people who travel or take work home. It’s also a good alternative to cloud storage services like Dropbox. Add an external drive to your home computer and you’ll have your own cloud server, where you can save any file.
Step 1: Travelling Mac
Back to My Mac is now part of iCloud. In older versions of OS X – up to version 10.5.3 – it was part
of MobileMe. To add to the confusion, it is filed under Find My iPhone if you try to access your other Mac via iCloud. We set up two machines, one at home and one in the office.
Step 2: Switch on sharing
First, on your stay-at-home Mac enable the appropriate sharing settings. Open System Preferences, go to the Sharing pane and enable File Sharing and Screen Sharing. Do the same on the travelling Mac, or any other machine you’ll use to access the remote computer.
Step 3: Apple ID
Next, on both the stay-at-home machine and the one you’ll travel with, open System Preferences and go to the Users & Groups pane. Make sure you’ve set up the same Apple ID for each machine. This will enable the two machines to find each other more easily.
Step 4: Connecting to iCloud
Click Show All in System Preferences and find the iCloud pane. If you need to sign in to your iCloud account, do so now. In most cases, you should just need to tick the box next to Back to My Mac. A few packets of data are passed back and forth, but before you know it your Mac will be ready to go.
Step 5: Wake up
The final thing you’ll need to do on your stay-at-home Mac is enable Wake for Network Access. In System Preferences find the Energy Saver pane. The appropriate option’s there. Also, remember to leave your Mac running if you want to access it while you’re on your travels!
Step 6: Shared resources
Open a Finder window on your travelling Mac and your stay-at-home Mac should now be listed under Shared. If you don’t have this section on your sidebar, go to Finder > Preferences > Sidebar and ensure the box beside Back to My Mac is checked. It should pop into view and you’ll be ready to connect.
Step 7: File finding
To access files, choose your stay-at-home Mac in the Sidebar and click Connect As:. Choose Using an Apple ID as the connection method and select your iCloud ID if prompted. Once connected, you should be able to access the files on the remote machine in Finder as though they’re part of your network.
Step 8: Screening Now
Choosing Share Screen gives you control of your stay-at-home Mac and its applications, on the move. Select the machine in the Shared section of the Finder’s Sidebar and click Share Screen. Select the iCloud ID and you’ll soon be controlling your stay-at-home machine’s apps and files from afar.
Step 9: Automatic scaling
How does it look? Much like Screen Sharing looks on your local network – if your connection’s OK. The shared screen scales to the size of your remote display, but you can view the desktop at its native resolution and scroll around it. The quality can also be amended to full or adapt network conditions.
Step 10: Divided rule...
Back to My Mac should work across Leopard, Snow Leopard and Lion. However, things are a little more complicated... iCloud has taken over from MobileMe, usurping much of the functionality of that service. And Apple don’t seem too bothered about maintaining support for MobileMe users...
Step 11: Not so MobileMe
Long story short, enable Back to My Mac on a Mac with Lion installed and the service will stop working on your pre-iCloud Macs. If you still have Macs with Leopard the solution is very simple. Open the iCloud control pane and switch it off... It’s an either/or situation.
Step 12: Strong password
Back to My Mac gives you a lot of access and control over your files, so you need to make sure that your machines are secure. The first step to doing that is to update your password to ensure its strong enough to withstand brute force hacking. Try using www.strongpasswordgenerator.com.
Step 13: Lock down
Mobile computers are easy to nick. Now, imagine the laptop you left on the train also has a connection to all your data at home. Make sure your laptop password is secure too, and that Automatic Login is disabled in Login Options in Users & Groups or Accounts in System Preferences.
Step 14: Find your Mac
If your device does go missing, one advantage of the iCloud version of Back to my Mac is that you can locate it. Sign into iCloud and select Find My iPhone to discover where your lost laptop last checked in from. It’s a quick way to find out whether your device is stolen or merely left behind too.
Step 15: Troubleshoot connections
Back to My Mac not working? The first fix is the classic one. Turn it on and off again. Sign out of iCloud, make sure your internet connection is active, then sign back in. If that doesn’t work, try Back to My Mac with a different router. It could be the ports that need tweaking.