Share folders over the internet
Use the little-known ‘Back to My Mac’ feature to share files and folders
Use an Apple networking device to make your files accessible anywhere you can get online
The ability to share files over the internet is nothing new, but the way files can be distributed has changed enormously over the years. One obvious solution is to store your files in the cloud, then provide shared links to those who need them, but even here there are drawbacks: the cost of storing tens of gigabytes of data online, as well as the inconvenience of having to upload them all to the internet in the first place. And what if you leave an important file behind?
The answer lies with creating your own personal cloud: a space on one of the drives attached to your Mac (or directly to your network). Simply copy or move the files in question to a shared folder, and you’re done – whenever a file is needed, it’ll be uploaded through your internet connection and transferred directly to the client requesting it.
The benefits of internet sharing are obvious, then, but how do you go about it? It used to be a tricky process, involving third-party utilities and a trip into your router’s settings to open up ports, which left you potentially vulnerable to security threats. Thankfully, thanks to iCloud’s ‘Back to My Mac’ feature, it’s now a relatively simple task.
Set up Back to My Mac
Open System Preferences on your Mac and select iCloud. Scroll down to the bottom of the list of available services where you’ll find Back to My Mac – tick the box and wait while it’s set up. In most cases, that should be it, but you may encounter some hurdles to overcome. If you’re running a firewall, you may need to tweak its settings to allow Back to My Mac to work properly (look out for a pop-up window requesting access, and grant it). You’ll also need to be connected on both sides through a router that supports UPnP or NAT-PMP – most modern modem routers, including Apple’s AirPort range, should support these protocols out of the box.
When you next log on to your remote Mac, you should find your connected Mac is now visible in the Shared section of a Finder window. Select it and click ‘Connect as’ to log in using your user account on that Mac. You’ll now have access to your personal folder and any other shared folders on your home Mac.
You can return the favour too: simply switch on Back to My Mac on your second computer, and you’ll be able to access its contents from the first.
Now that your Macs are accessible from outside your home network, it pays to tighten security – perform the following audit on all your connected machines: First, review both your iCloud and OS X user account passwords and strengthen them if necessary. Next, open System Preferences > Security & Privacy and select ‘Require password immediately after sleep or screen saver begins’. Now navigate to Users & Groups and select Login Options (you may need to unlock System Preferences at this point) to set ‘Automatic login’ to Off. Finally, open Applications > Utilities > Keychain Access, select Keychain Access > Preferences and switch to the General tab. Select ‘Show keychain status in menu bar’ and a small padlock icon will appear on the menu bar – you can click this to lock your Mac’s screen manually.
Access storage remotely
You can also gain access to drives plugged directly into your Apple Extreme router. The step-by-step guide opposite reveals how to access it two different ways: the first using Back to My Mac, which will give you access to the plugged-in drive through the Shared section in Finder, and another option that will allow you to share the drive securely with others without having to reveal your password. Nick Peers
The big issue with Back to My Mac is that it’s not geared towards sharing your drive with other users
Once set up, Back to My Mac allows you to access your Mac’s shared folders remotely using Finder.
Switching on Back to My Mac is often as simple as ticking its box under iCloud in System Preferences.