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Is it possible for me to connect a Mac mini to my MacBook Pro, and then use the Mac mini as a docking station?

My idea is to plug in an Ethernet cable, an SD card, some USB devices, and a FireWire device into the 2012 Mac mini and have it all show up on my MacBook Pro.

Ideally I would also be able to plug in a display via HDMI as well as audio devices (headphones/microphone) into the Mac mini and be able to use them on my MacBook Pro.

I plan on connecting the Mac mini to my MacBook Pro via a Thunderbolt 2 cable.

The reason for this odd question is because a used 2012 Mac mini is actually cheaper than buying a used Thunderbolt 2 docking station. On top of that, the Mac mini offers even more connectivity (e.g. and SD card slot) than many of the old Thunderbolt 2 docks.

Note: I could just use the Mac mini as my main computer and use the devices directly. However, my question is focused on wether I can essentially replace a Thunderbolt 2 docking station with this Mac mini somehow. Perhaps this could be done with a program which "forwards" data and video through the Thunderbolt 2 port of the Mac mini?

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  • You can enable sharing network and disks on the mini, but not display or keyboard. – lhf Jan 22 at 21:40
  • Would it work with FireWire devices as well? And it looks like the disks would be connected using SMB, which I guess would cause a significant performance drop/ No way to do it via Thunderbolt 2, I presume? – Skeleton Bow Jan 22 at 22:46
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The concept is nice. But you can't connect a Mac mini to the MacBook Pro and have the mini act like a docking station.

Nevertheless you can enable file sharing on the Mac mini and all directly connected storage devices (USB, Firewire, SD) become available to the MacBook Pro via SMB networking.

Other devices can't be accessed as if the Mac mini were a docking station. That would include the audio port, non-storage USB/Firewire devices and HDMI. I don't know of any software solutions which enable this.

Other things you might consider:

Screensharing allows you to show the desktop (and use the mouse and keyboard) from one computer to the other. And there are better performing products (e.g. Jump Desktop) than the inbuilt screen sharing.

You can find software that will enable the mini's screen to act as an extension to the MacBook Pro's screen. My limited experience with this has not been very successful.

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