Set up a MacMini (or Other Computer) Without a Monitor

I recently procured an older MacMini that I plan to run my PBX software. I don’t need (or have) a monitor for it. I just need it to be accessible over the network. I needed to use my iMac as a monitor to access the MacMini so I could set it up.

Here is the simple steps it took to get it up and running.

What you’ll need.

  • Firewire to firewire transfer cable. This is a cable where both ends look the same. They are both male 6-pin connectors. They are cheap (less than $5.00) and you can find them at Amazon if you can’t find one at your local Radio Hack or computer store.
  • Intel-based Mac Target computer (this is the newly aquired computer you want to access without a monitor.)
  • Intel-based Mac Host computer (this is probably the computer you have up and running already).
  • Keyboard (an extra keyboard is handy, but you could use the one you already have attached to your host computer).
  1. Turn off target computer.
  2. Connect a keyboard to the target computer.
  3. Connect your host computer and target computer with the firewire transfer cable(your host computer can be on). Make sure no other firewire devices are connected.
  4. Start the target computer while holding down the T key on your keyboard. This will put the target computer in Firewire Target Disk Mode.
  5. Restart the host computer using the target computer as the boot disk (System Preferences –> Start up Disk)
  6. Setup the target computer with network access and remote management (Sharing)
  7. Reboot the host computer with its own disk
  8. Disconnect the target computer and reboot.

Magic! You should now be able to use Screen Sharing over your network to remotely control your target computer without a mouse or keyboard.

To share another computer’s screen:

  1. Click the disclosure triangle next to Shared in the sidebar of a Finder window to display the shared computers on your network.
  2. Select the computer whose screen you want to share, and then click Share Screen.
  3. Select how you want to connect to the computer:

As a registered user: Select this to connect to the other computer using a valid login name and password. If “Only these users” is selected on the other computer, make sure the login name you’re using is on the list of allowed users.

By asking permission: Select this if you want to ask the current user of the other computer for permission to share their screen.

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Lena Shore

Lena is a full-time freelancer and nerd that specializes in web development, graphic design, and illustration. She enjoys building things, learning new things, pursuing creative endeavors, and giving free advice.

7 Comments

  1. Jim on May 12, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Hope you’re enjoying your mac mini. I’ve owned 2 of ’em now 🙂

    BTW, when filling out this ‘comment’ form the tab key doesn’t take me from the name/email/website/textbox fields as expected. Browser: chrome 18, OS X 10.7.4. I was using chrome while following your ‘syncing bookmarks across multiple devices’ article so Safari was closed.

    BTW 2 🙂 Thanks for the bookmark/sync article, got sync working with a few additional tweaks (cleanup bookmarks w/focus on removing all javascript links, export bookmarks, delete bookmarks, shutdown/restart safari, then enable bookmark sync on ipad). Still had 1 folder that wouldn’t sync so it was deleted/recreated and now all’s well.



    • Lena Shore on May 14, 2012 at 6:12 am

      I admit I am having dreams of owning a fleet of headless Macminis now that I’ve had one. I keep thinking of dedicated graphic servers (and others) all mounted neatly in my computer closet.

      Thank you for the note about the comment form not tabbing correctly. Yuckie-poo! (That’s a technical term) It was not just Chrome. I adjusted the tab index on my other signup for and fixed it. I guess I’m normally logged in and just didn’t notice.

      Glad the article helped with your bookmarks. A good sync is a thing of beauty. (:



  2. Jim on May 14, 2012 at 7:24 am

    Mac Mini mounting solutions-

    http://www.tuaw.com/2011/03/25/mac-mini-mounting-madness/

    I like your idea of dedicated machines… we must share similar dreams 🙂 Practically speaking, I’m wondering if virtualization might be a better direction? I’ve only virtualized MS Windows so far and have enjoyed the experience. Performing system maintenance, rebooting, etc inside a virtual environment has worked well.



    • Lena Shore on May 14, 2012 at 7:43 am

      The screen sharing has worked well for the MacMini. How do you envision Virtualization being different?



    • Lena Shore on May 14, 2012 at 7:43 am

      I like those under the desk mounts. Nice!



  3. Jim on May 14, 2012 at 7:52 am

    I agree screen sharing works well. Virtualization replaces the concept of multiple hardware items. I believe Lion Server licensing allows virtualization. Using VMWare, Parallels, or Virtualbox you could host multiple server, client, or other OS sessions. You’d just need adequate RAM and hard-drive partitions.

    So you’d still use screen sharing to connect to fewer headless computers, each running multiple OS sessions.

    http://www.macrumors.com/2011/07/01/os-x-lion-allows-running-multiple-copies-on-the-same-machine-virtualization/

    Hope that helps (:



  4. Anne McLellan on September 20, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Does anyone know if the firewire solution would work with a non Intel target computer?



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