Hamachi: A Powerful, Free Alternative to Apple's Back to My Mac

Hamachi: A Powerful, Free Alternative to Apple's Back to My Mac

Once installed on multiple computers, what Hamachi does is very simple: it lets two or more machines communicate with each other within a “group” (Hamachi calls it “Network”) and share some functionalities of the OS as if they were on the same local network. These computers can actually “see” each other even if they’re connected remotely through Hamachi’s tunneled service.

Basically, it’s like plugging two computers together with a virtual cable that runs on the Internet and it’s entirely secure. With this method, a MacBook Pro and an iMac installed in two different locations will be capable of interacting with each other’s filesystem, screen, or iTunes library. As you can guess, this turns Hamachi into a powerful (and free up to 16 computers for non-commercial use) alternative to Apple’s Back to My Mac service, which is a feature of the (paid) MobileMe.

As you can see in the image above, not only does Hamachi put a remote shared iTunes library into your computer, but it also completely emulates Back to my Mac’s functionality when it comes to accessing another (non-local) computer from the Finder’s sidebar. You’ll be able to screenshare, navigate the filesystem, and open shared folders as if the remote Mac was on your local network. VNC, AFP and SMB work perfectly with Hamachi, which is nothing but a lightweight VPN client that establishes a secure connection between two computers that are not running on the same network.

To achieve the same configuration of the screenshot above, you just need to sign up for a new Hamachi account. Existing LogMeIn users can add the service to their account, or sign up and “link it” later. Here’s what you have to do: download and install Hamachi on your first Mac, and create a new network. Choose a network ID (preferably one that people can’t guess) and a strong password. Hit Create and wait for Hamachi to finish its initial synchronizing process; your Mac will be assigned a virtual local IP address, and you should see a green status icon next to the network’s name and your computer in Hamachi’s main window. Now open your second machine, and install Hamachi because you’ll need to join the network you’ve created on the first Mac. Choose “Join an existing network” from the menubar, type in the Network ID and password, and hit Join. Within seconds, your Macs will be “connected” to each other through Hamachi’s VPN and you should see a new icon pop up in your Finder’s sidebar showing a computer under the Shared tab. Of course, you need to have File Sharing and Screen Sharing enabled in System Preferences to be able to remotely control a screen, or open shared folders. If everything has been set up correctly, you should have a fast and reliable alternative to Back to My Mac up and running on all your computers. In addition to file sharing functionalities and iTunes Home Sharing, Hamachi also comes with a plethora of settings to play with to adjust security, UI and connections, plus a neat Chat feature that’s encrypted in AES-256 and enables you to securely chat with another (hopefully trusted) person that’s using a remote computer.