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I've got a Mac mini that I would like to run headless; leaving plugged in to network and power only.

I want to leave the Mac mini on to:

  1. Run Dropbox constantly, so that I have the local copy backed up to the Mac mini.

  2. Run a cloud backup service so that my Dropbox data is backed up again.

The hurdles I see with doing so are:

  • If there is a power cut, I want to make sure that the machine reboots and logs back in so that tasks 1. & 2. above can run. This can be partially achieved by powering the Mac mini via a UPS, although if the power cut was long enough the UPS would also fail.

  • Knowing if the systems fail, so that I can fix them. I wouldn't want the systems to fail and me not know for 6 months.

Are there some specific settings I should be looking at in macOS to enable me to leave it running constantly carrying out tasks 1. & 2. above?

4 Answers 4

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There are a few built-in settings in macOS and a 3rd party app that you should be looking at:

  1. Under System Preferences → Energy Saver → Power Adapter, enable Restart after power failure.

  2. Turn on automatic login by going to System Preferences → Users & Groups → Login Options → Automatic Login and select your preferred user account.

  3. You may also wish to install and run a helper app that can prevent your Mac mini from sleeping automatically. I'd recommend installing KeepingYouAwake.

Enabling number 1. above will ensure that your computer boots automatically after a power failure. This will ensure that the computer boots automatically after the power is restored.

Number 2. will automatically log into your preferred user account after a restart, thus requiring no user intervention to start things up.

Number 3. will ensure your computer never goes to sleep mode. You can configure the app to startup automatically upon system start.

Doing above three should ideally take care of your requirement. You have to make sure that no unauthorized personnel is able to access your computer physically.

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    I've never needed anything to keep the Mac awake. My last Mac Pro 3,1 stayed awake [except for the occasional power-cut or reboot for OS updates] for 10 years using nothing more than built-in Energy Saver settings.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 21, 2019 at 13:08
  • I'm with @Tetsujin - MacPro and MacMini run headless and I set them to wake up or start so that they run for an hour before the time I need them. Time Machine and other things get caught up should there have been a power outage the UPS couldn't ride out.
    – bmike
    Jan 21, 2019 at 13:14
  • I'm with the answer & Tetsujin - my mac mini runs headless fine with an external 2TB drive full of videos...
    – Solar Mike
    Jan 21, 2019 at 13:22
  • I skip the third party app and add a HDMI ($10 for one, three for $15 - pick any one that makes you happy - this is just one of many on Amazon so that the GPU gets engaged with a larger resolution than if it detects no display. Great answer Nimesh - I know a lot of people like software to prevent sleep.
    – bmike
    Jan 21, 2019 at 13:22
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    What do you need the third-party app for? My "Energy Saver" control panel has a "Computer sleep" option of "never"; did they remove that in some newer version?
    – Mark
    Jan 21, 2019 at 22:51
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Go to your Energy Saver and set Turn off Display to Never:

image

Then make sure you screensaver, if enabled goes on after a set amount to time otherwise it will go to sleep.

Turn it off by opening the Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane in System Preferences then selecting Never in the drop down box in the bottom left corner of the window.

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I had to do something different to solve this for my Mac mini connected to an A/V system that is sometimes turned off.

The Energy Saver dialog on this mid-2011 Mac mini running High Sierra is different.

mid-2011 Mac mini with High Sierra

I have to set both Computer sleep and Display sleep to Never.

I use both TeamViewer and RealVNC to access this when in another part of the house.

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  • My mid-2012 Macbook Pro is running Catalina - two versions newer than High Sierra - and has yet a different Energy Saver Dialog but I cannot post a picture of that in this comment (as far as I can tell).
    – lcbrevard
    Nov 9, 2020 at 18:17
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I would recommend a little program called InsomniaX 2. It works flawlessly for me. That program should solve your problem.

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