I'm wanting to be able to login in to the OS X GUI remotely, in the background, i.e. without interrupting anyone that is currently sitting in front of the machine.

Apple Remote Desktop or VNC don't cut it -- they only permit management of the machine from the console session. I realize I can get a remote ssh login, but I need to be able to get a full, standard GUI login.

Is this possible?


Multiple simultaneous GUI sessions are possible using a third-party VNC server. This page describes the procedure for Vine Server (OSXvnc). Although it mentions Tiger, these steps work on Leopard as well. As for the clients, Leopard's built in "Screen Sharing" is based on VNC, but it cannot connect to third-party servers. You will need separate client software as well (e.g. Chicken of the VNC)

Using this method, new secondary sessions cannot be created in the background. You have to create them using the Finder's normal "fast user switching". This just allows you to access the GUI sessions that you've switched away from, without interfering with the foreground GUI session.

  • A step in the right direction, but not being able to create the session remotely prevents this from being a realistic option for me. – arathorn May 19 '09 at 14:08
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    Sessions can be created remotely, using Leopard's screen sharing, for example. They just cannot be created in the background, as far as I know. Fast user switching is scriptable, and scripts can be called from the command-line, but I don't think that will get you past the password prompt. macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20031102031045417 – Matt G May 19 '09 at 19:48

Actually, there are two solutions to this problem that I know of.

Both use RDP to connect to a background user session that can be accessed while another user is logged in at the actual machine.

One is called iRapp http://www.coderebel.com/products/irapp

"Use your Mac and PC simultaneously through a single monitor, mouse, and keyboard. Welcome to the Switzerland of computing. . . iRAPP is an application that gives you cohesive, interactive access to a Mac via your PC. You can choose to view the Mac in a blended session with Windows and OS operating systems into one window, or you may use the built in Remote Desktop Protocol to view it in a separate window. Either way, iRAPP allows you to open and work on Mac applications right on your PC within the Windows environment. Copy and paste, save documents, open programs, share files – download a free 14-day trial now!"

The other is "aqua connect terminal server"..

I'd post the URL, but I don't have enough cred.

Worldwide leader in Mac Terminal Services and Provider of the first Mac Terminal Server. Other alternatives to Mac Virtualization include Mac Remote Desktop. We Provide solutions for all industries including FileMaker and Creative Suite Users, to organizations looking to deploy Mac OS X on Windows or create multi-user iPhone or iPad SDK environments.

irapp looks to be the more consumer friendly choice, IMHO. I tried using it and had some problems logging in, but it seems to be a lot like MS RDP, and can use the same clients.


Looks like this is coming in OSX 10.7/Lion:

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