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How to restart your Mac remotely

Posted June 8, 2017 | Mac

Reader G. Murray needs to restart his Mac at times when it’s not within arm’s reach—or even with walking legs’ reach. He’s wondering what options are available with modern Macs. His Mac is located on a network created by a Time Machine, so it has a privately assigned IP address using NAT (Network Address Translation).

Two kinds of options apply here: for when the Mac is still ticking away but isn’t doing what you want, so you want to restart it if only you could connect remotely to it; or when the Mac is unreachable and ostensibly crashed or experiencing other problems, and you want to power cycle it.

Remotely connect to a working Mac

Screen sharing and remote terminal access can both let you control a Mac remotely, but reaching that Mac over the Internet is often the fly in the ointment.

While macOS includes Back to My Mac, which pairs with iCloud to allow remote access to a Mac via the Screen Sharing app, it only works in its regular configuration from another Mac signed into the same iCloud account. Apple offers no guest access from other Macs—though you could set up an account on another Mac temporarily—nor does it have an iOS app.


Screen Sharing in macOS lets you use the built-in version as well as enable VNC.

Instead of Back to My Mac and the Screen Sharing app, you can use the generic screen-sharing protocol VNC. (Just to be more confusing, Apple’s Screen Sharing app is based on VNC, but not identical.) VNC can work over Back to My Mac, but doesn’t always, as it’s not a supported feature. Third-party macOS and iOS apps let you access any VNC-capable system.

Enable screen sharing in the Sharing system preference pane, and click the Computer Settings buttons to turn on VNC. Warning! Always set a strong password for VNC, as it’s easy for attackers to scan for VNC and find yours if it’s reachable from the Internet.

Back to My Mac fails with “double NAT” situations, which I unfortunately have and which aren’t entirely rare. A double NAT happens typically when an ISP provides a modem that also acts as a router, and which has features you can’t replicate or turn off. If you connect, say, an AirPort Extreme with DHCP and NAT enabled to a LAN port on the ISP’s modem, you’re creating a NAT inside a NAT. All outbound connections work fine, but inbound ones can be a mess. (In my case, the provided modem has some obscure networking features used by CenturyLink’s fiber-optic network.)

Instead of relying on macOS, you can turn to third-party remote access software, although my favorites have faded away and left active development, while ones that used to have free or affordable flavors have gone commercial and expensive.

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