How do I set up a new MacMini without a display?
August 27, 2013 6:38 PM   Subscribe

Just bought a new MacMini and need some help with getting it set up and onto my network as a headless file server.

So I bought an old (2006 vintage) MacMini off Craigslist to replace the even older POS iBook that had been serving as a file server. My objective is to connect it to my router and VNC into it whenever I need to change settings, etc. Unfortunately, I just realized that I have no monitor to set it up before I stash it headless in my closet. Is there any way around this? The seller wiped the drive and put on a fresh install of 10.4 (and crammed it full of RAM and a bigger HD) and from the sounds of things when I start it up it is in the initiation protocol.

Also, the intertubes tell me these old MacMinis get cranky without a monitor attached. True? (I will be using it as a fileserver for iTunes and running a SickBeard and maybe SABNZBD++.)
posted by docgonzo to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This suggests booting from a MacBook Pro via FireWire Target Disk mode, setting it up via the laptop's hardware. Presumably you'll need a MBP that can run 10.4, unless you can install something newer via optical drive.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:54 PM on August 27, 2013

Unfortunately if you haven't run through the setup then there's no username or password, and you can't SSH in and do anything(i forget if SSH is even on by default in 10.4?) or use apple remote desktop or anything without a login set up.

What other systems do you have available? if you don't have any macs i'm pretty much at a loss here since B.P.'s suggestion above is the only other thing i could think of.

I'd just be bringing the thing with me to work or over to a friends house to plug it in to a random monitor and at least blast through the setup and enable the built in VNC remote desktop and SSH then throw it back in my backpack.
posted by emptythought at 7:45 PM on August 27, 2013

You'll need some sort of monitor to at least create an account on the machine and install VNC, no way around it... I have my mini file server hooked up to my TV via HDMI FWIW.
posted by mrrisotto at 7:59 PM on August 27, 2013

I'm guessing it's old enough that it doesn't have HDMI out, but if it does, any modern TV will do as a monitor. The only mac minis I ever get to play with are more recent models, so I don't know what the older ones are packin'.

I once, for legit reasons, had to end-run an unknown admin-user password and found that there's this file called /var/db/.AppleSetupDone that, if deleted, forces the setup to run (which in turn lets you create a new admin user). You'd need root access, but maybe if the machine was in target disk mode that can be managed. Anyway, I don't know what's in that file, or if its mere existence is enough to disable the Setup, but maybe you can set up your account manually without needed the setup process, and maybe the contents of that file are the key. Or maybe not.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:03 PM on August 27, 2013

I'm guessing it's old enough that it doesn't have HDMI out, but if it does, any modern TV will do as a monitor.

DVI male to HDMI female, $2.55
posted by phaedon at 9:52 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

I had a Mac Mini of 2006 vintage, and phaedon's adaptor plus an HDTV is what you need. Once set up it will chug along happily without a monitor.
posted by wnissen at 8:59 AM on August 28, 2013

You can install and connect to a headless computer with Server OS with Apple Remote Desktop or a VNC program. The serial number of the machine will be the password during setup. OS X Server 10.6 is still available for about $20, which has requirements of Intel processor; 2 GB of RAM; and 10 GB of disk space (so verify your computer is compatible first)

More info on the procedure here.

Dragging it to a friend's house and using their monitor or using your TV is easier.
posted by ridogi at 11:19 AM on August 28, 2013

Came here to recommend hooking it up to a TV.
posted by furtive at 10:21 PM on August 28, 2013

« Older Eeew, that's disgusting. Elementary school...   |   Got fired, consulted an attorney. I have 3 options... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.