This is a sequel (1, 2) question.

I'm interested in setting up a home networking solution. One or more individuals would be able to access their accounts from any one of multiple Macs around the house.

Direct Attached Storage is one solution.

Here I'm pursuing the alternative, Network Attached Storage.

  1. What hardware do I need for a minimal installation. Say two Macs are the "terminals". Is a third Mac needed as a server?
  2. Presumably I need some kind of RAID disk. Can you confirm?
  3. is macOS server needed?

4 Answers 4


To answer your question keeping in mind that you specifically want to be able to login to your account on another Mac (i.e. sharing your home directory as well as account, including preferences, etc.):

1) You do not need a third Mac, one of the two Macs can pose as the server. However it needs to be turned on while the other Mac is using the file storage.

2) RAID disk is not needed as such. You can use multiple ordinary hard drives or SSDs and form a RAID volume using macOS software in order to gain reliability and/or speed. It is not a requirement though.

3) Yes, macOS Server is needed if you want to easily setup sharing of the home directory over NFS as well as the account using OpenDirectory. You can do without macOS Server and set it all up manually, however it is usually not worth it compared to the low cost of macOS Server (19.99$).

  • Just confirming. So now 1- Setting time machine for just the server machine will suffice, and 2- Applications will still reside on each individual "Terminal", not on the server. Is that right?
    – Calaf
    Oct 9, 2017 at 19:38
  • Yes to both questions.
    – jksoegaard
    Oct 10, 2017 at 19:09
  • Why -1 this without leaving an explanation?
    – jksoegaard
    Oct 11, 2017 at 12:53
  • This answer, I think, recommends the other question in the fork.
    – Matt
    Apr 23, 2018 at 14:54
  • No it doesn’t. The other question is about DAS, this is about a networked solution.
    – jksoegaard
    Apr 23, 2018 at 15:17
  1. You need a NAS server, not a third Mac

  2. You need some standard SATA drives to mount into the NAS or buy one that ships with disks included

  3. No


A NAS or Network Attached storage is the most cost effective and simple way to set up your file sharing based on your linked previous question(s).

Network-attached storage (NAS) is a file-level computer data storage server connected to a computer network providing data access to a heterogeneous group of clients. NAS is specialized for serving files either by its hardware, software, or configuration. It is often manufactured as a computer appliance – a purpose-built specialized computer

In basic terms, it's a computer with storage attached that's shared over the network.

To get a NAS setup, you need a network attached computer that you share storage with. It can be as complex as having a third computer (Mac Pro, Mac mini, or a PC with Windows, FreeBSD, Linux, etc). No special software is needed as all modern OSes support sharing of folders/Volumes over the network.

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Ideally, you want something simple and cost effective; this is where a dedicated, purpose built appliance comes into play.

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Both setups accomplish the exact same thing, except the second scenario with a purpose built NAS does it easier and more cost effectively.

So, as to your questions...

  1. A minimal installation is the second scenario as described. I prefer Synology because their products have not only proven reliable but out-of-the-box compatible in heterogenous environments (Windows, macOS, Linux, etc.)

  2. You don't need RAID, but it's reccomended. RAID gives you redundancy whereas a single disk doesn't. In my setup, I have two disks mirrored and then backed up to an external USB drive. If one drive fails, I can continue to function. If both, or the device fails, I still have a backup. Basically, I back up my backup.

  3. macOS Server is not needed and is basically overkill. In fact, it's more like hunting a mouse with an elephant gun. Everything you need is already built into your Macs and setting up the network share is just a matter of configuring it on the NAS.

Setting up Network based Logins (aka Directory Server via LDAP)

With both scenarios, you have the ability to allow for network based logins/home directories so that you can log into any client (Mac machine) and gain access to all of your preferences and files beyond that of just simple folder mapping/file sharing.

macOS supports this out of the box and most NAS manufacturers make this feature freely available (you just need to enable it). Synology has excellent documentation on how to setup both the NAS and the macOS client in their Directory Server Users Guide

Can you do it with a "third Mac"? Yes, but you will need to get macOS Server (for the Directory Services) and you would still need to get the storage (and the Mac if you don't already have one). (IMO) it's much easier and more cost effective to get a dedicated NAS device.

  • In either of your diagrams, the blue box with a green square is the router. The blue lines to the iMac/MacBook are either Wi-Fi or Ethernet. The blue line between the router and the MacPro or the Synology is either an Ethernet or a USB cable. Is that all accurate? Of Apple products, the Airport Express would not do for the router, but either the Extreme or the Time Capsule would. Is that also accurate?
    – Calaf
    Oct 11, 2017 at 3:20
  • 1
    @Calaf The blue box is a switch. The blue lines are network connections but meant to be Ethernet cables. I don't recommend to use Wi-Fi in a Shared Home folder oriented environment.
    – klanomath
    Oct 11, 2017 at 4:01
  • @klanomath is correct - the blue lines are network connections; there's no router depicted in the diagram however, you could be using the switch that's integrated into your router (if applicable). As for which one to use, any would work because none of this is dependent on your router at all.
    – Allan
    Oct 11, 2017 at 9:05
  • @Allan I'm missing a section in your answer addressing the LDAP/Shared Home folder part mentioned causally in the question.
    – klanomath
    Oct 11, 2017 at 14:35
  • @allan's answer is good. It might be simpler to rely on iCloud authentication on both "terminal" macs, rather than to configure and maintain a directory server.
    – Matt
    Apr 23, 2018 at 15:00

Type of hardware is depend of "kind of solution", i.e. - in case of DAS solution, they need 1 MacServer (on which is be placed shared-RAID, and 1 or more "Mac-workstations' ** - if NAS (network-attached) solution is selected, then no need "dedicated server" and 2 of Mac-workstations is enough. And - external RAID with support of NFS file system. ** there is lot of available software-solutions, which is realized useful functions for "sharing RA1D", but not required Mac Server OS

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