Need advice are helping my aged dad (long-distance) with his iMac

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by malch, Dec 11, 2014.

  1. malch macrumors 6502

    Jan 20, 2008
    Hi there,
    My dad is 93 years old, lives a couple of hours away. He has used email for years and years, but his short-term memory is going and he's struggling. I (and my brothers) visit every weekend, but during the week I can only help him by phone... and it's getting harder and harder for me to 'picture' what he's seeing on his screen. Recently I got him an iMac, so at least I know what's where, when it comes to menus and the like. But even so, I'm 'in the dark' most of the time.
    Would an app like Remote Desktop 3 enable me to 'see' my dad's desktop, and do whatever I need to do to keep him going?
    I know that someone from Avid once took over my computer to fix something that was beyond me. Would Remote Desktop 3, or another app, allow me to do this for my dad?
    thanks for any advice,
  2. velocityg4 macrumors 601


    Dec 19, 2004
    I'd use Logmein or Teamviewer they are much easier to setup.
  3. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
    You may not like my advice, however, it's worked for me...

    With my late stepfather (78 years old), I used Remote Desktop on his iMac, but it was a struggle due to the port-related restrictions his ISP's (CenturyLink) DSL modem had at the time. It was a 190-mile round trip, and I found it was easier to drive there and back to deal with "issues" more often than not. Another struggle was his insistence in having an Adminstrator user account and not wanting to be "restricted" by a Standard user account - what I'm calling the "pride" factor. I had a helluva time with the modem's port blocking - it was cheaper to drive than pay for therapy...

    With a very dear family friend - who used to care for me and my brother in the late 70s, who's now 82 and having suffered a stroke a few years ago with some short-term memory loss, I used to make trips to her house (265-mile round trips) to "fix" her PC and MBA every 2-3 weeks. It helped that she's got a couple of extra rooms and oysters for the picking in her "backyard" along the Hood Canal. My "solution" to her email and internet problems was to buy her a iPad Retina Mini on Verizon's LTE network - we ditched her DSL ($40 per month), sold her MBA (which paid for her iPad Mini), and added the data plan to her existing VZW plan (with a 2GB data allotment for the iPad). I set up her email accounts, and have her permission to "fix" things should they come up. She's always way under her 2GB allotment - she spends $30 for her data, $10 less than her DSL cost, so it appealed to her frugal nature.

    Since I bought her the iPad Mini, I've had 2 phone calls, and haven't had to "fix" it. She gets her email and can respond to it, and can surf the web or play games (there's one named "Circles" that she loves and tells me it keeps her mind sharp). I actually miss her company now because I don't have to drive there every 2-3 weeks now to "fix" her internet or email or games, and I haven't needed to go there for 6 months. And, I can use Facetime to call her, or Messages to "text" her. The iBooks app helped, loaded with the iOS 8.1 Manual so she can refer to it. She told me that she doesn't miss her PC or her MBA anymore. Yea! The Mini form factor fits comfortably in her hands, too.

    I strongly recommend considering a cellular iPad or Mini - I see my friend for fun now, not for IT support...
  4. boast macrumors 65816


    Nov 12, 2007
    Phoenix, USA
    If doing screen sharing through iMessage is too much, I would try team viewer.
  5. simonsi macrumors 601


    Jan 3, 2014
  6. Old Muley macrumors 6502a

    Old Muley

    Jan 6, 2009
    Titletown USA
    Kudo's to you for willing to help your dad our, and how awesome is it to hear about a 93-year-old who is able to use a computer!

    I'm on permanent tech support for my parents who are in their early 70's. I've found trying to diagnose issues over the phone to be an exercise in frustration. For a brief period of time we tried remote desktop, but it completely freaked my parents out to see their computer doing something without any input on their end. My dad had me discontinue doing that, so now my assistance usually means a drive over to their house. Fortunately my drive is pretty short.

    Remote desktop might be an option for you, but like others have said, Teamviewer is an easier set up.
  7. malch thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 20, 2008
    thank you all. I really appreciate the generous help and advice. It seems that more than a few people these days are in this position—helping elderly parents navigate around technology that they could once work with, but no longer. I hate to admit it, but I know I'll be there someday. Already, I don't even bother with my tv/dvd/whatever remote, because it has so many buttons on it.
    In the meantime, I'm going to try teamviewer.
    Best Regards,
  8. blueroom macrumors 603


    Feb 15, 2009
    Toronto, Canada
    I listen to Leo Laporte's Podcasts and I'd have to agree. Add a BT keyboard and an iPad is an excellent device for most casual users.
  9. mjgillen, Dec 12, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2014

    mjgillen macrumors member


    Sep 27, 2010
    Solana Beach, CA
    Back To My Mac worked for me

    Hello Malch,

    I'm also in the same situation. I use Back To My Mac for this purpose. I read that as long as you have it setup on both Macs it works just great.

    For both Macs, in Systems Preferences->iCloud you must be logged into the same iCloud account and turn on "Back To My Mac". Theres an article on the internet that says that's all you need to do. According to the article, once both of your machines are setup, when you open the Finder the remove computer will show up on the left row under "Shared". When you click on one you can then "Screen Share". You may or may not need his username and pw I can't remember. I would set this up and test it by first getting it to work on his local network (you're in his house on the same WiFi). Then I would go to a Starbucks or other free wifi place nearby and test it again. If you can get it to work from a nearby free wifi it should work when you get home.

    I went an additional step and setup an Apple Airport router (either the Extreme or Express) and in the router setup under the first tab (Base Station) is where you can enable Back To My Mac. When I enable this I can also Screen Share his computer in the same way from the Finder. I can also access his router and see if there is anything amiss when needed.

    Good luck, and hopefully Apple will continue to make this easier as time goes on and they recognize the need.

    Best wishes,
  10. tdhurst macrumors 601


    Dec 27, 2003
    Phoenix, AZ

    Team Viewer or Screen Sharing with Back To My Mac.

    I tend to use Screen Sharing because it's what I'm used to, but either work.

    And yes, I'm doing it for the same reasons.
  11. mjgillen macrumors member


    Sep 27, 2010
    Solana Beach, CA
    Screen Sharing - Guide Part 1

    OK, been doing a little research and testing over the past few weeks and I think I finally have it figured out. The easiest way by far to “screen share” is to use the “Back to My Mac” (BTMM) feature. I had this working but changed the setup for other reasons and ended up not using BTMM. I will cover both setups starting with BTTM. In the examples I am acting as if you are setting this up to screen share into your Dad’s Mac.

    Back to My Mac Setup

    To use BTMM you make sure that BTMM is turned on for BOTH Macs AND they are both logged in to the SAME iCloud account. BTTM is enabled in the iCloud System Preferences so click on the Apple Menu (upper left of the main screen) and choose “System Preferences…” System Preferences screen is shown below:

    Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 11.59.05 AM.png

    In the middle left, click on “iCloud”. Make sure you’re logged in, scroll down to the bottom and make sure that “Back to My Mac” is checked. Do this for BOTH computers that you want to share screens. Here is a link from Apple on setting up iCloud for your Mac:

    Once both Macs have BTMM enabled, you need to enable “Screen Sharing” on the computer that wants to share its screen (in this example your Dad’s Mac). So on your Dad’s Mac, click on the “Sharing” icon in the middle row on the right in the System Preferences screen. Then click on “Screen Sharing”. That’s it!
    Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 12.10.36 PM.png
    Once Screen Sharing is enabled you should be able to see your Dad’s Mac in a Finder window, on the left, under “Shared”. Just click on the your Dad’s Mac and select “Share Screen…” to share the screen. You DON”T need to know your Dad’s MAC address or IP address or setup anything else – BTMM does all that for you. However, you will have to know a login for an account on the shared Mac. Just get your Dad’s login username and password and use that and check the box that says “remember in my keychain” and it will remember the credentials the next time you screen share. That’s it. You should now be able to see and control your Dad’s Mac from anywhere.

    In the next Part 2 I will explain how to setup screen sharing without BTMM

  12. mjgillen macrumors member


    Sep 27, 2010
    Solana Beach, CA
    Screen Sharing guide Part 2

    Setup when NOT using Back to My Mac

    Setup when not using Back to My Mac is a little more difficult but you won’t need a network certification to figure it out. To get Screen Sharing working on a Mac without the use of Back to My Mac you need to enable screen sharing as well as ensure that the router is setup to allow for screen sharing. First, let’s enable Screen Sharing on your Dad’s Mac like we did in the previous example: on your Dad’s Mac, click on the “Sharing” icon in the middle row on the right in the System Preferences screen. Then click on “Screen Sharing”. That’s it!
    Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 12.10.36 PM.png
    You don’t need to remember any of the information on this screen like the computer’s name or the IP address. This simply enables screen sharing, and the rest of the setup is done on the router. First, we need to know the MAC address of the Ethernet port on your Dad’s Mac. In System Preferences click the “Network” icon which is again in the middle row in the middle of the row. On the left column click on the “Ethernet” item then on the lower right click on the “Advanced…” button. On the next screen, click on the “Hardware” tab across the top on the right and then write down the “MAC Address” (you will need this shortly). Close out of System Preferences. Next you will need to setup the router.

    The router needs to be setup to allow screen sharing. I’m going to explain how this is done for the Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station (router). Basically you need to allow the Screen Sharing “service” as well as route the screen sharing service to the Mac’s “private” IP address. All of the setup is done through the Apple AirPort Utility which is under “Applications->Utilities”. Launch the AirPort Utility and then click on your AirPort router from the list and click “Edit” then click on the “Network” tab across the top:

    Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 1.58.04 PM.png

    On this screen we will first setup a “static IP address” for your Dad’s Mac, then use that static IP address for the screen sharing service. Under the “DHCP Reservations” box click the “+”. In the screen that pops up, enter the MAC address that you wrote down from the “Network” screen into the “MAC Address” box. Write down the numbers exactly as they appear in the “IPv4 Address” box (in the example screen shot above my numbers were for my Dad’s iMac Ethernet), and finally enter “Dad’s Mac” or similar into the description field (you can put in anything you want into this description field, its only there for your benefit). Now click the Save button.

    Next, on the same screen, click on the “+” under the “Port Settings” box. You will see a screen like the one below:

    Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 2.30.04 PM.png

    Click on the arrow on the right side of the “Description” box and select “Screen Sharing – VNC” as shown below:

    Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 2.40.04 PM.png

    All of the fields get filled in automatically however you will need to change the Private IP Address field. Click on the “Private IP Address” and change it to be exactly what you wrote down when you setup the static IP a moment ago – remember in my example it was for my Dad’s iMac. Leave the rest of the fields alone and click the Save button. Then click the “Update” button. Your Apple AirPort router will then restart. When it comes back and reconnects, go back into the screens that we were in before and verify that everything is setup the way we want it. Sometimes it doesn’t “stick” the first time, so redo anything that isn’t right (remember to Save your changes). When done, quit out of Airport Utility.

    You will NOT be able to see your Dad’s Mac in the Finder. That’s some of the magic of Back to My Mac. So to connect to your Dad’s Mac we will do “manually”. First, we need to know the IP address that is assigned to your router. Launch the AirPort Utility again and click on your AirPort router from the list and click “Edit”. Next, click on the “Internet” tab across the top and write down the “IPv4 Address” – something like This is the IP address that is currently assigned to your router and it might change, but won’t that often. After you have written down the router’s IPv4 Address quit out of AirPort Utility.

    Next, open a Finder window and then hold the Command key down and press K (Cmd+K) which opens up a screen that looks like this:

    Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 2.50.34 PM.png

    (continued next post....)
  13. mjgillen, Dec 26, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2014

    mjgillen macrumors member


    Sep 27, 2010
    Solana Beach, CA
    Screen Sharing guide Part 2 Continued...

    In the server Address box type in “vnc://” followed by your router’s “IPv4 Address” like this:

    Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 2.52.11 PM.png

    Then click the Connect button. You will see this:

    Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 2.52.51 PM.png

    If all goes well you will then be prompted to log into your Dad’s Mac. If you see this screen it is very good:

    Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 2.54.36 PM.png

    You’re almost there! Next you will see the login screen:

    Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 2.55.17 PM.png

    Enter your Dad’s username and password. You should now be screen sharing! (If you check “Remember this password in my keychain” it really doesn’t for some reason).

    Some notes:

    Turning on Screen Sharing from System Preferences is simple however if you’re not using Back to My Mac then the router does not now how to “route” the information to your specific Mac on the network, that’s why you have to tell your router where to route it to. You did this by first creating a static IP address to your Dad’s Ethernet connection’s MAC address and then using that IP address when you setup the “Screen Sharing – VNC” service.

    Next you have to point to your Dad’s router because out of the millions of routers out there, only you Dad’s has its unique IP address so when we do CMD+K we tell the “VNC” service (same thing as Screen Sharing) to go find his router by his IP address. Then when we find his router, the router uses the information that you added to route the screen sharing to his IP address and it all works!

    Note: I could not get this to work using a Wi-Fi MAC address, so use your Dad’s Ethernet address.

    Note: Port forwarding link for other routers:

    Note: You can setup BTMM on your Dad’s Apple AirPort router however this does not do anything for screen sharing. What is does do is allow you to manage his router remotely. And it allows you to “see” his router and get his router’s IP address if it changes. Setup BTMM on the router on the “Base Station” tab.

    Good luck! I’ll check back periodically to answer questions. I’m really glad I finally got this working for my and my Dad.

    One last note: I used to have BTMM setup on his Mac using my iCloud account then I decided I wanted him to use his iCloud account instead of mine so I changed it. Why? To share iCloud Photo Streams in iPhoto. So now I can take a bunch of Christmas photos and just share the album with him. It’s a great way to share photos with your parents.


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