Setting Up a Mac Mini Snow Leopard Server Without a Display

The Mac Mini has always been a great little workgroup or home server. The low power consumption combined with the form factor have convinced me to pick up my second mac mini since 2005. The first one was a PowerPC based 1st gen Mini and served as a primary desktop for many many years. This new Mac Mini Server with a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and 1TB HD will be used as file, database, web and media server.

I’m not going to get into setting up all those things right now. I’m going to get into how to go thru the basic setup of the Mac Mini with Snow Leopard Server if you don’t have a display to connect it to. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t ship the Mac Mini Server with an HDMI adapter so I had to dig around on getting the Mini setup. The instructions that come with the Mini aren’t very helpful.

What you need:

  • Mac Mini Server – called “minisrv” from here on.
  • Another Mac that will be used as your desktop/admin machine – called “mac1” from here on. A PC with Windows may be ok but I haven’t tested that config.
  • An (wired) ethernet switch, a WiFi Router that has room to plug in at least 2 ethernet connections or an ethernet hub
  1. Install the “Admin Tools” cd that came with the minisrv.
  2. Ensure that you have DHCP enabled on your network so minisrv can get an IP address.
  3. Make sure both computers are connected to the switch, router or hub. mac1 doesn’t have to be connected via ethernet if you’re connecting both machines to a WiFi router, though, minisrv should be connected using ethernet.
  4. If you can’t go wired, you should disable any sort of encryption or passwords on your WifI and also ensure that the SSID broadcast is turned on.

  5. Turn the Mac Mini on and about a minute or two after you hear the chime, you should SSH into the box. Now this will be tricky. You need to know what the IP address of the Mac Mini is. On mac1, go to Applications -> Server and launch “Server Admin”. You should see an IP address listed there. Unless you have multiple Mac servers running, this IP will be the one you should ssh into.
  6. Launch Terminal
  7. ssh from mac1 to minisrv
    mac1# ssh root@
    The password to use here is the first eight digits of minisrv’s serial number.
  8. Type the following into your terminal:

    localhost:~ root# cd /Library/Preferences
    localhost:~ root# echo -n enabled > com.apple.ScreenSharing.launchd
  9. Go to Finder -> Connect to Server and click on Browse. You should see minisrv showing in the list on the left. Click on it and then click on “Share Screen”.
  10. Go ahead and follow the directions to finish setting up your new Mac Mini Server.

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5 Replies to “Setting Up a Mac Mini Snow Leopard Server Without a Display”

  1. Thank you so much for this! I’m receiving my new mac mini server in 10 days and I was wondering if I’d need a cable to plug it to my macbook pro, and I don’t 🙂

    So thank you!

  2. best way is to find the IP address, then vnc://(the ip). leave the username blank and first 8 chars for the password. opened the setup screen on the remote mac straight away!

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