I'm considering buying an iMac mini for storage (to archive my Photo library, so not like a server but to log in incidentally and make backups). Because I will not use it often, I thought of the following procedure to use the iPad as the display for the Mac.

  1. Boot the Mac mini without display.
  2. Connect to the Mac with Screen Sharing (with a different iPad/iPhone/Mac).
  3. With the VNC viewer, connect the iPad I want to use with sidecar to the Mac.
  4. Use the Mac with sidecar.

What are your thoughts on this setup? One of the things I don't know for sure is if I can directly connect and log in to the Mac mini with VNC directly after booting.

All advice on how to do this is very welcome, also if you have different suggestions for connecting the iPad to the Mac mini.

  • Give it a go. I won’t cost anything to try so your risk is minimal.
    – Allan
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 15:14
  • Hi @Allan thanks for suggesting that. I did not yet buy it. I'm just looking for the cheapest Mac setup with 1 TB internal storage. I do not need a lot of computing power or RAM. I want a Mac with internal storage and no external drive, bc. I have bad experiences with hard drives and big photolibraries.
    – ralphjsmit
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 12:08
  • You're probably better off buying a Synology NAS that has RAID built in along with a Photo Library support. It's purpose built, it's designed for reliability and most importantly, much, much, cheaper.
    – Allan
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 14:05
  • That's also a good idea. Do you have a specific recommendation for a fast NAS system? My wifi is (quite) fast and I do not want the NAS to be the bottleneck in speed. Should I use SSD?
    – ralphjsmit
    Commented May 9, 2020 at 12:23
  • Yes. The Synology. The slowest NAS won’t be a bottleneck, it will always be WiFi
    – Allan
    Commented May 9, 2020 at 15:30

1 Answer 1


What you want to do is entirely possible (in fact, it's pretty close to what I do). There are a few things to be aware of.

  1. For initial set up you will need to connect your MacMini to a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Once you've set it up you can hide it away (provided that you have a good flow of air for cooling) and connect from your iPad.

  2. Due to some oddity in macOS or in the Mac Mini yourself, you won't get full performance in this configuration. To get full performance you will need to connect a dongle to your Mac's monitor port to make it think that it has a monitor connected. Weird, no? But it works. Something like this. https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=CompuLab+Display+Emulator&ref=nb_sb_noss


  • Hi @headbanger sorry for the late response. Does it also work when I shut the Mac mini and disconnect it from the power source and the next time I want to use it plug it in again and boot it? And can I also do software updates like this?
    – ralphjsmit
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 12:06
  • For sure. After the initial set up is done then, with one proviso, you can can keep using it like this forever. The one exception is if an update fails (so you need to use recovery mode). Under these circumstances you will then need to plug in a real monitor, keyboard and mouse.
    – headbanger
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 11:30
  • Do you have any source regarding the second point and the lower performances without a screen connected to the Mac mini? Commented Jan 4, 2021 at 11:00
  • @LouisRoché macOS "App Nap" is one of the culprits, it slows or even suspends/pauses apps when they're not visible. It can be disabled though. OS updates were hit or miss, too often they required plugging in a monitor to dismiss a dialog before remote desktop was loaded/available.
    – jmiserez
    Commented Mar 12, 2023 at 16:52

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