How to Screen Share With Another Mac's Desktop

There's more than one way to connect to another Mac

Screen sharing is a helpful feature built into Macs. It's easy to set up a Mac to share your screen, files, and services with other users on your network. This capability lets you show other users what's on your screen, as well as open, move, and close files, windows, and apps remotely, or even restart your Mac. Mac screen sharing is also an excellent way to access documents and applications on your Mac when you're in another location.

Here's how to set up screen sharing on your Mac and access another Mac's desktop. There are a few ways to do this.

The information in this article applies to Macs running newer versions of OS X, including Sierra, Mojave, and Catalina.

Two mac computers with Apple logos on the screen
Pattanaphong Khuankaew / EyeEm / Getty Images

Set up Mac Screen Sharing

The first step is to turn on screen sharing on your Mac and the Mac you want to access.

  1. On your Mac, go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences.

  2. Select Sharing.

  3. Select the Screen Sharing checkbox.

    Screenshot of Screen Sharing setup on a Mac

    If Remote Management is selected, deselect it. Screen Sharing and Remote Management can't work at the same time.

  4. Specify who can share your screen. Choose All Users for any user on your network, or select Only These Users to limit who can share your screen.

  5. If you selected Only These Users, choose the Add button (plus sign) to add a user from Users & Groups or Network Users.

  6. Optionally, select Computer Settings and place a checkmark in the box that says Anyone may request permission to control screen. This way, other users won't have to enter a username and password when they want to access your screen.

    Screenshot of Mac screen sharing setup preferences
  7. When you're finished with your preferences, close out of the Sharing dialog box. You're ready to begin a screen-sharing session with another user.

Begin a Screen Sharing Session

There are a few ways to start a screen-sharing session. Use the Finder and the other Mac's IP address, use the Finder and the other Mac's name, use the Finder Sidebar, or begin a session from Messages.

Start Screen-Sharing Using the Other Mac's Address

  1. From the Apple menu, go to System Preferences.

  2. Select Sharing > Screen Sharing, then note the Mac's address. The format will look like vnc://[IPAddress] or vnc://[Name.Domain].

  3. From Finder, Select Go > Connect to Server.

  4. Enter the address of the Mac you want to share, then select Connect.

  5. If prompted, enter your username and password, then select Sign In.

  6. If both computers are logged in using the same Apple ID, the screen-sharing session will begin immediately. A new window will open, displaying the target Mac's desktop.

    If not, you'll be prompted to enter the username and password of the other user, or you can request permission to share the screen if the computer allows it.

  7. You can now interact with the remote desktop just as if you were sitting in front of that Mac. Take control, launch apps, manipulate files, and more.

Start Screen-Sharing Using the Other Mac's Name

  1. From the Apple menu, choose System Preferences.

  2. Select Sharing > Screen Sharing, then note the name of the other Mac. It can be something like "Joe's MacBook," or "iMac 7."

  3. Select the Finder icon in the Dock to open a Finder window.

  4. In the Locations section of the sidebar, select Network.

  5. Double-click the Mac you want to share, and then select Share Screen.

    If no items appear in the Locations section of the sidebar, hold the pointer over the word Locations, then select Show.

  6. If prompted, enter your username and password, then select Sign In.

  7. If both computers are logged in using the same Apple ID, the screen-sharing session will begin immediately. A new window will open, displaying the target Mac's desktop.

  8. You can now interact with the remote desktop just as if you were sitting in front of that Mac. Take control, launch apps, manipulate files, and more.

Start a Screen-Sharing Session Using the Finder Sidebar

Using the Finder Sidebar is a good method if you don't know the IP address or name of the shared Mac.

  1. Go to Finder > File > New Finder Window.

  2. In the Finder sidebar, locate the Shared section. This should display a list of shared network resources, including the target Mac.

  3. Select the target Mac from the Shared list.

  4. In the main pane of the Finder window, select the Share Screen button.

  5. Depending on your screen-sharing setup, a dialog box may open, asking for a username and password for the shared Mac. Enter the required information, and then select Connect.

  6. The remote Mac's desktop will open in its own window on your Mac, and you can use it as if it were right in front of you.

Start a Screen-Sharing Session From Messages

Using the Messages app on your Mac is another easy way to start a screen-sharing session.

  1. Open the Messages app on your Mac.

  2. Initiate a conversation with your friend or select a conversation already in progress.

  3. In the chosen conversation, select Details in the top right of the conversation window.

  4. From the pop-up window that opens, select the Screen Sharing button. It looks like two small displays.

  5. A second pop-up menu appears. Choose to Invite to Share My Screen or Ask to Share Screen.

  6. If the friend accepts the request, screen sharing begins.

The friend viewing your Mac's desktop at first can only view and not interact with your Mac. They can, however, request the ability to control your Mac by selecting the Control option in the Screen Sharing window.