Mac Remote Support

As dyed in the wool Mac (not necessarily Apple) fans since 1985, and being fully embedded within their ecosystem, we're come to the conclusion that this is now the most difficult platform to remotely support our FileMaker solutions (from Asia through Europe to the US). The security intrusions are way beyond the, at the time, laughable Windows Vista.

As far as our own MacBook Pros, we can just about put up with the initial 'this piece of software needs access to your Documents folder', followed by 'Downloads folder', followed by 'Desktop folder', which does taper off after a while. Or having to drag anti-virus software to Security & Privacy for it to work, or having to click 'Trust' everytime we connect a peripheral that has been connnected a hundred times before.

We've been using Splashtop, Teams, Skype and Zoom to provide on-demand support for a number of years, having previously used LogMeIn, Go to Meeting, WebEx and other variants. It is now a huge sigh of relief when a user responds to 'are you using a Mac or a Windows PC?' with 'Windows'. The worst we then usually experience is a mistyping of the simple URL to get to a download webpage, or 'nothing's happening', which is followed by 'be patient, it is all automatic', followed by 'oh yes, here's the 9 digit number you asked for'.

With a Mac user though, we are totaly reliant on our ability to describe that there are 4 buttons to be clicked, which will open Security & Privacy, and that they need to find an item in a long list (in the new Settings interface) then need to click a slider button against an app that they can't see, then repeat the process another 2 or 3 times, often followed by a hastened shout of 'DON'T CLICK QUIT AND RELAUNCH, IT'S LYING, YOU DON'T NEED TO DO THAT OR YOU'LL DISCONNECT OUR AUDIO' phew!.

For a job that should take no more than 5-minutes, we have spent over an hour for some nervous users, before they can clear all the security for us to view their Mac desktop, only then we can offer them any help with FileMaker. I must admit, Splashtop don't help, in that they've caused an additional problem in that they've called their 'help' window 'Security & Privacy Settings' containing the guide and buttons, so we're often replied to our 'you should now have a Security & Privacy window’, to which the reply is 'I've got 2 of them!' - great when all you've got is audio at that point.

The above isn't news to anyone providing remote support to macOS users, but it has been prompted by the news that predictive text in Sonoma is going to default to 'on'. We're wondering how much more of the above are we going to suffer to assist Sonoma users turning this off within the 'user friendly' System Settings app. To use a phrase I never thought I'd hear myself say 'thank goodness the majority of our clients use Windows!'.

As our (30-year old equine vet) daughter messaged us the other day 'It's such a shame because the Apple apps/products used to be simple to use and they would just work. Now, they are complicated and buggy. Thanks Dad, I can see how awful Apple Music is first hand now! X' (in reference to me now using Doppler for my owned music).

Is anyone having more success supporting their macOS clients remotely? We still prefer to use macOS and Apple Silicon, we just wish nobody else did!!

Hello @AndyHibbs ,

looks like the security wins over usability. On a Mac, when working with Help, you have instructions like:

Open Settings, then click on Network ...

Settings and Network are links that the user may click to have the action automatically done - Settings open the Settings app. Could you create such kind of texts with links and send them to your users that would have to click on the links in order to automate as much as possible the process ? Or would the security guy come up and say No No No ?

Gilles, most users turn up every day, go through the same routines on the databases every day. If we were to move a button 50 pixels, they’d be in touch to say it had disappeared.

In the UK particularly, there is virtually no induction or training, the UI has to be very intuitive and business rules enforced by the databases. Hence, nobody gets trained to use a computer any more (remember the Apple floppy disks that showed how to move a mouse and select a folder or file?).

Virtually nobody here goes to a help system or searches Google for an answer, they email, message or call for an answer.

Sad but true.

Hello @AndyHibbs,
apps like AnyDesk or TeamViewer tell the user what to do. If I remember correctly: with clickable links to get to the right place. Then there’s only left to switch the button of AnyDesk/TeamViewer on.
No problem if they restart AnyDesk or TeamViewer. My phone call still is active. And after that one can connect.

I never had a problem this way. And there are lots of non-technical brains among my customers.


He he, that's the idea ! There is a new player in the market called RustDesk, see RustDesk – The Open Source Remote Desktop Access Software

How the hell do the business owners expect the users do their job ???

Andy, when you have a new client, who installs the software on the users' computers ?

@AndyHibbs I'm sorry for all the pain. At the same time, I'm sure you recall when almost ALL customer support was strictly phone or email support (about the same time FileMaker was not having variables or a debugger for that matter), and some items would be tackled during the next planned on-site visit.

I get that none of us want to do things the way we were back then, but we did manage. Today is no different, although I do recall trying to help someone over the phone strictly for OS-related things, (copy-paste level stuff, on Windows, circa 2008), and sometimes we do get to a level where I can help you with the app, but I cannot be teaching the users how to use the computer itself.

As you point out, Apple has tightened security and recent changes to the UI that manages it all can complicate things: you need to figure out what OS they are using, and sometimes what language they rely on, to be able to give them a proper set of instructions.

As for myself, I was able to be doing well, but I don't deal with a large set of end-users. Relying on popular software like Zoom makes it more likely that the setup is already done on the computer or that the user is familiar with a similar setup at home, especially since everyone has experienced lockdowns due to COVID-19. Even today, no single end-user will have a Splashtop client pre-installed, and I do not see that changing anytime soon.

Some software also have browser-based versions that allow you to avoid the complicated security setup process. These versions are useful if you only need to view their screen and don't require remote control of their workstation.

Finally, in some circumstances, there may be some onsite allies that can make sure all of your user base has your tool of choice pre-configured on their workstations.

But generally speaking, out of the number of users, you will have some of those where the setup ends up being longer than the support itself and each of those will always feel like a lot of time got wasted.

I hope you find a combination that makes it less painful to handle support requests.

I have done a test installing RustDesk, documented here
RustDesk installation.pages.pdf (598.0 KB)

It's not easy to guide a user to install RustDesk, even if they have an administrator user.

My suggestion is that the customer's IT department should install the support application that will be used to help the users, and explain to the customer it is mandatory, maybe write it in the contract.

MacOS only, but screen sharing is built in. You can start from the Messages app. Check the menus.

The screen sharing app is buried deeply but you can access it from the spotlight search menu. You can provide a phone number or an email address. It uses the details stored in Contacts.

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Thanks everyone for your replies. We're operating out of Northern Ireland at the moment, so have additional distractions at the moment, leaving less time available to keep up. I'll try to address each point raised.

@mipiano -

apps like AnyDesk or TeamViewer tell the user what to do

Agreed as do most of the apps and this is often a 'one off' for when the user first needs the access. However, to the average user the instructions are not clear. Some of the remote support applications still refer to the old System Settings/Preferences in the displayed instructions, or the Mac has an older version of macOS and the instructions are for Ventura.

There are 4 buttons usually to be clicked, then user has to find at least 'Screen Recording' and 'Accessibility' to enable for the app, 'Full Disk Access' is also desirable' and 'Microphone' usually ignored.


How the hell do the business owners expect the users do their job???'

Needless to say not all companies are the same, but the guidance is usually minimal to get people started.

When you have a new client, who installs the software on the users computers?

As far as FileMaker is concerned, the majority of our users use our cloud streaming service, hence we setup everything to do with FileMaker within their RemoteApp account on the streaming server, then the IT team, the users, or we setup the account on their Mac or PC. The problem is, with outsourcing, we may use one of the apps originally mentioned, but their IT team may use another, such as TeamViewer. It is possible each computer will have more than 2 different ways of being supported, and often the IT team don't even know who is using what to help (or even the name of the company who provides additional support). Also, remember many people do work from home, either full time or in addition to the office. Hence, both the work and their personal computer needs to be setup.

Bobino - There was a lot less involved when we used to provide phone support only, originally of course there was no Internet. Also, back in the days, Mac (and all computer) users were sent on training courses and disks supplied showing how to do the basics. Try asking a user these days to use the File > Open window from within an application to locate and open a file instead of double clicking from the Finder! The computer (and databases?) has become a utility to the masses, not something that they need to know how it works - a similar situation would be to ask my father, a very capable mechanic in his younger days and excellent driver at the age of 84 (and rider of his Harley Davidson), to drive my EV!

All in all, the Mac platform has become a much more difficult platform to support remotely. Most of the tools available to us work commence from a web page, download an app and at that point we are at the mercy of the software's ability to help the user. But more importantly at the user's ability to listen, nervous individuals tend to talk rather than listen, and to follow instructions. Now, we must check the macOS version and ensure we know whether the old or new System Settings are available before we start.

Another major factor is that apps like Zoom, do not allow us to remotely see the floating controls window the user sees, hence it is very difficult to guide a user to find the share screen button.

All in all, I can feel the relief when the user answers 'I'm using Windows' and I still find Splashtop the most capable of the remote support software we've used, often reverting to it, even after having established a Zoom audio session and the user cannot get desktop sharing to work.

All in all, none of the above is the fault of the many users we support, but the software industry's constant assumption that we all start with more knowledge than we actually have.