Mac Screen Sharing Using the Finder Sidebar

Screen sharing made simple

With Mac screen sharing, you can reach out and help troubleshoot an issue, show a remote family member how to use an application, or access a resource that isn't available on the Mac you're currently using.

Instructions in this article apply to devices running Mac OS X 10.5 and later.

How to Use Mac Screen Sharing

Using the Finder sidebar to access screen sharing has many benefits, including not having to know the IP address or name of the remote Mac. Instead, the remote Mac displays in the Shared list in the Finder sidebar; accessing the remote Mac takes just a few clicks.

  1. Turn on screen sharing in the Sharing preferences on your Mac.

    The Mac Sharing preferences with Screen Sharing turned on
  2. Open Finder by selecting its icon on the Mac Dock.

    Mac Dock showing the Finder
  3. If your Finder windows don't currently display the sidebar, select Show Sidebar under the Finder's View menu.

    Finder View menu with Show Sidebar highlighted

    The keyboard shortcut to show the sidebar is Command+Option+S. You must have a window open to access this option.

  4. Select Preferences from the Finder menu.

    Finder menu with Preferences selected

    The keyboard shortcut is Command+, (comma).

  5. Click the Sidebar tab in the Finder Preferences.

  6. In the Shared section, place check marks next to Connected servers and Bonjour computers.

    The Shared section of the Finder Preferences

    You can also select Back to My Mac if you use that service.

  7. Close the Finder Preferences.

  8. Select Network in the Finder sidebar display a list of shared network resources, including the target Mac. Select the Mac from the Network list.

    Network selected in Finder sidebar

    In newer versions of macOS, other computers also appear under the Network heading.

  9. In the main pane of the Finder window, click the Share Screen button.

    Mac Finder with Share Screen highlighted
  10. Depending on how you configured screen sharing, a dialog box may open, asking for a username and password for the shared Mac. Enter the required information, and then click Sign In or Connect.

    Finder Screen Sharing Sign In button
  11. The remote Mac's desktop opens in its own window on your Mac.

    You can now use the remote Mac as if you were sitting right in front of it. Move your mouse onto the remote Mac's desktop to work with files, folders, and applications. You can access anything that is available on the remote Mac from the screen sharing window.

  12. Exit screen sharing by closing the shared window. This disconnects you from the shared Mac, leaving the Mac in the state it was in before you closed the window.

The downside of the Shared list in the Finder sidebar is that it is limited to local network resources. You won't find the Mac of a long-distance friend or family member listed here.

There's also some question about the availability of any Mac in the Shared list. The Shared list populates when you first turn your Mac on, and again whenever a new network resource announces itself on your local network. However, when a Mac is turned off, the Shared list sometimes doesn't update itself to show that the Mac is no longer online. You may see phantom Macs on the list that you can't connect to.

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