Headless Mini setup

Discussion in 'macOS' started by Fragile, Aug 10, 2011.

  1. Fragile macrumors newbie

    Jul 2, 2009
    Hi everyone,

    I just have some (hopefully) straightforward questions about running a Mac Mini headless. I am using a brand new Mini, as well as a Macbook Air, both running Lion. The current intention is for the Mini to perform Time Machine backups, file sharing and iTunes.

    I had imagined the machine to work like a Windows box in that it would boot and start running services like file sharing even if nobody logged in. Can OSX be set up like that or does someone need to log in to get things running?

    If someone needs to log in, is autologin usually used on a headless machine? I know it doesn't provide real security but I'd like to avoid autologin if possible, what is the usual setup?

    If I turn on Filevault, the built-in screen sharing doesn't appear to allow me to connect until after login, so it would be hard to use this running headless. Does anyone know a method to get around this?

    Thanks in advance :)
  2. r0k macrumors 68040


    Mar 3, 2008
    I would not run file vault on a machine I wanted to act as a small office or home network file server.

    OS X is based on Unix which means network and services are running "before the gui is up". It can run headless, with nobody logged in and you can store files to the thing to your heart's content. Starting with Lion, you can log in remotely in screen sharing and use your account on a remote machine rather than "watching over the current user's shoulder" which could be pretty useless at times. Apple Remote Desktop used to have a "curtain mode" which would allow you to block the user from seeing anything (or using the computer) while you did admin stuff. Even kids don't want to deal with this kind of inconvenience. So starting with Leopard you can log in and do admin stuff as admin while a non admin user works away not needing to know you are there.

    I don't recommend autologin for a headless machine. There is no reason for somebody to be logged in for all the network services to work.

    Here are the steps I would take to set up a "headless" mini:

    1 - Create initial admin account
    2 - create accounts for each user I want to store files on the machine
    3 - enable screen sharing
    4 - enable file and (optionally) printer sharing
    5 - in power saver settings, enable "auto restart after power failure"
    6 - optional: install crashplan on the mini (and run it so the JVM gets installed) if you want users to be able to back up to the mini using crashplan
    7 - optional: install a huge firewire or usb disk if you want users to be able to back up to the mini.


    On the clients' machines, add each users' folder on the Mini as a logon item and it will be mounted and show up on their desktop whenever they log in to their Mac.
    Optionally you can use crashplan to back up to the Mini. This feature is included free and does not require any subscription.

    I would think file vault would work for each user's files but I haven't tried it myself.
  3. Fragile thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 2, 2009
    Thank you very much for your detailed response r0k.

    I think you are right about Filevault, I just like to encrypt my stuff wherever possible.

    I'll set things up as per your post, thanks again. :)
  4. ckeilah, May 10, 2015
    Last edited: May 10, 2015

    ckeilah macrumors newbie

    May 13, 2009
    Apple just keeps whittling away at our options.

    It's absurd to lose the option to encrypt all HDs! Although, I don't think that has actually been lost. You just have to decrypt them at boot time while physically at the machine--you said you wanted SECURITY, right? ;-p

    The rest of the losses are real though: no more quad-core, no user upgradeable RAM, degraded performance unless you hook up a monitor or physically hack your Mac....)

    If you insist on running headless, look up the VGA monitor dongle hack.

    I guess the only real option left is to buy non-Apple hardware to do the REAL work, and just use the dumbed-down Apple stuff as the HCI for people who like the eye-candy. Although, with Yosemite, that's been whittled away too.

    Why Apple? Why?
    (I know--the profit is in the "general user")
    Bye Apple.... sigh
  5. redheeler macrumors 604


    Oct 17, 2014

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4 August 10, 2011