Quick Tip: Pairing Your Apple Remote

Written by: Dale Mugford

Categories: Hints & Tips

appleremote.pngRecently my brother was in a lecture at his University, and had to get up and go to the bathroom. To feel comfortable leaving his Mac unattended, he uses iAlertU, a nice little security application from Slapping Turtle that turns your MacBook’s speakers, iSight camera, motion sensors and screen into an alarm system capable of locking up the computer. It even takes a snapshot of the would-be thief and makes a noisy racket with a car-alarm like response, even if it’s just moved, let alone used.

Once the program is open, all you have to do is hold down the Menu button on your Apple remote to activate/de-activate your alarm. Of course, you should have your MacBook (Pro) paired with your remote for this purpose, otherwise anyone could ‘disarm’ your security system easily.

And it was when he was ‘arming’ iAlertU that he discovered something, much to the chagrin of other MacBook users in the hall below him: almost no one pairs their remotes with their MacBooks. Imagine the look on those in the hall as Front Row mystically opened on their screens.

It’s not just for occasions like this that you should pair your Apple Remote with your iMac, Mac Mini, or MacBook (Pro). As more and more mac users switch to Intel Macs as I have, they’ll find out they have to pair the remotes for each system to prevent synchronized Front-Rowing, and iPod Universal Dock magic.

At our house, we have an Intel iMac, and two MacBooks, and one universal dock in our bedroom. The MacBooks roam about the house, but they come to sleep with us in the bedroom at our desks.

With so many Macs, we’d have mayhem if we didn’t have each system paired with their respective remote. If you’re facing the same situation, here’s how you can both pair your remotes with your Macs, and pair a remote with a Universal Dock.

Adapted from Apple.com: Pairing With Your Mac

1.) Invade your Mac’s personal space by getting up close to it (about 3 or 4 inches away).
2.) Point the remote at the Apple logo on the front of your iMac.
3.) Press and hold the Menu and Next/Fast-forward buttons simultaneously on the remote for 5 seconds.

Your Apple Remote is now paired with your computer. You can tell the remote is paired because you will see a chain-link style lock.

To delete a pairing between the remote and your iMac, open System Preferences, click Security, and then click Unpair in the Security pane. (You may have to enter your Administrator password to make changes in the Security pane.)

Turning off infrared reception

You can use the Security pane in System Preferences to turn the infrared (“IR”) reception on your Mac off (or back on). To do this:

1.) From the Apple menu, choose System Preferences.
2.) Click Security to display the pane.
3.) Select the “Disable remote control infrared receiver” check-box.

Adapted from Apple.com: Pairing With Your iPod Universal Dock:

1.) Make sure other products that are compatible with the remote are powered off.
2.) Connect the dock to your computer or to an electrical outlet.
3.) Put an iPod in the dock and turn the iPod on.
4.) Point the remote at the front of the dock.
5.) Press and hold the Menu and Next/Fast-Forward buttons together for about six seconds. There is no visible feedback to indicate the pairing is complete.

To reset the dock to work with all remotes:

1.) Make sure other products that are compatible with the remote are powered off.
2.) Connect the dock to your computer or to an electrical outlet.
3.) Put an iPod in the dock and turn the iPod on.
4.) Point the remote at the front of the dock.
5.) Press and hold the Menu and Previous/Rewind buttons together for about six seconds.

While its not going to make a big difference in your day-to-day Mac experience, pairing your Apple Remote(s) ensures that annoying accidents don’t happen- or as with our unwitting students, you don’t think that your Mac has been magically possessed and suddenly has a hankering to play background music along with your professor’s lecture.

There are 13 comments on Quick Tip: Pairing Your Apple Remote:

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  1. Dan | Nov 26 2006 - 12:50

    Sweet – thanks for the tip – I’ve never paired mine until now! :)

  2. Dale | Nov 26 2006 - 12:10

    You’re welcome Dan!

  3. Steve | Nov 26 2006 - 06:16

    That’s a great tip, I didn’t even know you could pair them and I’ve been ignoring my iPod Universal Dock for months. Thanks!

  4. Dale | Nov 26 2006 - 06:30

    I’ll admit I didn’t know I could pair my Dock! Glad you could put the tip to good use.

  5. Graham | Nov 26 2006 - 07:18

    You need to be using an administrator account for the pairing to work. Took me ages to work out why it wasn’t working when I’m using my day to day account.

  6. Dale | Nov 26 2006 - 07:04

    Thanks Graham, I had left that out of the Quick Tip – an important note to be sure.

  7. Eric | Nov 29 2006 - 11:16

    I can’t get this to work, the picture with the chain linking comes up when I use the steps listed above. However, my remote still makes things happen on my mac book pro, even when the screen is shut. Any Ideas?

  8. Dale | Nov 29 2006 - 11:39

    Hi Eric,

    If you have two Macs, you need to pair both remotes with their respective Mac. One Mac can’t be paired while the other left unpaired.

    Remember, nothing is changing for the remote; it’s the Mac that is pairing with a particular remote. Until paired, it will accept any remotes’ signal.

  9. Bill Booz | Nov 30 2006 - 06:40

    Dale, perhaps I am just too dense, but I am not getting this to work. Where does the “chain-link style lock” appear if one is successful? I have a MacBook Pro and by the “Apple logo” I am assuming you mean the white glowing apple on the cover of the unit, right? I have pointed the remote at that and followed the steps above, but nothing seems to happen. Co-worker has an iMac and, similarly, if we point his remote towards the Apple logo below the unit’s screen, the Front Row menu appears. Help!

  10. Bill Booz | Nov 30 2006 - 07:38

    OK, yes, I was being dense…sort of: first, I was certain that there was probably a hidden camera watching me as I pointed my remote at the Apple logo on the cover of my MacBook Pro and recording my stupidity for all to see (lacking that, I just went ahead and cleverly admitted my stupidity to all who read these comments! ).

    In my defense, however, Apple’s directions are not comprehensive enough, since the assumption seems to be that one is NOT using a laptop or that a user such as me would be smart enough to know the remote must be ponted at the IR sensor! (I assumed there was something magical about the Apple logo.)

    ON A LAPTOP, one must point the remote at the IR sensor on the front panel to the left of the cover release! I did this and it worked!


  11. Dale | Nov 30 2006 - 10:04

    I apologize Bill, you’re 100% correct. Apple’s directions are not comprehensive. At it is the IR remote on the front of the MacBooks that you have to point the remote at.

    I should have written an addendum in there. Perhaps I’ll do so now to avoid anyone else’s confusion in the matter.

    Good on you though for sticking it out, and working through the difficulty to find out how it works : )


  12. David | Mar 02 2008 - 01:05

    Good tip Bill. I had no idea that you could do this either. I have another senario that I wish I could resolve, however. I have my laptop in the same room as my Apple Dock. I would like to keep my iPod in the dock so that it would be always charged and I keep the Dock in the room as a music source for my stereo for when I don’t have the laptop around. But when I pair a remote to the computer it still works with the dock. So even if the remote only works with this computer, it still operates my dock. So when I use it to play iTunes, or turn off my Alarm on the computer, it starts playing my iPod in the dock. I need a way to get the dock to ignore a particular remote control. Putting electrical tape over the sensor on the dock doesn’t work, it still manages to get a signal!


  13. bathroom | Apr 02 2009 - 06:43

    never leave it unattended