I recently got a Mac mini as both a media centre and a desktop computer. I'd like control it remotely, over wifi, using my MacBook.

I have the impression that what's basically needed is to enable Screen Sharing (in System Preferences -> Sharing) on the Mini, and a VNC client program on the laptop. If that is correct, which (preferably free) VNC client is best suited for this job? Anything else I should know?

Update: While the OS X built-in VNC client is the quickest solution, JollysFastVNC and Chicken of the VNC seem strong options too. CotVNC clearly has the best keyboard "immersion", while JollysFastVNC seemed smoother in some other ways and is more actively developed.

For a future reader looking for a Mac VNC client, I suggest you try out the 3 top options below and pick the one that suits you!


Macs come with a VNC client; it’s in /System/Library/CoreServices/Screen Sharing.

Or use Finder’s Go > Connect to Server… in the menu bar (or press ⌘K) and enter vnc:// and the address of the remote Mac mini.

  • Cool, I didn't know that! It works nicely, although I'm wondering how to change the virtual desktop... and in general how to direct keyboard shortcuts to the remote machine?
    – Jonik
    Aug 29 '09 at 14:52
  • 1
    i use Screen Sharning all the time for the same reason. Also, in Finder, in the SHARED dropdown on the left panel, find your mini there and you can click on 'Share Screen.'
    – akf
    Aug 29 '09 at 14:53
  • I usually use "akf" approach with other macs in my house. On my media centre mini I usually change the backdrop image so I know where I am at. The podcast maccast.com/2009/04/13/maccast-20090413 has a good discussion on using your mini as a media center.
    – DanM
    Aug 29 '09 at 16:33

Chicken of the VNC is what I use.

  • I also like this one. All keyboard combinations (Cmd+Tab etc) worked with this, and that auto-scrolling is perhaps even better than JollysFastVNC's smart zoom. (More evaluation needed before I can decide which client I'll go with...)
    – Jonik
    Aug 29 '09 at 19:22
  • There's one annoying thing for a new user though: it's hard to figure out how to exit Full-screen mode. It's Ctrl+Option+Cmd+`, but on my Finnish keyboard that doesn't work, and it's apparently impossible — had to go to the VNC server icon and disconnect the client altogether. Tons of people have been caught with the same problem: perendinate.com/2007/04/07/… I changed the shortcut to be the same as JollysFastVNC default, Ctrl+Cmd+Esc.
    – Jonik
    Aug 29 '09 at 19:25
  • 2
    Just to mention, there's been no new release of COTVNC since Jan 2006, so if active development is of interest this may be an issue... Aug 30 '09 at 14:52
  • I like Chicken, but I agree with Jonik... that key combination for exiting full screen is kind of insane. It's a character that looks exactly like a regular apostrophe most of the time when displayed, so it took about 15 minutes of googling around on my phone with my laptop disabled before I finally figured out they meant the back tick... May 19 '14 at 14:49

JollysFastVNC is by far my prefered client. It is fast, has a built in SSH tunnel mapper, cool screen zoom if your client screen is much smaller than server machine) lots of options for more complete keyboard immersion, which hopefully should solve your screen sharing problems...

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  • Thanks! Compared to the built-in VNC client, I especially like the full-screen mode and the "smart zoom" feature you mentioned — useful as my Mini is connected to a 1600x1200 display while the MacBook only does 1280x800.
    – Jonik
    Aug 29 '09 at 15:58

You could try LogMeIn. You can use it from any computer and you only have to install software on the computer you control. It's also free, which is always nice.

  • 1
    For the record, Mac specific info here: secure.logmein.com/products/free/mac. Thanks — right now I just want a VNC client for controlling the Mini while at home, so I'm not too eager with their required registration etc. But I might check it out later, if I ever want to access my computers from anywhere in the world.
    – Jonik
    Aug 30 '09 at 10:04
  • OK, sorry I couldn't be of more help.
    – alex
    Aug 30 '09 at 12:22

Tao of Mac has a VNC posting.
There is also JollysFastVNC.
And, wikiHow: How to Setup VNC on Mac OS X

  • Thanks. Do you have any experiences of the different clients? Can you recommend JollysFastVNC?
    – Jonik
    Aug 29 '09 at 14:47
  • @jonik, no first hand experience -- which is why I left out the recommendations.
    – nik
    Aug 29 '09 at 15:12

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