I have just started the Mac Server Essentials certification course and I'm stuck at chapter 1!

I have a MacBook Pro, a Mac mini server and a WiFi router as a switch between the two. I don't have it connected to my home network yet because I will be going through a lot of different exercises playing with services, installing/reinstalling etc.

So how do I do a clean reinstall over an existing install of the server OS if I don't have a separate display and keyboard. Every remote solution I can find first involves booting the mini from an external optical or USB drive which requires a keyboard and display attached to the mini.

In reality I could attach them, but I'm trying to learn how to do it in a real life situation where it might not be possible.

Am I missing something?


Pages 13, 14 and 15 of the installation manual try to explain the concept of remote installation. Basically, the headless mini can rely on server admin running elsewhere to initiate and configure the installation.


You simply need the IP address and the serial number of the mini (for authentication) and to prepare the mac in target mode for the erase / install. You may need a keyboard temporarily if the mini is no longer bootable and cannot be accessed via ssh.

Everything runs from the server admin tools on any Mac on the local network. Ethernet is best so you don't have to join a WiFi network and can temporarily connect a keyboard to get it in target mode and then disconnect everything (except the network) while the install proceeds.

Deploy Studio is also nice for network installs - once you are familiar with the steps, you can navigate with a keyboard only and no display. This is more work to set up than the Apple method (especially for the first install) - but once it's set up, you can automate large deployments with great ease and speed.

  • sudo nvram target-mode=1 also helps to ssh into the mini if the machine is running already with some OS.
    – bmike
    Jun 2 '11 at 21:28
  • bmike thanks for the tip on deploy studio and good answer. I had read the 10.6 server worksheet amongst other things but it still didn't make sense to me. These answers do !
    – Visitor82
    Jun 2 '11 at 23:30
  • So glad a summary helped. It's a common failing - writing by experts that already have processed the steps and how things work. Seeing headless installation once or twice is an eye opener indeed.
    – bmike
    Jun 3 '11 at 19:51

Start the Mac Mini in Target mode. You'll need a keyboard, hold down the "t" key as it boots. Connect the mac mini to your MBP with a firewire cable.
Boot the MBP and hold down the option key. Select the macmini as the startup disk. You should be able to install and configure the mac mini. Then just shutdown and disconnect everything. then restart the mac mini on its own.

Make sure the mini is set to connect to your wireless. So when you boot the machine on its own it connects right away. Also be sure to enable remote desktop access.

This is how I setup my macmini recently.

  • Hey Corey thanks that answer is exactly what I was after.
    – Visitor82
    Jun 2 '11 at 23:31

I've had to set up dozens of Mac OS X servers over the years, and in real life, I've never come across a time when I couldn't find a keyboard, mouse and display to at least temporarily connect to a server machine for the initial install. If you're studying this in order to learn how to handle real life situations, I wouldn't recommend concentrating on this one. In twenty years of working with Mac servers, it's never come up for me.


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